Web Design Realities You Can’t Pass By
Web design has to be one of the least understood parts of the Internet. You will meet a lot of people who are well versed in the latest technologies but they will not even know the basic terminologies of web design.
A big reason so many people make mistakes when it comes to web design is that it is an art and not a science. It isn’t something you can quantify or measure, but something that you can feel. You can definitely quantify the effect of web design through your website’s popularity. Web design is something with which a lot of people struggle so we decided to put together a list of the most common misunderstandings of web design.
Web Design isn’t like painting, it is like architecture
This is the number one thing people do not understand about web design. They look at the word ‘design’ in the name and assume that we are talking only about the visually pleasing aspect of websites. Web design doesn’t just mean that you use the right colors or the right graphics; it is a field in which many different techniques and tools are used to make your website perform and look good. Web design isn’t just like making a painting or making a piece of art in Photoshop. Web design can best be compared to architecture.
Look at what architects do. There are many celebrated architects who are known for their designs but design isn’t the only thing for which they are known. Anyone can create a cool looking building on paper – that doesn’t make them an architect.
Being an architect isn’t easy. You have to go through years of education and training. Architects do not just have to design a structure that looks good; they have to design a structure that looks good and is structurally sound.
A lot of science goes into construction these days. The architect has to take into account how people will live and work in the structure. They have to make sure there are enough windows to let the sunlight in.
They have to ensure that the structure is easy for people to navigate. An architect also has to ensure that the structure is sturdy enough to deal with environmental factors. No one will deny that architecture is a very well respected art. Yet no one will deny that it is a science as well.
The same is true for web design. Web design doesn’t just mean that you put together a few buttons and a few flashy animations. If it were true then web design studios wouldn’t be required.
Companies wouldn’t be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars perfecting their websites. Web designers do not get the respect they should and that is wrong. If you want to know how hard it is to be a web designer, ask them what work went into the websites they have built.
They will tell you about how hard they had to work to maintain the website’s aesthetic across different browsers and devices. They will tell you how they had to make sure that the customers could easily find what they needed to.
Designing the visual elements is usually the easiest part of the job, the same way that coming up with a good looking design is the easiest part of the architect’s job. The hard part is making sure that design can be turned into reality without sacrificing usability in any way.
No, your Nephew cannot design your website
Web developers are tired of hearing these same old lines again and again:
My nephew knows Photoshop, he can design the website
My son is good with computers, he has some designs
I do a bit of Photoshop, I will design it myself
My cousin was telling me he can easily design websites on WordPress
And so on…
This is one of the most annoying things you have to deal with as a web development professional. Even though we may be developers and not designers, we understand how hard our designer colleagues work to make sure our websites look and feel amazing. When someone thinks that some amateur can design their professional website it is very condescending to the professionals.
Web Design determines how your website is used
Most people do not realize how great an effect the web designers have on a website. Web designers aren’t people you just go to at the end; they are people who need to be involved from the beginning of the process to create something that works.
On that note, it is also important to ensure that your website’s design gives the users what they want. “Design” is the key to giving the users what they want. It is possible for a website to look great but still fail at web design.
One of our favorite examples of this is the difference between Yahoo and Google. Our younger readers may not realize how late Google was to the search engine world. Google became operational around 1998 and it took Google many years to become popular.
On the other hand, Yahoo, MSN, AskJeeves (now that is a name we haven’t heard in a long time), Altavista, and Infoseek were launched many years earlier. MSN, Yahoo, and Altavista were all started in 1995. Infoseek was even earlier (1994) while AskJeeves was launched a year later in 1996. We actually remember the first time when someone told us to check out this nifty little search engine called Google. What made Google so attractive? Its search results were great, but there was much more to it than just the performance being good.
Look at things from a customer’s point of view. You want to search for something and you hear that Google is good. You’ve been using Yahoo and you like it so you go to Yahoo first. Here is what you see:
Then you think of checking out what Google is about. You open their website and this is what you see:
Keep in mind that you wanted to conduct a search. Yahoo’s homepage was a mess. All you wanted to do was search for something and instead you were bombarded with lots of news and sections. Google, on the other hand, just straight up gave you the option to search for what you wanted.
Give the Users what they want
Your website should not be a vanity. Its design needs to be dictated by what your customers want, not just what an executive at the company thinks looks good. There are so many websites that are filled with sleek designs and flashy animations but they do not give the customer what the customer needs.
We have no idea why so many people have trouble grasping this concept. Your business will only succeed if it gives the customers what they want from it. Restaurant websites are some of the biggest breakers of this rule. Most websites that belong to a restaurant have many pictures of the establishment. Many of them have a media heavy slideshow on the front page as well
Now think about why people visit the website of the restaurant. Do they visit to look at flash animations? Do they visit the website to look at the design of the website? No. Most people who visit the website of a restaurant want to know the same things. When is the restaurant open? What is the menu?
What are the prices? Do we need reservations? This is what the customer needs and thus this is what the website must deliver. If you want to succeed as a restaurant you want to ensure that customers visit your restaurant.
If you make the information they want the most hard to find then they are not going to bother visiting your establishment. Give them what they need right on the front page and you will be helping them visit your restaurant.
Web Design starts with Research
Whenever someone asks our company to develop a website for them the first thing we ask them is what they want to accomplish with the website. Good website design always starts with research.
You have to look at the company and its customers. You have to talk to the management of the company and ask them what they are trying to achieve. Once that is done you can move on to thinking of web design. Here are some different types of websites based on the requirements:
Vanity WebsiteVanity has a lot of negative connotations but it is the best way to explain such websites. There are many businesses that deal only with other businesses and work through social networking. Their websites are often just a vanity – their web presence is just for the sake of having a web presence.
They wanted to make sure there was a website which has some information about the company, their contact information, and some platitudes about corporate vision and ethics.There is nothing wrong with having such a website.
If you are comfortable enough not to want any clients to come to you through your website then it is your choice. Vanity websites are often the flashiest and least useful. They don’t really provide a service because, frankly, the business doesn’t care about the random people that will visit their website.
They know that their customers know them and that is enough for the businesses.
These websites are most often made for companies that deal directly with consumers instead of other businesses.
The key point is that these are marketing websites and not sales websites. Such websites are for companies that make consumer products but do not sell directly to the consumer. We are talking about companies like Coca Cola and Old Spice.
You cannot buy these products straight from the company – you buy them through another shop.The only reason these brands have such well-made websites with interesting content is because the websites are being used as an advertisement.
If you want to attract people to your brand then you should look at a design-heavy website that uses a lot of media. The whole purpose of such a website is to wow the customer. It isn’t supposed to be useful or informative.
Even though these websites may appear useless, they can do a lot for your branding. We also love these websites because they are most often the most creative.
Tell web designers that they can make whatever crazy design they want to without worrying about usability, and it looks like Christmas came early for them. It is a great opportunity for web designers to show off their design talent.
The best way to go about things is to incorporate media in a unique and creative way on your website.There is another type of marketing website as well.
New companies that are trying to attract B2B clients use sleek websites to attract clients. These websites almost always have a blog and a section for testimonials from happy customers.
These websites almost always have the same structure. There are sections such as services, about us, our values, blog, and contact us. It might seem to be a bit of a cookie cutter approach to things but hey – if it works there is nothing wrong with it.
Sales Website, if you are aiming to sell your products or services through your website, you are going to need an e-commerce based website. A good sales website isn’t just a website that has items for sale; there are many more factors involved in making it successful.
One great idea is the sales funnel. Basically you have to guide your users the right way to ensure that they end up purchasing something. You can put product reviews on the front page or discount information on the front page. Having a good sales funnel is essential for an effective sales website.
There are many other ‘types’ of websites. What is important is that you have to be clear about the purpose of your website before you start the web design process.Think of your website as your office/store on the Internet.
If you want to create an office with a corporate environment you will need a specific type of layout. If you want to create a retail outlet you will need a completely different type of layout. It works the same way with websites. You cannot just create a ‘sales’ section on any website and expect it to be an efficient way to sell your products or services.
You need to understand what you hope to achieve with the website. You will be able to convey successfully to the web designers what you want to achieve only if you, yourself, fully understand it at the outset.
Making your website compatible for mobile is essential
There are still too many companies with websites that do not open properly on mobile devices. This is simply inexcusable in this day and age. Mobile access accounts for a majority of Internet usage by people.
Think about it; if you wanted to check something, it is much more convenient simply to search for it on your phone instead of turning on your computer and opening the browser. Web mobile search has already become bigger than searches conducted from computers and its share will only increase with time.
If your website does not open properly on phones then you will lose out on customers that use phones as their primary Internet browsing device. Any good web design company will make sure that your website opens perfectly on phones.
Keep Your Look Updated
When was the last time your website was redesigned? There is no “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” in the world of design. There are certain UI/UX design trends which instantly date your website.
Remember how a decade ago everything needed to look 3d? Web sites had a lot of embossing effects and shadows on the buttons. Then 5 years later it was popular to make everything look as flat as possible. All websites are affected by design trends.
Even if you didn’t consciously think of following a design trend, you may have subconsciously followed some. We get tired of the same old designs and are attracted towards the new; it is just basic human psychology. When people visit your website they shouldn’t feel that they just came through a time machine.
You get what you pay for
There are many companies that will give you incredibly cheap rates for designing your website. There is a good reason their rates are so unbelievably low; they don’t really design websites. There are thousands of companies that simply take readymade themes, change a few colors, and sell them for hundreds of dollars. The easiest way to weed out such companies is to talk about customization a lot.
Ask them to come up with a custom design based on your requirements. They will try to convince you to go with their own designs and will try to avoid designing something new as much as possible. These websites don’t really even have web designers – they usually just have web developers and they ask them simply to change the theme colors where needed.
This approach is fine if you simply want web presence for the sake of web presence. Websites thrown together like this often have security exploits and are not scalable. A website made by a proper web designer will be in a completely different league compared to a cheap website.
A proper web designer will take into account all the things we are talking about here. They will make sure, not just that the website looks good at first glance, but also that it is usable and compatible for everyone.
Communicate properly with your web designers
Do you want the people designing your websites to work at their best? Do you want them to make the best website possible for you? The only way to make sure this happens is through proper communication with them. Proper communication means that you will need to make an effort not to be vague. Saying things like “I don’t know, it doesn’t pop” helps absolutely no one.
Try to be descriptive about what you need changed. Do not say “I will know the right design when I see it” because, well, the website designers are no mind readers. A good thing to do is to give the web designers examples of the type of websites you want.
Most people who want a website designed already have some of their favorite designs in mind. Simply share them with the web designers. The web designers will not copy the websites but they will provide them a lot of guidance in what you want from them. This approach takes a lot of time off the whole process and results in a better website for you.
There is a lot more when it comes to web design. There are literally thousands of books and websites filled with useful information for web design.
The key point is that you need to treat web design both as an art and as a science. You need to understand that your website designers aren’t just throwing random designs together in Photoshop.
A lot of thought and work goes into a properly designed website. Sometimes you may not even be able to tell why one website is better than another – because the web designers would have put in subtle touches that make one of them better.
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