This article was published in the Sigma Magazine (SiGMAgazine) in issue 6 for the Spring/Summer 2017. The Summit of iGaming Malta conference is one of the biggest of the year, visit https://maltaigamingsummit.com/
Is it possible to get to the top of the food chain in igaming without a good design, let alone a custom designed website? The answer is probably not. Yes it is possible to launch a site on a cookie cutter template but you’ll be hard pressed to find old sites that are killing it whether they are operators or affiliates. If we look at the top affiliates and top operators and check their archive.org history, we’ll see a continued evolution of their websites from where they started and where they are today. We can clearly see that these companies take design seriously and invest time and resources into it knowing that there is going to be a positive ROI.
In this article, as much as it would be easier and fun to highlight all the poorly designed websites out there with dated logos, thoughtless layouts and uninspiring Calls-To-Action (CTA), instead we’ll focus on what the good sites do and highlight many mistakes made by many sites. Not everyone in the business has a good sense for design and many site owners are not aware of what a good design can do for their bottom line. Also many affiliate simply can't afford the investments made by these top sites, but there are basic lessons that can be learned by careful observation that can make a significant difference on a budget.
In this article we’ll cover the following topics
- UX Design
- Common design mistakes made by operators
- Common design mistakes made by affiliates
- Design Trends for 2017 and beyond
- Design Resources
1. Logos - Your Logo so Ugly!
Now that I’ve insulted your logo and hurt your feelings, let’s talk logos! Logos are probably more important for operators to get right than affiliates. Logos are a component of your branding but they are not meant to be the full extent of your branding. For operators, your logo is the symbol you want players to see continuously and done in a positive light. As a site that is supposed to earn the trust amongst players, it needs to relay a message of safe, secure and fair along with being a place of entertainment. For affiliates, they have more freedom as they can portray the more human element whether it be personal branding or to not hide the fact that the website is run out of a basement by someone who’s passionate about casinos, betting or anything with gambling.
So what makes a good logo?
- Limited colour palette
- Vector based
- Doesn’t command too much attention
- Readable fonts
There are no doubt exceptions to the rules when it comes to logos but we tend to see more of the best logos following these guidelines.
Limited Colour Palette
A single colour will do perhaps black and sometimes having more than 3 colours can make your logo seem too busy. It helps to have a designer that has a good understanding of colour theory and knows how to choose the right colour palette. The good thing about a monochrome logo is it can be easier on the eyes and you can always apply a theme or colour scheme to it for campaigns.
If you had your logo made in Photoshop and paid $5 for it at Fiverr then you really should start over and remake your logo. A vector based logo means you’ll be able to scale it and have it render properly. If none of that made sense to you, just stay away from logos made in Photoshop.
Doesn’t Command Too Much Attention
Some website owners think their logo is too important and it has to have more details which imply quality. They want to make their logo bigger and want it showing in multiple instances on their website. If a logo is commanding too much attention then it’s probably at the expense of your CTA. The toughest job any UX designer has is helping your visitors go from one page to another or organize components for them to scan, they don’t need to constantly compete with a logo that screams for attention all the time.
Wacky fonts can be cool but you want your font easily readable so they don’t have to focus on the logo to read it. A font that is too detailed can ruin it for you and command too much attention to itself. Also another design issue that relates to logos and the entire website is the use of too many fonts. Some logos have one font, sometimes 2 and your website can be a different font but when you start hitting 4 different fonts or more than you have a problem.
Some of our favourite operator logos
Some of our favourite affiliate logos
2. UX Design
UX Design means User Experience design and is also referred to as UI Design for User Interface. There is a big difference between hiring a website designer and hiring a UX designer. Just searching on UpWork for designers we have found
- 291,000+ Website Designers
- 31,000+ UX Design
Looking deeper into these numbers, about ⅓ of the ‘website design’ group on upwork charged $10/hr or less while 4.4% charged over $60/hr. From the UX Design people, 18% charged $10/hr or less while 8.6% charged over $60/hr. The point I'm making here isn’t just that UX designers cost more but it’s a specialized skill that complements the design work they do. The top gaming companies didn't get to the top hiring basic website designers - if UX and UI are not a significant part of an applicant's CV they're not going to get the job. Just having a look at Casumo Careers and we see 2 positions for “Designer with a Crush for UI & UX”.
A UX designer is going to take the extra time to ask you questions about conditional situations about how to handle users and help them navigate any part of the website. A website designer that doesn’t advertise they do UX won’t take the extra time to improve the usability of a website nor will they have any experience or suggestions on solving these problems. A good UX designer will care about your mobile user experience too.
A good UX designer will probably tell you more of what you need to do in your design where a website designer will simply do what you tell them to do.
3. Common design mistakes made by operators
In addition to having some terrible logos, there are enough casinos and sportsbooks that look like they all came from the same template. As an affiliate I regularly get asked by programs for more exposure and I won’t get into how bad some of these affiliate managers can be at making their pitch. When it comes to joining an affiliate program and promoting a brand, the operator’s design is important. It probably takes me a second to know whether I like the site or not and if I don’t like it, I’m not going to give more exposure over other brands even at 100% commission rate. I know a lot of other webmasters that think this way too and we’re tired of telling you your baby is ugly. If we feel this way about a website imagine what players think in this highly competitive market.
Breaking down these mistakes operators make
- Low quality and cheap logos
- Website templates and stock layouts
- Too many CTAs competing for attention
- No CTAs for the user
Low Quality and Cheap Logos
You can say many white label operations don’t have the best logos but every once in awhile you run into a brand that has deep pockets, they’ll spend a ton of money on advertising and you see they are trying to push a brand that has a terrible logo. A poor logo and a poor website with a large marketing budget is simply money well wasted.
Website template and stock layouts
Maybe it’s good to start somewhere but it helps to have some unique design to separate your brand from the rest. Players see enough of these similar brand layouts which means your site is probably ‘just another casino’. There are multiple white label platforms that use a cookie cutter design, simply changing colour palates, who have pumped out 40 or 50 different operators. When your site looks so similar to that many other sites it's impossible to define your own identity.
Too Many CTAs Competing For Attention
Some operators have similar signup buttons located on 2 or 3 different parts of a website. In addition to that, they’ll have flashy graphics that also call for your attention for a specific promotion, followed by another that competes for attention and you end up with users that either have too many decisions to make or not a clear sense of what to do next. Yes you’ll want them to signup but you want all your messages in alignment with this and make it easier for your users to scan the site and do something.
No CTAs for the User
I’d take too many CTAs over no CTAs any day but seriously there are enough sportsbooks and casinos that have weak and nearly invisible Calls to Action and it makes you wonder how they stay in business and how they expect users to find some obscure “register” text.
Our favourite operator designs
Casumo is now becoming the online casino clone of choice, that is other casinos are launching looking eerily similar to Casumo and some are simply copying as much of the design and layout as they can because they know Casumo is very successful. When you compare the number of elements on their homepage against other casinos, this site seems less busy and it’s because they have taken out more, leaving only what they really want the user to see.
4. Common design mistakes made by affiliates
Affiliates have a completely different set of design challenges than operators. Affiliates have to organize many categories and brands together and also throw in organizing data and finding the right set of CTAs for each page type. Some affiliate sites run into similar issues as operators with regards to having too many CTAs or not having enough or at least one of them. For affiliates, it’s not easy to display an array of options and strip down CTAs in the process. At least each page should have a function and purpose and for the homepage, it should showcase at least one of the main USPs and in a subtle way share other aspects of the site where these features don’t scream at each other and compete for attention.
Our favourite affiliate designs
We will only mention one: **AskGamblers is truly the leader in design in igaming. Despite many people copying their sites and claiming their site was just a cookie cutter design, not many people know the number of hours, days and months that went into their first major redesign in 2014. Their design might even look too simple and simply put, players have an easier time navigating the site and more so compared to other affiliate portals. Nobody has put more time into the design and layout of their site than AskGamblers.
5. Design Trends for 2017 and beyond
Website design seems to evolve every year and as much as creative people would like to be the driving force behind this, the main factors in the evolution of website design are UX design and conversion rate optimization. If you look at the top affiliates and top operators in the business, you’ll see they have these areas looked after and always invest in a good design. The trends for operators and affiliates are really the same, when you focus on UX, the design will just start to seem easier on the eyes. Of course as certain themes become popular more and more sites starting looking similar. That's when you start to see changes happening and the next step in the evolution of effective design.
As long as we see more mergers & acquisitions this year, we can expect to see more sites being acquired and given design upgrades.
6. Design Resources
Sketch is a design tool and unfortunately it’s for Mac/Apple computers only but it’s becoming the #1 website design tool for designers. Designers are able to work faster in Sketch than in Photoshop and it has personally cut down the design time for myself. If you are looking for a designer, you can filter out a lot of people by asking if they design in Sketch or Photoshop. Many UX designers are using Sketch.
Possibly the biggest marketplace to hire freelancers. You’ll have no problem finding UX designers. You can filter out a lot of people by searching or requesting UX as a skill and also for Sketch.
Dribbble.com is a website where designers can share and showcase their portfolios. It’s a great way to find logo and UX designers.
If you need a custom designed website, we can help and also offer partnerships. adventures.io will be launching many shiny new websites this year.
If you need a custom designed logo, and a smart logo, I recommend LeoLogos.com. They create 3 separate logo designs for you and you can select 1 in which you can develop further to finalize your logo. Please stop ordering $5 logos on Fiverr and get a real logo, talk to Leo.
Written by John Wright