The Most Important Element of Good Web Design

A Simple Quiz

Raise your hand if you know the answer to the question above. Do you think you have the best answer? What makes web design great?

Ok, now that you look a bit crazy sitting in front of your phone/laptop/digital connection medium of choice with your arm raised, let’s explore some potential answers. There are some good ones.

Is the most important element that a website is up to today’s design standards? Not exactly. While this is helpful and even dare I say “essential”, it certainly is not as critical as what I am about to reveal. A design should definitely not look like it belongs in the 1990’s, and for the purposes of a website experience, and even for appearing on Google, needs to be mobile-responsive.

Ok – how about that the website’s colors are harmonious, in sync and use complimentary color palettes? My apologies to our friends at Colourlovers, but this isn’t the most critical element.

Sure, both of these answers are important but neither is the most important element of website design. So then, what is the answer?

Good Website Design Solves Problems

It really is that simple.

If you own a website, it should solve a problem. Even if yours has no other reason for existence than to showcase hundreds of images of your Golden Retriever, Misty. The problem that needs solving in this case is how to showcase your dog to the world. I would argue that there are better methods to solving this “problem” than by building a dedicated website for Misty, but I digress.

To repeat: The purpose of a business website is to solve a business problem you have.

The vast majority of the time, this problem centers around cashflow/making money/earning a living or a similar goal. The website’s purpose then will be to attract customers, to buy your products, or for portfolio websites to attain credibility within your field.

An effective website design works to help solve this problem by making your products or services easy to purchase (UX design), the website easy to navigate, and look professional and attractive (UI design). Here is a great article on the difference between the two. When many new business owners envision good website design they are only picturing the latter of these two design elements, forgetting that it is critical that their website’s products can be easily purchased, that their business message is clear online, that their product’s pricing structures are easy to locate and that their merchant system is secure.

This is why when you work with us, if you have an eye for design and you fall in love with a certain color palette, a specific font, or want the buttons to be a certain size and all written in Bradley Hand, we may make alternative suggestions. This is not because we do not value your design idea. It is because we value your business success. We want your clients and your customers to purchase your products. We want to help solve your problem, which will be reflected in an effective website design.

If there is one take-home message you can remember from reading this post, here it is:

Good design looks good. Great design looks good and sells.

Why Pay for a Website?

Are Free Web-Builder Alternatives a Good Idea?

If you have spent any significant time researching free or extremely low-cost easy business website builders you have probably heard of Wix. You can actually create a website for free without much, if any, help from a web designer. WordPress.com (not to be confused with WordPress.org) allows this as well, and there are dozens of other do-it-yourself site builder tools available to you as fast as you can Google for them.

The advent of do-it-yourself website creation tools appears to be heading into it’s prime. The tools available on some of these site builders are powerful – it isn’t difficult to upload images, add text and create a passable business site before you head out to the gym before lunch. If you know a little bit about how to use a computer you can learn how content management systems work.

Given the above, how is it that web designers and developers are still in business? And more importantly, why would you even utilize the services of them to help build your online business presence?

In Praise of the Professional

Let’s go down the list of reasons why you might want to think twice before putting your livelihood in the hands of Squarespace, or showcasing your favorite Wix creation to potential clients:

1. Your Clients Can Tell

This is probably the single most important reason why hiring a professional to build a professional online presence is important, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. The truth is, just about everyone can tell if you used a free template-builder to construct your website. This is even true of many WordPress themes, which is why we recommend working with a professional designer to create a theme to be programmed into your content management system of choice, rather than the other way around.

For example, if you have fallen in love with WordPress’ popular Twenty Twelve theme, you are not alone in your love-affair with the mobile-responsive dynamo. There are over 300,000+ active installs of the theme! (As of 2/27/17)

If you build your business site with this theme and perform the usual “site-bulider” level customizations to the design, the chances are very high that one of your clients will stumble upon a very similar-looking site and think “wait – wasn’t my attorney using that same site? Did he rip off another designers’ work?”

You do not want this to happen.

2. Branding is a Thing

Many of the most successful companies are successful because of their brand. Long after the products they continue to produce have fallen into the eyes of public scrutiny their image still shines brightly in our conciousness. The famous Nike swoop commands confidence and athleticism. This, even though Nike finished a distant fifth in this 2015 study of athletic footwear comfort.

If you choose to work your brand into your design and merge it with your social media channels you are going to showcase a much better business image than if you log in to a site-builder and change the color and font of the text at the top-left corner of the editor. This is a promise.

3. Your Website will Probably Look Cheap

We are not making this claim to state that Wix puts out a shoddy product or that Doodlekit’s templates are not up to snuff. This simply isn’t true. Their design teams build templates that have a very clean aesthetic and with many customization options. Their websites are coded with all today’s standards and requirements to get ranked in Google and to convey the message you would want to convey.

The issue is that to the average web-savvy customer, they are going to be able to tell that the site is a template. That is, the basic layout is similar not matter what colors, fonts, and themes you may choose. Many of these templates just look blocky and simple. This type of resource good for a simple website where you may want to start a blog for fun or put up a location for your local company bake-sale.

Free website builders are not meant to be the online centerpiece of your business. They are informational and fun. It’s ok for these sites to look cheaper not impress your audience with professionalism. This type of site is not passable as a stand-in for the vehicle that will drive your business growth and income.

Budgeting Your Future

Of course, we do need to mention that a small budget for your business will not stop us from wanting to help you! We would love to work with you, even if you do not have five figures to throw down, or angel investors from the corporate heavens watching your startup. We can still help you create your brand, and we can certainly provide you with a free consultation.

The truth is, even though the world of the web design template appears to have progressed tremendously in recent years, so has the world of professional web design. As the old adage goes – you still get what you pay for (even in 2017!)