The visual polish and presentation of a website – the initial look and feel – undoubtedly make an initial impression on us (as with so many other things in our lives!) It has the power to draw us in for a closer look. Or, at least prevent the immediate bounce back to the search results page or some other (rounded) corner of the web.
However, to borrow a common saying, your audience (customers, clients, users) may come for the looks … but they will stay for (and will be influenced by) your site’s content & key messages, services & online functionality, overall benefits, and ease-of-use. Aspects that must work together to help them meet their specific needs & goals.
Identifying and prioritizing these various aspects that impact your target audience (influencing their future behavior including visits, actions and purchases) — with an assessment of their relative importance and how they can fit together well — are vital steps towards achieving a well-balanced, effective and compelling website redesign.
A good way to appreciate this (the importance of content, functionality, ease-of-use i.e. factors other than visual design / looks) is to review some of the more successful sites (in various categories e.g. news, email, shopping / retail, entertainment, banking, trading, education & training) – whether they are well-known large entities or small businesses that have carved out a successful niche with a very well targeted website.
You may notice that what they have in common is not any particular slick or polished look … just as there isn’t one style – for say movies, books, restaurant or home decor – that is the “best” one. It’s the combination of visual design elements with the other key aspects shown in the graphic above – that comes together to deliver the right blend of form and function that appeals to your targeted visitors / users / clients – and serves their needs effectively.
The challenge is to recognize the immediate appeal of a polished look (not just for visitors but also site publishers!) and temper it with an appreciation of the lasting benefits of the other underlying factors – when they are designed well, keeping the site’s goals, constraints, users in mind. And using that understanding to prioritize & balance your time and investment appropriately across all those key areas. More on how to achieve that … in a later post!