Web design is still important. Don’t believe me? Do you buy a car based solely on performance and safety ratings? Do you wear clothes simply because they won’t fade in the wash or because they’re double stitched? Do you look at a soft drink’s ingredients before you notice their packaging? Nope. (If you answer yes, there is something about you that is commendable but weird).

Design matters because first impressions matter. When visiting your web site for the first time, a potential client, customer, member, whatever has already gone through some hoops and needs to be impressed, quickly.

They’ve already done some searching on Google, or they’ve asked friends on Social channels for referrals and now they’re at your site (as well as at the sites of your competition). You might have great content, an awesome product or stellar testimonials, but what matters in that moment is more psychological.

Composition, color and other design elements are very much at play at this crucial point in time. The colors need to convey the feelings appropriate for a site like yours, whether that be security, excitement, calm, etc. Your design should lead their eye to the most important pieces of information (and to the call to action). And overall they should feel at ease with the site, that they’ve come to the right place.

This seems pretty simple, right. It is. So, why are there so many bad web sites out there? Because stakeholders AND designers get in the way of a site’s success. It’s simple really – design for your target audience with your desired outcome in mind. So, why are so many board rooms scenes for debates over a picture, color, button, etc. Why are designers not pushing for user experience and the best site design possible?

There are many reasons for this…

  1. It could be that the client thinks they know what they want but aren’t thinking about their audience. And the designer is too afraid to correct the person paying the bill. So in the end the site is not what it needs to be.
  2. Or it could be that there are quite a few stakeholders who all have their own interests. The designer is then stuck trying to make everyone happy. And this is simply not possible so the product suffers.
  3. Or maybe the client wants to be presented with a bunch of designs. But, instead of picking one design, they pick pieces from all of them and end up with the dreaded Frankensite – a hodge-podge of design elements that were really never meant to be put together. And the result is a disjointed mess with no clear layout.
  4. Or even worse, no one takes the time to even discuss target audience or goals. The designer then just haphazardly puts together a site that may or (more than likely) may not be the right fit.

So, how do you avoid these web design pitfalls?

Here are some suggestions that, if followed, will help eliminate some of these repeat offenders…

  1. Establish ONE point of contact on both ends. One person will manage content, design approval and site organization on the client’s end. And one person will manage the client as well as the design/development team on the design end. This will eliminate excess noise and allow those in charge to focus on producing the best possible site.
  2. Take some time to map things out BEFORE you design. Ask questions. Have strategy meetings. Plan. We do a pre-development survey where we find out from the client who their audience is, what their goals are and what their expectations are from this web site before we even have a kickoff meeting. This way when we start building the actual site we have a solid roadmap to follow and can produce a much stronger product.
  3. Do some pre-design. Not only should you map out your content and navigation but you also need to map out your visuals. Wireframes and style guides (or mood boards) can help you determine the visual elements ahead of time and really do a lot to eliminate delays due to color, images, textures, etc. By doing this there are fewer “surprises” by the time the design is ready to review. You know exactly why the design looks the way it does and you are able to focus on the details that really matter like calls to action, content, etc.
  4. Do one design at a time. Clients often think that more is better. If they get 3 designs, that has to mean they are 3 times more likely to get the best design possible. The problem here is what I mentioned about the Frankensite. Clear out the clutter, do some due dilignence and have the designer put their all into one design.

One last thought.

It doesn’t matter as much if the stakeholders like the design or that the designer wins an award for the design. What matters is that the design makes the right first impression and that it works with your content to achieve the goals you’ve set for your web site.