The Importance of Good Site Design

23 Jun, 2004 | Non-fictionWeb DesignTdp

The mantra goes that content is king, practically every expert out there will say the same thing, but is that necessarily true? Design is often sacrificed in favour of content, as it should be surely? Well, I'm not totally convinced. Don't get me wrong, I believe that the information or products on your site is what draws people to it, and keeps them coming back, but it's the design that makes a site and it can have a major impact on visitor numbers and sales.

We've all been to sites that offer us products or services but have a bad design, and I'm not just talking the wrong choice of colours, or a misaligned image, nor having bad navigation. I'm talking about the sites where it looks like they got a nine-year-old to design it in art class; fonts of all sizes and types, coloured backgrounds, poor images, random colours or background music. It automatically makes you think twice about what you're doing, if your details will be safe, what the product will be like and just how much hassle it'll be if you have to return it.

What you have to ask yourself is: if they can't get something simple like a web site right, what else are they unprofessional at? With the number of web site templates available at low cost and designer's prices lower than ever, why is the site so bad? Maybe they're just plain penny-pinching? Poor design immediately starts people wondering about your business. Is it surprising, really? After all, our primary sense is sight. We are a species obsessed with looks, not just in other people, but in every aspect of our lives from the cars we like to the food we eat, if it doesn't look right, we tend to shy away from it. We are a culture that has been trained to expect certain things. Our big, secure, safe high-street stores have professional looks and clean windows filled with desirable products and eye-catching boxes. You only have to look at the revitalised success of Apple computers to see what a difference good design can make. Most products are now designed with an eye on desirability.

So in a design driven culture, bad design can have disastrous effects. I have personally worked on sites where sales shot up after a complete redesign. Nothing else was changed, the product images, the text on the pages, the product descriptions all remained identical to how they were before, but the look of the site was given an overhaul. The results spoke for themselves and reinforced my previous small-scale attempts at getting feedback from other browsers. An overwhelming 97% of people I questioned responded that site design played a part in deciding whether they would buy from a site, 40% said that they would not buy from a site with poor design if they could find the product elsewhere while a whopping 57% said they wouldn't touch a dodgy looking site at all. That's a fairly staggering percentage. Those aren't figures that drop margins, those are figures that destroy businesses.

Maybe it's time you took a look at your site and called in a professional to give it an overhaul, it could be money well spent. These days everyone needs a professional looking web site, whether it be from investing in a professional template or calling in an experienced designer. With the market still depressed, now is the ideal time to get bargain rates on your redesign and be in prime position for the growing market. It needn't be as expensive an exercise as you think, and your business could reap the rewards.