If I mention the word design it's likely to call up images of creative graphics, artistic layouts, and decorative aesthetics. But is that what design is all about? Are all those fanciful wows necessary to have a successful web design?
While design certainly takes aesthetics into account it is just as concerned with the functionality of the thing being designed. From the Wikipedia:
Designing normally requires considering aesthetic, functional, and many other aspects of an object, which usually requires considerable research, thought, modeling, interactive adjustment, and re-design.
It's the 'functional and many other aspects' that are often overlooked as being part of design, but in many cases they are more important than the aesthetic considerations. How a thing looks is important, but if it doesn't function well it won't matter how beautiful it is.
What goes into web design?
When it comes to web design what are the other aspects that make for a successful design beside the overall look of the site? Some concerns beyond aesthetics would include:
- Usability - Perhaps one of the most important considerations for a website is how usable is it. Can people interact with your site without feeling lost? How well does your site allow users to perform their tasks
- Accessibility - How accessible is your site? Not everyone will view your pages in a modern browser. Some will use screen readers. Others may be viewing your site on a PDA. An accessible design will let your content to be seen over a variety of devices and even give your site a competitive advantage.
- Development - The code behind your site can help your pages load faster in a browser and help keep people on your site and away from their back button. Lean code can make a site more usable as well as make it easier to maintain.
- Search engine optimization - For many sites search engine optimization will play a large role in the marketing efforts of the site. From the simple naming of files and folders to the way your navigation is built, site development can help improve a site's chances of drawing search traffic. A poorly developed site will put up barriers to getting the site crawled and indexed and impede the ability of the site's pages to rank well.
- Conversions - It's no use to have all those people come to your site if they don't do what you want once they get there. Good web design will consider the best location for your shopping cart buttons. It will consider the ideal shape and size of a button to get a user to click. It will emphasize and de-emphasize various components of your site in an effort to improve how well the site converts visitors into buyers.
- Information Architecture - If your visitors can't find what they want when they want it they will not only leave, but they may never again return. The organization of your information can improve navigation on your site and help lead visitors deeper into your site to your sales pages.
How important are looks in web design?
I don't want to imply that the look of your site isn't important. First impressions do count in how your site is perceived and can make a difference in whether or not people stay on your site. On the other hand there are some who argue that an ugly site can actually convert better.
With the exception of industries like art, fashion, and perhaps even design, a beautiful site is not really necessary. Desired maybe, but necessary no. For most sites all that's really needed to is to remain above a certain line of professionalism, a line above which your site is clearly no longer considered amateur. Usually follow a few basic design principles will be enough to give your site that professionalism.
Much more than the way your site looks goes into the design process. While it's easy to think of aesthetics as design it's very far from the truth. Web design includes many other aspects including how well your site functions, how accessible it is to a variety of devices, and how well it converts.
When considering someone to design your site it's important to look past the obvious 'wow' your design can give you and look into how well they can create a site that effectively communicates your message and effectively helps increase your bottom line.
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