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49 Comments

Why does every SaaS website on Indie Hackers look exactly the same?

I must be missing something and for a while, I thought maybe there was some new design trend out there that I just wasn't on board with. I finally am fairly certain I know what I am looking at. It seems like a good 50% or more of every website IH folks build is created using webflow.

I don't care what CMS/website builder you build with but if you are going to use one maybe try using something other than the defaults.

It's to the point where I can see a website from 10 feet away and know instantly "oh that's a bootstrapped SaaS project trying to test for some traction". It's the same font, the same layout, the same color palette, the same controls, the same icons, the same stock images etc. etc. etc.

There is now a distinct IH "look" and it's not helping anyone. The style is synonymous with an early launch SaaS that might never survive contact with the market. Since most early launch services are shaky to being with, the last thing you need is to be projecting a "herd mentality" design that instantly indicates you are a proud member of the cohort.

In the rush to get out the door the website design is being underemphasized. It's like maybe everyone is taking a shortcut here or much worse, everyone is thinking that their SaaS or whatever your building needs that certain "look" that they think someone else verified as being "the look that converts". It doesn't, it's backfiring.

I have a lot of experience using WordPress and while it may be more complex than the drag and drop of more current website building tools it has the most design range of all of them. Maybe the problem is you don't think you have the time (or the money) to learn or build using WordPress or webflow is just so fast and simple but you should be aiming to create a truly complete look and feel of your own.

Try getting a real logo for starters, get your branding locked in before you go out the door, changing it later is a major mess. Just typing your domain name in as a service name using some random font and colors isn't enough - it screams "cheap and disposable".

Try mixing up the design bits, blocks, shadows, colors, fonts, separators, buttons, cards, etc.

Make your site a destination that says "unique" so that I don't feel like I am scrolling through the same webflow website with different verbiage. I want to feel like I am at someplace I haven't been before, I want a sense of "new" and I want a touch of style that says thought went into something.

Yeah, yeah, MVP, yeah get out the door, got it, got all of it, but really when you showing the service you built at least show it in an original setting to ensure it's not instantly associated with other sites that the user may have gone visually blind to already.

So, don't mean to rant here but can anyone tell me why they dive on webflow and run with the defaults? Do you think these services SHOULD look the same? Is the thought process that you are drafting off the success of others with this look? Maybe not thinking about it at all?

  1. 22

    Why use webflow with defaults - because it's very fast and cheap and non defaults often look worse without spending a lot of time.

    A lot of what people are working on is testing any ability to get customers to those sites, measuring traffic sources more than what then happens after.

    Optimizing branding and landing pages to double $0 is still $0 - and you can't measure it.
    If you can consistently get 100s of people to those pages, then you can work on getting from $ to $$ which might be with a better landing page.

    1. 1

      This is a valid point.

  2. 8

    "Why does every SaaS website on Indie Hackers look exactly the same?"

    I think that's a massive generalisation and I guarantee you it's not a factual statement.

    1. 3

      Watch me copy SongBox 😏

      1. 2

        Sorry what does this mean?

        1. 1

          Nothing, just a joke.

          Make my website look exactly like yours so that they look "exactly the same", hence copying it.

          1. 1

            lol ah ok sorry that went straight over my head.

  3. 7

    This is the story of almost every SaaS website I've built:

    Me: <builds 'way out there' cutting edge website using brutalist monochromatic drop shadows with anti skeuomorphism framework built 3 hours ago by a crack squad of CSS commandos> "What do you think IH?"

    IH-er #1: "Hey, you need to have a strapline in <H1> tags for best SEO... Also <H2>, <H3> all the way down to <H99>"

    IH-er #2: "You need to have a clear CTA button in bright Flamingo Pink right at the center of the page to get conversion..."

    IH-er #3: "Put all your screen shots 'above the fold'. If your images don't fit there, then you haven't built a real MVP and have spent too much time perfecting your app and building too much before product market fit!!!"

    IH-er #4: "You have to use a chat widget by 'InYourFaceEveryFrickenPage.com' so your customers can talk to you specifically when you are on the toilet..."

    IH-er #5: "Where is your cookie and privacy warning??? You don't want those jack booted thugs from the Euro Privacy Consortium to rappel down from a helicopter into your bedroom in the middle of the night to beat you over the head with their GDPR compliance manuals, do you??"

    IH-er #6: "Wait, you need to have an 'About' page talking about you and your cat!"

    IH-er #7: "Uh, you need to make your pricing page transparent and readily available on the top level, and don't forget to include Polish Zlotys as a currency option."

    IH-er #8: "Don't forget accessibility. I have an aunt who suffers from a rare syndrome where she can only read text colour #45DE92..."

    IH-er #9: "You need to have stock images with people who have tiny heads but giant arms and butts because that's what my focus group of unusually small headed, big armed people told me they like..."

    IH-er #10: "Why aren't you using the WindStrap framework? Did you know 9 out of 10 dentists recommend the WindStrap framework to keep you regular?"

    ...<etc>...

    Me: <furiously builds all the suggested changes to my site>

    All IH-ers in unison: "But WHY does your site now look like EVERYONE ELSE'S?!?!?!?!"

  4. 7

    I do it because I can't design so I just take some ready-made blocks that someone made that knows what they're doing but I think you're overestimating how much "Being Original" matters to people.

    What matters is that you solve a problem.

  5. 7

    This is a very "old man shakes his fist at the clouds" post; no one you're trying to reach will listen. Why might people who post these sites on IH build them this way?

    1. It's fast
    2. It's cheap
    3. It's easy

    If it doesn't work out, they can simply move on to the next idea where they (might) have a better chance at traction. The other group of people are in the camp of not having a ton of dev skills.

    If a project begins to take off, a webpage can always be reworked; can't say the same about a dud idea with a magnificent website.

    1. -2

      This comment has been voted down. Click to show.

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        I don't think there's any "ad-hominem" here. @GEEKFORGED is just saying that the OP is lacking empathy and understanding about why similar-looking sites exist.

      2. 0

        Point out one ad hominem, because I can't find any.

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          This comment has been voted down. Click to show.

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            False equivalence.

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              It's literally the same phrase, I just changed a term. I dont think you understand what a "false equivalence" is.

              1. 0

                Literally the same? I don't think you understand what "literally" means. That was false equivalence. Stop diverting my original question.

                Edit: Now that I think about it, you'll come back with another lame reply. So, please don't bother. I'm not interested in arguing further.

  6. 3

    If I make a website for kindergarten teachers, who the hell cares if it's similar to the one for a VPS hosting company?
    Sometimes generic just works, especially nowadays when marketing and design is becoming polished with years of improvements on patterns.

    I'd also add that in my opinion, poor design impact more your brand than a generic one. Having a poor color palette, average font and overall amateurish looks is way worse than having a template tailwind style where you go straight to the value proposition.

    On the other hand, I agree that indie hackers would benefit in eventually taking more time to develop their visual identity and add up some spice to their look.

  7. 3

    I don’t think it’s an “IH” website. It’s more like it’s a “free” website.

    There’s certain resources out there that are free and widely known. Like The Noun Project for icons. When you’re trying to validate an idea on a scrappy, low cost way, you tend to gravitate towards those resources.

    Especially if you’re not a designer, which I would reckon is most people on IH - it probably skews heavy towards engineers here.

  8. 2

    Thank you Dean, finally someone said this 😅

    I've been trying to solve that problem for makers for the last couple of years. I'm building an app called logology for it.

    It's a way to automatically define the unique brand personality of your startup, and then get logo, colors, fonts that match it. All automated in 5 minutes.

    That way you can stay focused on MVP but still look good and different from the crowd.

    I build it with my wife who is a brand designer. She did all the designs ahead of time.

  9. 2

    I remember life when there wasn't Tailwind CSS or Webflow and everyone was using Bootstrap. Websites look pretty similar and also 10 years ago, Wordpress themes look very similar (for blogging at least) and i think people are just worry to launch the product fast and the landing page is not that important. Even for logos, they prefer to just look for a simple and free on google.

    1. 1

      I don't want to call out anyone, everyone is free to do whatever they like. If it is just to bang out a quick website to get some feedback for PMF or whatever then that's a valid reason but personally, I wouldn't go to market with it. Just look at this page from tailwindui - https://tailwindui.com/components/marketing/sections/heroes
      This page looks like a ton of sites I have seen here because nobody seems to use anything but default fonts and colors somehow. It's not that it doesn't look nice, it's that it's used as the go-to look by so many people here it risks developing a case of "it's another one of these sites", I look at them and think "what's this one do?" I'm not being cynical, but they literally all look exactly alike when the defaults are kept.

      1. 1

        I think a lot of the sites are probably using tailwind. It makes sense, use whatever lets you ship out faster. I think for the most part even if the design of your website looks the same as most places, that won't be the make-or-break factor on viability. If you're thinking "oh another one of those sites," maybe you're not the target customer?

  10. 1

    I agree with OP design can do wonders especially when selling to smbs & going upmarket to corporates. A friend of mine (http://jakobsze.com/) designs great sites for over 10years in case anyone was interested. Here's my site for reference http://monetee.co/

    Happy to make an intro, keep hustling!

  11. 1

    The truth is, the majority of us aren't actually professional website designers / brand specialists. And if you're just getting started, you may not have the resources to bring on a designer to give your brand a unique identity.

    There are full blown careers based around making a brand stand out , and the profession isn't just an "Anyone can do it" type of thing, in the same way being able to code isn't an "Anyone can do it" type of thing. I think design is something that's easy to take for granted.

    Most of us are simply trying to get ourselves out there and look somewhat legitimate. The result is a bunch of sites that look very similar haha.

    I guess a question I have would be, should a project focus on making their landing page super unique, or should they focus on getting / talking to customers? And how much are the two related?

  12. 1

    Interesting approach, indeed... I think that sometimes it is better to say it out loud than leave the impression to others that they are on the good path.
    What I have also seen on some IH projects is that the ratio of the images on their websites looks awful. You can't simply deploy anything out there without taking care of the minimum visual impressions.

  13. 1

    Hey,

    I'm thinking of this problem a lot as a maintainer of https://github.com/LiveDuo/destack.

    With Destack we want to give everyone the flexibility to great a very customisable and very personal website. That comes with a cost though.

    The bigger our blocks are, the more homogeneous the websites that are with our open-source project. In other words, if you give users the ability to use sections instead of basic elements or complete website templates their craft looks similar.

    On the other hand if we give them smaller building blocks such as HTML elements it get's a lot harder to build something that looks nice and defies the purpose of the tool in a similar manner it wouldn't make sense for paid tools to do so such as WebFlow or SquareSpace.

    It made sense to go in the middle ground and use sections rather than basic blocks or complete styled pages and allow users to further style them down.

    That's my 2 cents. There are other reasons worth looking into such as being inspired by the IH community or targeting IH who may love that particular UI/UX look or even the simplest thing of just being modern and clean.

    Andreas

  14. 1

    I have also notice that.
    I think is "trend" building sites like that. There is a lot of great wordpress template out there and you can create great results. Just need some wordpress experience or hire an expert.

  15. 1

    I agree with your ideas.

    My site is coming out today and I have been working on it for several days. I think that design + development should be around 30-40 hours of work. Or a week in total.

    Is a working week to communicate well on a SaaS project too much?

    I had my logo made. I created the design myself, I wrote my texts myself and I developed it in Nuxt + SaaS.

    I spent a lot of time working on my project (a year and a half). I first tested the project through surveys and got really good traction.

    I am entering an industry where there are a few competitors, so I bet on a real user experience and a real brand image.

    If my project takes, it will be in large part because of this. I have to give confidence to my users. How can I give them confidence if I do the same as everyone else?

    Honestly, when I see the sites of other competing projects and mine. 9 times out of 10, they will prefer to register on mine (I am not selling myself, it's just that good communication is very important)

    Ps: sorry for my english

    1. 3

      This is really a prime example of what I am talking about. You spent 70+ weeks on the code and a week on the presentation of it on the website. Adding a single week to a year and a half build isn't a huge investment, the market will be there 7 days later. You don't have to do anything 100% unique but tweaking colors, fonts, logo, etc. is trivial even if you have minimal webdev background. Most of it is sliders and toggles. My concern isn't that you make a site so unique that it eats up a ton of time or that you should shift away from focussing on market fit, it's that having a clone-ish site is cheapening the first impression.

  16. 1

    Mine looks very different :) https://mailwip.com I was inspired by updown.io .
    Plan to make the map real time to represent our incoming email activity now that we're process 5-10 emails per seconds.

  17. 1

    That's TailwindUI.

    It's a great library of components.

    1. 2

      AH HA!!! that's IT right THERE!! if anyone clicks on that tailwindui link it's like looking at every SaaS website on IH but cut into component pieces. Also, it's NOT free, It's $149 minimum. This has become the "skinny jeans" of bootstrappers and all the cool kids are wearing them. The problem is that all the cool kids are in fact wearing them! I need to create the anti-tailwindui for when the pendulum swings back - I'll call it "HeadwindUI", set the default font to comic sans, loads of drop shadow...

        1. 1

          hahah this is making me laugh, it’s so true, i’ve recently bought the tailwind ui components kit. will be making an effort to detour from the common colours and typefaces

      1. 1

        Yeah people using Tailwind is as easy to spot as Bootstrap from a few years ago lol.

  18. 1

    I agree Dean!

    This is one of the reason I started wickedtemplates.com to be honest.

    Most of IH site's are built, without thinking in the consequences and in my opinion an MVP doesn't need to look bad just because is an MVP. the first impression is the one it counts...

    1. 2

      Stop calling my stuff ugly mate 😏

      1. 1

        😂😂😂 there you are Mr Wirth.

    2. 2

      Props on your "monotone" template. Black and white is due for its day in the sun.

      1. 1

        Thanks for that!

        Is actually one the bestsellers. 😊

    3. 1

      Great templates, they look useful for a quick product validation. I only noticed that Harmony template preview link does not load?

      1. 1

        oh, for real?

        I will have to look at that, I was playimg around last night with the viewports.....

        That was very kind of you to let me know, thanks a lot.

        Also, thank you fot the kind words.

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