Does Web Design Matter? Finding a balance between attractive design and clear, usable content

Website Design - Does it Matter? Web design/layout on blackboardDoes Web design matter? As a designer with a four-year, fine-art degree, that question pains me to type it out. But even more painful than the question, is my response – not always.

Now had I said, “Does web design matter to me?,” the answer would have been a resounding, “Yes! But, for the purpose of this blog post, I’m approaching it from the perspective of the average web user. I’m also referring primarily to ‘business-to-consumer’ websites where the main goal is communicate about or sell a product or service.

Imagine you’re at the dealership to purchase a new car. You probably wouldn’t expect to have a conversation like this:

You: “Wow! That’s a great looking car. How’s the gas mileage?”

Salesperson: “Hmmm…that one doesn’t actually have an engine.”

You: “Oh Ok. So what’s the point?”

Salesperson: “Well…you said it’s a great looking car, right?

At this point, it’s likely you would reconsider your choice to purchase a car from that particular dealership and take your business elsewhere. While this may be an extreme and highly improbable situation, the analogy makes sense. No matter what the car looks like, the most fundamental purpose of said car is transportation. The same can be assumed for a large portion of websites – no matter what the website looks like, the most fundamental purpose is communication.

A website may be the most beautiful, well-designed masterpiece that ever came across your screen, but if it doesn’t communicate the intended message or drive the user to act, it’s not accomplishing its primary function.

Now don’t get me wrong – I love websites that are beautifully designed! But web design is not art, and it has never pretended to be. Those of us in the web design business must determine how to present the intended information in the most usable (and beautiful) way possible.

When it boils down to it, I believe most people don’t really care what a website looks like as long as it has relevant information.

One shining example is Craigslist. Strictly from a design perspective, Craigslist is one of the most unattractive, unimaginative and ‘ho-hum’ sites on the Internet. But according to their FAQ page, it currently receives 30 billion global page views every month. According to Alexa Internet Statistics, Craigslist currently ranks as the eighth most-visited site in the United States. To give some context, numbers one though seven are: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo!, Amazon, Wikipedia and eBay. That’s pretty good company for a site created by a small team of developers that draws its main source of revenue from fees charged for job postings.

The real challenge for any website is successfully finding the balance between attractive design and clearly-presented, usable content.

I believe that a great website has straightforward content for the average user, while at the same time, shows time and effort was spent by the designer to present that information in the most aesthetically-pleasing way possible.

Pixel-perfect graphics, grid-based layouts and animation are just a few of a web designer’s tools to create a great site, but they are still just assets to support the content. They should never get in the way of the main function of the site, which is communication.

Here at DVL, we strive to partner with our clients so their message becomes our message. In doing so, we can use our knowledge and tools to communicate that message as efficiently and successfully as possible.

And having a nicely designed website doesn’t hurt.

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Half a Century Young and Still Relevant? Just Ask “Cleopatra” How She Does It

Madonna performing during the Bridgestone Super Bowl Half Time Show (Beatcrave.com)

Reinventing one’s brand to appeal to the ever-changing whims of consumers in the 21st century marketplace is tricky.

One key to success is to preserve what initially appealed to your stakeholders, while adapting other elements to be relevant, current and marketable based on today’s trends.

Want a blueprint for success? Enter stage right, Cleopatra-style, of course: The one and only Madonna.

Reviews of the Material Girl’s performance at this year’s Bridgestone Super Bowl Halftime Show are all over the map.  Say what you will about the performance, but the pop icon who first hit it big in the early ‘80s (yes, that would be 30 years ago) was selected to provide the entertainment for the most-watched television program in U.S. TV history. For those of you counting at home, that’s 111.3 million Super Bowl viewers, per Nielsen.

Cynics argue that she may have been selected for ulterior motives, such as to help the NFL garner a larger share of women viewers. But the fact remains the powers-that-be at NBC and the NFL made the iconic pop diva the first non-male Super Bowl halftime star since Janet Jackson and her infamous wardrobe malfunction in 2004.

How does Madonna stay noteworthy almost three decades after her illustrious career began?

Her Super Bowl performance may offer some clues. How about her grand entrance a la Cleopatra, which just happens to be the most expensive film made in cinema history (adjusted for inflation)? In this “role,” Madonna evoked the glamour and style of Cleopatra star Elizabeth Taylor, harkening back to her own days as the Queen of Pop.

To appeal to those who weren’t around to see Taylor star in the 1963 Academy Award winning film, or even when Madonna was in her heyday in the ‘80s and ‘90s for that matter, she pulled in current pop stars Cee Lo Green , Nicki Minaj and LMFAO to offer some sizzle for the younger generation.

Apparently, someone liked it. The performance was the most-watched halftime show of all time, and it elicited 10,245 tweets per second – the third most in Twitter history.

Not a bad gig for someone with a new album that drops later this year, the release of her first fragrance, and an upcoming world tour.

Luckily for her – or perhaps it wasn’t luck at all – she was able to utilize the most effective 12-minute branding opportunity on the planet to expose 111 million+ consumers to her brand. It’s no wonder Madonna’s Lucky Star continues to shine bright all these years later.