A Line out the Door and What it Means for Your Website

Why do you think one breakfast place has a line out the door, while close by, another breakfast place is nearly empty?

It can’t be the relative quality of the waffles.

It probably has nothing to do with the food.

Why is there a line out the door at Intelligentsia, an upscale coffee place, and an even longer line at Philz, another coffee place, but you can almost always walk right in at The Refinery and get an espresso? (There are a lot of coffee places around here.)

It has little to do with the coffee.

It’s all about social proof.

People see a crowded place and want to go there. Then it becomes too crowded to go.

Obligatory Yogi Berra cite here: ‘That restaurant is so crowded, nobody goes there anymore,’ he supposedly said.

There’s a school of design thought that dictates success is yours only when you have a messy, crowded website design. Look at home pages of The Huffington Post or BuzzFeed and you might get dizzy. Like the New York Times site, these are newspaper sites on steroids, screaming at you for attention. (Back away slowly and close your browser window.)

Uber, on the other hand, just wants one thing from you: To get you to sign up for the service. It’s elegant, clean site design perfectly expresses the smooth ride that you might get with the service.

Messy works and so does simple. Depends on your goals.

Messy can work online: Department stores are messy and big and so is Amazon. Your visitors more easily feel the social proof, as though they are waiting on line at a busy breakfast place with lots of other people.  Simple works, too: But don’t make your site seem deserted. Uber works because it shows pictures of people using the service. The social proof is there.