The recession has caused quite a few problems in the graphics design world in the last twelve months as it’s highlighted one of the biggest issues that has dogged the industry for years and that is the assumption that a good graphic designer is a good web designer. This assumption just isn’t true and many companies have discovered this to their detriment.
The thing is, the Internet isn’t just about looking good – websites in fact don’t have to look good at all and some pretty atrocious websites have made a fortune. The reason is, website design is not just about making a page look good – it’s about making it functional.
Where many graphic designers fall over is in this functionality aspect as they seem to forget that visitors to a website are not just looking for a pretty image – they’re actually hoping to find a product or service that can fulfil their needs and a pretty picture of some people climbing a hill is unlikely to do that (unless you’re selling hill climbing holidays!)
The problem is, the web has been seen as a completely new method of marketing when really, it’s just an extension of existing marketing methods. If we distill marketing down to its basics; it’s essentially just a method of getting our products and services in front of more and more people in the hope that they will buy from us. However, many companies and graphic designers have seen it as a way of promoting their own designs to the detriment of the customer.
Take it from me – customers won’t choose you because you have an extremely pretty website, they will choose you because they are comfortable with your product, with you and with the way you conduct business and no amount of well positioned images will do this.
No, websites need to be functional and so you need to bear this in mind when you are choosing a company to create your site in the future. As with most things, there are a number of simple steps you can take to ensure you get a company that can fulfil your needs, here are a few:
- The brief – get it wrong and it could mean disaster You will probably be asked for a brief so the website company can give you some idea of the cost of the site. You’ll probably then make some very simple mistakes which will send your website company right off on the wrong tangent, the main one being “I want a clean site with easy to navigate menus”. Believe me, if your website company of choice goes out of its way to make cluttered sites with awful menus – they won’t be in business for long. It should be taken as read that a website will be simple to navigate and to do this, I’m afraid you’re going to have to be quite boring. You see many people expect to see menus either at the top or down the side of the page and if you try to get too adventurous, you’ll end up with an unusable site easier than you could imagine.
- Pushing the brand, not the product Unless you have a well-known brand then it’s likely that the only people who have heard of it are already known to you. Rather than getting vain about it, just admit that nobody knows about your product and realise your website needs to educate them. If you begin from this position and understand that you will need to explain everything to everyone that visits then you’ll be OK. The minute you assume your customer knows anything about it, you risk losing that customer, which leads us on to…
- Never assume So many website assume their customer has a working knowledge of the products or services they are selling. It is up to you to make sure your customer knows what you are selling and that it solves a particular problem for them. If you don’t make it clear then it is your fault.
With this in mind you can soon see that ‘design’ takes a back seat to the functionality and the actual ability of your site to sell and so you need to consider more than just the prettiness of the site.
Simply by understanding these simple concepts you can make sure that the company you are choosing to handle your website creation are also able to help with the copy, the measurement and the eventual changing of the site when you discover new ways of selling your products.
And this leads us to another issue with websites that designers need to grasp – the web is a moving feast and to keep up, you need to move with it.
Gone are the days where you can simply launch a static website and hope that people will visit it often. With the birth of social media, people expect to see things change and to see alterations and new content, they expect dynamism.
There’s obviously more to this than is covered here, so stay tuned for more on this subject in up-coming articles.