When someone needs a website they commonly google “web design” or “website designer”, and they will find a large number of businesses offering this service. You could be forgiven for thinking that all there was to a new website was “design”, but the reality is quite different. Building a new website involves a lot more than just design.
So, what exactly is good web design?
We’ve talked before about the difference between website design and website development to try and clarify the big picture view of creating a new website, but let’s dive into a bit more detail on what exactly good web design is.
How does web design fit into the whole picture of what a website is?
Think of your website like a car. Sure, styling is important, no one wants to get stuck with a Juke or Prius, but it really is only superficial. A lot of Prius owners might not be enamored with how it looks but they sure love how much they save at the pump.
It’s the same with your website – style and design should really only be one consideration – you need to have a holistic view of all the different parts of your website:
- Copy (text on the page)
- Search engine optimisation (SEO)
- Photography (it could be argued this is part of design)
- Costs (both setup, monthly expenses and future changes or fixes)
As you can see design (the aesthetics) are only one part of your entire website, so don’t focus on it like it’s the only thing. It also means when comparing prices to see who has the most affordable website design, are you willing to spend thousands more to get something that is, in reality, only different on the outside, a design that will most likely need to be refreshed or changed completely in a couple of years?
We’re not saying you should settle for an ugly website; just keep it in perspective to make sure you get good ‘bang for buck’ with your website spend.
Web design should be more than just styling
What are the basic components of web design? Colours, fonts, layout? Yes, but ask an Apple fan and they’ll tell you design is more than choosing the right colour. It encompasses more, the form and functionality of a device, how it feels in your hand, the ergonomic engineering, how easy it is to use and how it fits into your life, and your way of doing things.
It’s the reason Apple products are so successful – they put a lot of thought into not just how something looks, but how it functions, how compatible it is with us as humans, the gold standard of the man-machine interface.
What does this have to do with your website?
A good web designer should be able to do more than just choose a nice colour palette and some pretty fonts. They need to understand the purpose of your website, how it fits into your business plan, how your visitors will use it and what paths you want to encourage them to take (to achieve a conversion).
They also need to think about how the website will make your visitors feel, and how that reflects on your business. And lastly, they need to understand how visitors will use your website. Statistics show that over half of your visitors will be seeing your website on a mobile device, which means a lot of the “pretty stuff” may not even be seen.
By way of an example, look at the design plan below. I remember when I did my post-grad in Information Design, this was always emphasized as the holy grail of design – using design to increase the effectiveness of your communication.
This means using colours, font weight and size and layout to highlight key information, making it very easy for the user to assimilate what’s being offered, and what action to take (and how to take that action!). It’s about making it usable, not pretty!
The perils of too much design
Design is good. Over-design is bad. And we’ve seen even high-priced agencies being guilty of slapping on too much makeup, and making a website just about unusable. It was so heavily designed that it loaded slow (especially on a weak data connection), no one could find the menu or the page they needed, and much of the fancy artwork or animations were wasted on mobile devices (more than half of your visitors, as mentioned above).
Slow loading times also hurt the website’s performance in Google’s search results (SERPs) and increased bounce rates, and visitor dissatisfaction.
Overall, it was a lose-lose – the client paid a lot of a money for a website that was over-designed and the end result was worse than a cheaper business website. Basically, lipstick on a pig.
The lesson? Don’t let a designer control the website build. It’s like letting an architect dictate the construction of your new house. Yes, it will be pretty (and expensive), but it might leave a lot to be desired when it comes to everyday usability and practicality.
How much importance should you put on web design?
Are we anti pretty websites? Not at all, and if your budget stretches far enough you can have the best of everything – a good-looking, well designed website that is also usable, fast and increases your conversion rate (the ultimate goal).
Just don’t make it all about the design (and don’t let a pushy designer convince you that it’s all about how it looks…).
In fact, usability expert Jakob Nielsen commented that simple websites are often best, especially in terms of helping visitors convert.
Choosing a cheaper, simpler option can save you thousands, part of which you could put towards hiring a designer to develop your brand, which is more important than just having a nice looking website. Coming to us with a well-designed logo and brand kit will help to make your affordable website look even better.
So, if you want to find that sweet spot between professional web design, usability and affordability, check out our well-priced website packages.