I asked Jeremy Burns of 25fiftysix to share his insights on what businesses should consider when designing websites. Enjoy this great business advice from a very skilled and creative designer!
I’ve been in the design industry for more than a decade. During that time, I’ve come across some constants that never change. One of those constants is that design can make or break a brand. Honestly. Too many times have I seen a poorly designed logo or website or any other work, and cringed at the thought of how much more money they could be making if they had only invested in a great designer.
Bad Design is a Credibility Killer
High quality graphic design adds credibility to your website. The reverse is also true - low quality graphic design doesn’t just leave you at neutral, it can harm your website’s credibility.
A well-designed website can draw in a customer, keep them around, keep them coming back, and even make them tell their friends about it. A poorly designed website, on the other hand, can immediately deter a potential customer, and even drive them away for good. Which do you want your website visitors to do?
It doesn’t matter if your product is fantastic. If your brand is not with the times, neither are you. If your website is poorly designed, potential customers may never get past the first page to find out who you are or what you do or sell. If you don’t care enough about your product to invest the time and energy into your website to make it attractive and user-friendly for visitors, why should they care about your product either?
What are some tell-tale signs of bad design? Here are just a few, but bad graphic design truly knows no bounds.
Poor Font Choices - Oftentimes brands choose typefaces that are mismatched with the brand or message. This is obviously farfetched, but if you’re running a daycare, the last thing you want to do is use some creepy horror show typeface with the blood dripping off of the letters. If you’re a family law firm using Party Font USA, you’re sending the wrong message and probably not going to get the clientele you want. And unless you’re a death metal band from Finland, that font had better be readable.
- Poor Color Selection - Similar to the font choices, you don’t want a color palette (or lack thereof) that completely mismatches the brand, clashes, is difficult to read on, or just plain irritates the average user. Large bodies of yellow type on a red background? Forget it. If it looked like the My Little Ponies threw up on your web page with 50,000 different blinking colors, no one’s going to take you seriously. Talk to a professional already, and they will coach you through color selection that is effective in web design, and also complements your brand identity.
- Failing to Understand the Demographic - Web design is not about showing users what you want them to know. It’s about understanding what your users want, and giving it to them. Remember that you are not your target audience, and you can’t just design a website that appeals to your tastes. Work with your graphic designer to talk about the target audience and what they will appreciate in a website design.
Cheap Design Looks Cheap
If cheap is all you’re aiming for, you’ll find it - and your customers will know it. So-called designers are a dime a dozen nowadays. Anyone with a computer and a pirated copy of Photoshop can call themselves a designer. But trust me, it takes more than that to be a great designer. The saying “You get what you pay for,” could not be truer in the world of design.
Compare the design from cheap designers on a website such as fiverr.com against the finished designs from a high-end design studio such as Sagmeister & Walsh. The differences are staggering. In one case you get an unfinished, thrown-together look that looks immature and inexperienced, and in the other you end up with a polished design, and it’s clear that every detail has been pored over and worked to perfection.
If you want graphic design that looks like you paid 5 bucks for it, any of those quick-turnaround freelancer sites like Fiverr can do the job, or perhaps your cousin’s neighbor’s daughter’s friend could throw something regrettable together for you in Microsoft Word. But if you want your website to look professional, trustworthy and accessible, you simply must invest in a real designer.
Reality Check on Print vs. Web Design
Print design and web design are drastically different things with different best practices. Don’t expect your website to do the same things your print materials do, and vice versa.
Many times I’ve had clients bring me their brochure and tell me to “make the website look like the brochure.” There are elements that can be carried over, and the content within the brochure can be very useful online, but the truth is, a website is not a brochure. It’s not a double-sided, tri-folded piece of paper you can hold in your hands. A website is an interactive experience, that guides users on a journey to complete their task.
Also, great print design rarely translates to great web design. Take for example the overall user experience with the design. In print designs, your eyes walk around a static page absorbing information passively. In web design, your experience is based on interactivity, clicking and scrolling through pages actively.
Another example of the differences is paper vs. a screen. A print designer is constrained by the size of the physical printable material. A web designer, on the other hand, is constrained by the size of the screen on the user’s device, which runs from the smallest mobile device up to the 60-inch TV screen sitting in your living room. Each has their own screen resolution and aspect ratio, which can create a multitude of technological challenges. If your designer is great, you can achieve a seamless experience across all devices - not something easily achieved when you try to force your web experience to look like your print design.
But both print and web design are related. Your brand standards should be reflected across all design materials, print and digital. Which brings me to my next point...
Be Who You Are, No Matter Where You Are
Even though print and web design aren’t the same thing, your brand needs to cross platforms and translate to every medium. Whether it’s a business card, a brochure, a banner, the side of a bus, a mobile app or a website, great design allows your brand to represent who you are - no matter where you are.
When you are looking for the right graphic designer to serve your brand online, find someone who understands both the print and web design worlds to ensure they can create that frictionless experience. But it’s also imperative that your designer has a deep understanding of front-end web design, and how design can affect your user experience and whether that visitor takes the desired action.
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