It always amazes me when a business doesn’t value design. To some degree the confusion has grounding in the fact that good design cannot be measured in a finite way. It is almost impossible to answer the question of “what is the value of my brand” or “what’s the return on investment on design”, beyond seeing firsthand a great design’s effects on a company’s bottom line. In reality, it’s no longer a debate. With almost all modern industry giants such as Apple & Google recognising and understanding the importance of design in relation to business. It’s something that would be ignored or glossed over at peril of any brand in the public eye. Just as good design can win new customers and increase sales, bad design can cause irreparable damage to a company’s persona.
Good design patterns have the power to cut through what Dieter Rams once famously described as “an impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises.”, to present a clear and unobstructed message to the viewer. It isn’t just about pixels, blue here or red there. Good design is about systems of thinking, about patterns of behaviour. It’s about making products useful and understandable, about making brands innovative and reliable. Good design is thorough down to the last detail. Nothing should be arbitrary or left to chance as care and accuracy show respect toward the user. In web design terms, sending a muddled message about who you are or what you sell, will see potential customers leave your site without spending a penny.
Any advertiser or marketeer worth his salt will tell you that customers make emotional buying decisions and then attempt to justify them with logic. We know from great design projects of the past and present that a successful brand can do much more than persuade somebody to shop in a certain store. Why do people get brands like Harley Davidson permanently tattooed on their skins? It’s about image, about the message attached to the brand, provoking a response and giving a company greater perceived value. Ultimately, it’s because design has allowed them to feel an affinity with, or even loyalty to, the company selling them a product that could otherwise appear cold and inhuman. Design has created an environment where they’re emotionally invested and will continue to buy and share a company with others.
One of the joys of being a web designer specifically is seeing how customers interact with your work. Like a product rather than traditional advertising medium, our creations are designed to be used. We know first hand that often very small tweaks to a website’s layout and design can have a massive impact on sales. A well designed website not only looks aesthetically pleasing but also greatly reduces end-user frustration, getting results that translate to profit. When it comes down to it internet users are fickle and impatient, they won’t stand for bad design and won’t hesitate to abandon your website in search of direct competitors. Big online companies know this all too well and some of the stats that back it up are astounding: – In 2009 Amazon demonstrated that every 100 milliseconds of latency which occurred on their website will result in a 1% loss in sales. Which means, every second of latency will cost Amazon approximately 10% of revenue! If Amazon pages we’re to take one second longer to load the direct cost to the company is roughly $1.6B. – A Recent study by Walmart, showed that every second of improvement in their website loading time would increase conversion by 2%. In all design form follows function and on the web the effects of good form and function are clear to see. It’s not just visual design that will have an impact, but also a solid architecture of well-formed code that makes pages slicker and transitions smoother will convert more visitors into customers. The effects of various elements within our designs are easily measured and ultimately a well designed website should be continually evolving and adapting based on the behaviour of it’s users. Users who will undoubtedly teach us as designers new things, bring flaws in our original thinking to light and move in patterns we may never have initially anticipated.
Simple, yet Long-Lasting
“I would have written a shorter letter, but i did not have the time” — Blaise Pascal. Good design concentrates on the essential aspects so that the final product is not burdened with non-essentials. It is simple, pure and as little design as possible. Less, but better. Maintaining this simplistic approach means good design avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated, lasting for potentially many years. For an example of this just look at the Coca-Cola logo, it was designed in 1885 and is still an internationally loved, trusted & recognised symbol. In the long run good design will not only improve sales but also save you time and money on the expensive process or rehashing poor designs that have become stale and out-dated.
Design is not a dark art, or something that can be shied away from if you’re not knowledgeable. Like it or not everyone is a participant, there will be a brand that you’re loyal to, or feel connected with, because of a successful design strategy or positive online experience. Ultimately good design is an investment, one that with enough care and attention has the potential to turn a small company into a big one. As Thomas J. Watson (chief executive for IBM) once declared in a 1973 lecture “good design is good business”. So are your designs really pulling their weight?
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