Design is more than just aesthetics. A site that looks good is important, but that’s not where it ends. Good design contributes to the success of a website in a number of other ways:
- Credibility – As the saying goes, there’s no second chance to make a first impression! The way information is packaged and presented is as important as the information itself. The work in this area has been led by BJ Fogg from the Persuasive Technology Lab (PTL) at Stanford University. The PTL studied how people evaluate a website’s credibility. “The data showed that the average consumer paid far more attention to the superficial aspects of a site, such as visual cues, than to its content. For example, nearly half of all consumers (or 46.1%) in the study assessed the credibility of sites based in part on the appeal of the overall visual design of a site including layout, typography, font size and color schemes.”
- Usability – From navigation to readability, design helps guide visitors, makes information easier to understand, and improves consumers’ experience with the site overall. There is a push and pull between beauty and usefulness. As Don Norman explains in his famous essay, Emotion & Design: Attractive Things Work Better , there is a certain pleasure in using things which are beautiful, but equally as important, there is an elegance to objects that are designed to execute a task particularly well. Norman goes on to state that, “Good design means that beauty and usability are in balance.” Good Web design is pretty, but great Web design also helps consumers do what they need to do.
- Convertability – There are tasks you’d like visitors to complete when they arrive at your Web page. And there are many factors that sway each visitor toward or away from those points of conversion. Design has a tremendous impact on conversion. Eye tracking studies, including those done by usability guru Jakob Nielsen clearly show that the use of images, whitespace, color, and other aspects of design direct the way the eye processes information online. The design can help lead visitors to the information they want and direct them to the next step. Or it can lead to a jumbled presentation of data where calls to action are missed entirely.
- Communicability – Your website should tell a story, and it should tell it in a way that conveys your message and expresses your brand. Design doesn’t drive the words, but it does help set the tone. Think about a favorite movie scene – is it inside or outside? Sunny or gloomy? A scene set on a sunny day with the birds chirping would come across differently if it were set indoors on a stormy day.
If your brand is about caring and engagement, the words you use can lose their punch if presented in a cold, sterile design with clinical imagery. Remember your brand is much more than a logo and a color scheme, it conveys a feeling – and your design should communicate and reinforce that feeling.
Great design impacts the value your site will deliver. Creating designs that are more than pretty requires a different mindset.