Porn websites are the kings of UX

Valentine’s day is near, and some of us are going to pass the 14th of February alone. In front of our PC or mobile.

Don’t be ashamed, we all recognize which website uses the palette I uploaded as the featured image: porn websites are extremely known all over the world. In fact, 25% of google searches are NSFW.

Only in the US, 40 million Americans visit porn sites regularly, and considering that 25% of the google daily searches are around 875 million… well that’s nearly a billion users every day.

But how many visits does a single website record? Let’s see how the notorious Pornhub scores.

pornhub’s stats
pornhub’s stats

Pornhub by himself scores 115 million visits per day, which means that this website controls 13% of the overall NSFW searches.

How to deal with so much traffic?

Nothing can be done without huge servers that are constantly updated and improved. And their servers are just incredible.

In Italy, Pornhub server’s quality is even more famous: during the first pandemic, an Italian institutional website went offline due to too many visits (around 4 million a day), and Pornhub offered help to the government, asking if they needed some server enhancing service.

I love this word. Optimization. I love to optimize my content and make it run smoothly, but pornhub’s developers and designers outshine me thousands of times.

NSFW websites are extremely minimal and without any kind of forced animation. At the same time, content is optimized and compressed to achieve maximum loading speed: imagine if the thumbnails were 2K, how many seconds of browsing would the website lose because of loading.

Anyway, even if pornhub is the GOAT, there are even more improvements they could apply to increase speed.

pornhub’s logo
pornhub’s logo
Pornhub’s title icon is a single PNG file.

In this example, we see that the logo used in the website is a single PNG image, but we know that bigger websites like Amazon do not like this approach.

As Amazon designers know, by utilizing sprites (and packing all the icons you need in a single file), you can decimate HTTP requests.

amazon’s icons
amazon’s icons
the icon sprite used by Amazon.

Go on Dribbble and you’ll see dozens of Instagram or Facebook redesigns. But no one tries to redesign porn websites. I’ve tried. That’s hard as hell. They’re nearly perfect.

One major example is the navigation bar. One single big bar, with everything you need. From categories to socials to log-in: fast eye scanning is the number one priority.

pornhub’s navigation bar
the clear and full PH’s navigation bar.

I know you love hamburger menus. Hamburger menus are extremely fancy and every designer loves them since they allow more whitespace, but they slow down scanning. No big website uses them in the desktop version for a reason.

hamburger menu
Fancy but bad.

But is there a way we could improve these designs? Well yes, just look at many of them.

Personally, I follow a precise workflow when trying to redesign something. It allows me to focus on critical parts and proceed in a modular way. It’s divided into four different steps:

  1. Fix.
  2. Enhance.
  3. Add.
  4. Simplify.

Find something that doesn’t work at all and focus on that first. It’s better to have a fully working simple website than a full feature buggy one.

But are there fixes you can apport to Pornhub, for example?

Well, I didn’t even find one flaw. My answer is no.

Improve what is already there. In this case, my focus went straight on the search bar. Since I use Medium, I love to see a search bar that separates and proposes different types of results.

Medium’s beautiful search results.

Showing many categories is extremely useful and it’s a feature I missed surfing Pornhub for research purposes.

pornhub’s searchbar
pornhub’s searchbar
Something like this would work.

But why probably Pornhub designers didn’t think of this? I am pretty sure this is going to make the database sweat a lot. Doing multiple queries with billions of searches has huge costs both in terms of time and power.

Again, if you want to grant a great UX, fast and reliable service is fundamental.

Add something new. Simple as that. In this example, let’s see how adding a new feature could greatly improve UX.

Another famous NSFW website I will not name has a particular searching feature. You can choose multiple tags together, and customize your search.

pornhub parody website
Do not care about repetitive words.

This is an extremely fast way to find the content you like, instead of surfing the website for more minutes.

Why they do not add this feature? Probably, the answer lies in the feature itself:

users would stay less time on the website, and this could damage the income obtained with ads.

This is the reason why A/B testing exists and why designers should know the meaning of KPI: Key Performance Indicators are indicators that allow the company to estimate if the website is making them earn more or less:

features like this one should be accurately tested since better UX doesn’t always translate to more earnings.

Another interesting feature, a less famous website introduced is the panic button.

I would never look at porn at my job place, but other people don’t share my opinion: More than 50% of people look at porn at work, and they surely don’t want to get caught.

That’s where a panic button comes in handy: you click it, and your favorite NSFW website vanishes showing another harmless one.

space button
space button

But is a clickable button the best way?

In my opinion, the time needed to aim and click a button on a website could be too much, especially considering that users generally use their right hand to both click and…well… have fun.

What about choosing a big keyboard key like space? That would probably do the job.

Once you have designed everything, just simplify the processes. In this case, you should work on automatic filling in forms, reducing the number of inputs needed et cetera.

Again I couldn’t find any overcomplicated process in most NSFW websites (also because I totally didn’t look at the register or login processes), so I could end my basic redesign process now.

Obviously, if you want to do a full and in-depth redesign, you should try the full UX on your skin.

Conclusions

Porn websites are great examples of good UX design, which is both a consequence and cause of huge web traffic.

Looking at them in a scientific approach could help every designer understand how websites should bring content to the user.

A Jack of all trades UX guy. Mainly interested in human-computer interaction, contemporary sociology and art.