Everyone involved in building a website wants it to stand out from other websites. Clients want to stand out from the competition and leave a favorable impression on potential customers; designers strive for originality and to compete with other designers; back-end developers want a success story in their portfolios and an original or different-looking site can help with that.
LAYOUT AND STRUCTURE
Okay, this is perhaps one of the more obvious ways to differentiate your site from the rest. It’s also the most difficult. On the pro side, using a fancy layout or site structure that no one has ever seen before is instantly memorable. It can also be a lot of fun. After creating your fifty-second three-column site, mixing up the layout provides a challenge for your visual design skills and your front-end dev skills that can’t be beat.
Branding is the other really obvious way to make your site stand out. And it’s easy. Just find out what your client’s branding guidelines are, and stick to them. Embrace them. Make your client sick of seeing their own logo and colors. Then maybe tone it down a little, and you’re good to go.
The cons: This approach only works if your client has highly original branding. If their brand style guide consists of Helvetica and not much else, you are at a severe disadvantage.
GRAPHICS AND IMAGERY
If the branding isn’t enough, you can use graphics and/or photos on your site to establish a distinct visual style. Sites with big images do tend to convert more, after all. People are visual creatures, so visual stimuli can make it easier for users to connect with you on an emotional level. Plus, the stylistic options are just about endless, which makes it easier to create an original-feeling design.
The cons: Graphics and photos that look original are expensive, because they pretty much have to be custom made. Using stock images will likely kill the distinction that you’re going for.
TEXT AND CONTENT
This is probably the most important—and sometimes the most difficult—way you can set yourself apart. What is said on any site can and should be a reflection of the client’s personality and/or company culture, while still being clear. You can use copy, microcopy, and even things like video to communicate personality in a way that sets you apart.
Animation is a huge deal right now, and for good reason. When done right, it can take a pretty good experience and make it unforgettable.