What's the big deal with Web Design?
Find out from the professionals how
important it is to get your website
design right from the get go.

There are more websites being created than ever and consequently, a growing necessity for web design. Web design in the simplest definition is the process of designing a website. It provides the framework to allow a website to carry out its purpose whether it's to supply information, provide entertainment, manage a community, or sell products and services.

Although the words web design make it sound like the process only lends itself to developing the aesthetic aspect of a website, it is far more than that. Web design also involves developing how the site operates and functions. It involves the use of programming languages such as Javascript and PHP, multimedia platforms such as Flash, and can be developed with search engine optimisation (SEO) in mind. Technically, it may be better describe web design as "website building."

Why Is Good Web Design So Important?

There are many reasons why good web design is so important. Today, a website is a representation of a company. A well designed site represents professionalism while a poorly designed site is taken as a warning. Internet users are more sophisticated than they used to be and make split second decisions on whether or not a website is credible and trustworthy.

A well designed site creates rapport with visitors as well. A website has to make an impression AND communicate what the site is about within seconds. For example, a site about gardening should have a header that reflects the topic, use design elements that represents the theme, and make sure the navigation points to relevant topics. If the website doesn't reflect what the user was looking for, the user will look for sites that better meets his or her expectations.

Good web design is also important because it affects the amount of time that Internet users spend on the site. Users expect to be able to find what they came to the site for without any obstacles. If a site is too challenging to use or understand, they'll simply close the site and look for another one. Even a site that is visually appealing can get abandoned if it is clunky, unorganised, or slow.

Visitor Behaviour Changes According to Design

Web design has an immense impact on visitor behaviour. For instance, visitors are more likely to respond better to certain colour schemes and layouts. Sometimes the combinations that yield results are unexpected. Other times the setups that work are the ones that match the brand or expectations of the visitor.

And while content is the most important part of a website, design affects its engagement ability. Web design that complements the content will result in the content being better absorbed, but at the same time, web design can also be distracting. If the design clashes or stands out too much from the content, visitors will get distracted and dismiss the content.

Improving visitor behaviour through design requires creating consistent design elements, testing images to see if they result in increased involvement, experimenting with the amount of white space, and trying out different content formatting. Designers will need to figure out who their visitors are, study heat map tests to see what's happening, and run basic A/B tests to see which design patterns yield the best results.

How User Experience Plays a Part in Web Design

A sub topic in web design that has been growing over the last few years is user experience, also called UX. UX goes beyond visual design and functionality. It focuses on the improvement of usability, accessibility, and organization of a site. The question being asked is how can we better improve how visitors use and interact with our site? Site owners need to understand that while good design can create a good first impression, visitors will stay longer, come back, and even refer others if they had a good experience (by tf solution daniel). User experience is also a big part of securing a sale for many websites. For instance, an eCommerce site must lay out clear navigation, load pages quickly, make it easy to view and add products, make the shopping cart quickly accessible, and make the checkout process seamless.

The simplest example of improving UX is to make sure all links that point to an external site opens in a new window. By implementing this, users are not interrupted from their previous browsing experience, can quickly switch to the external site if needed, and just as quickly get back to reading your site. This is also a winning situation for site owners because it prevents the loss of traffic.

The Marketing Aspect of Web Design (Why It May Be the Most Important for Some Websites)

Finally, site owners will need to look at the impact that web design has on marketing. At the end of the day, marketing is all about results whether it's leads, sales, profit, or shares. The role that web design plays in marketing is to simply "get better results."

It's not uncommon to see one landing page outperform another by 100% by doing nothing but laying out the design differently. The designer's role should be to test different color schemes, design elements, and site layouts to see which combinations results in a higher visitor to lead/sale conversion. For non commercial sites, the variable to measure will be the desired action (playing videos, sharing content, downloading, etc.).

Web design affects sales right from the get-go as well. Surveys constantly show that visitors looking to make a purchase make their initial decision based on the website's design. There are multiple examples that show visitors making a purchasing from one site over another even though the site that lost the visitor's sale had better deals. The two sites had similar content, products, and organisation but differed in that the site which secured the sale had better design.

The Art and Science of Web Design - Bringing Together Visual Design, User Experience, and Marketing

This all leads to what good web design is about. It's not just about visual appearance. Good web design means creating a site that's visually appeasing, organised, easy to use, and easy to access. In also means creating the best user experience, designing for the best possible marketing results, while making sure the site stays SEO friendly. Great design takes everything into consideration and that's why certain websites stand out from others.

Site owners will need to include each element of web design to get the most out of their websites. Sometimes this calls for working with more than one web designer since each designer will have a different area of specialisation. While the whole process can be demanding, the results from improving each area of web design will be positively apparent.

The Bottom Line of Web Design

In conclusion, web design is more than dressing up a site to make it presentable. It has a direct impact on the brand/reputation, usability, accessibility, marketability, profitability, and the overall effectiveness of a website. This is why good web design is so important, especially for websites with commercial intent. With that said, web design deserves more respect and is not something that should be underestimated in the web development process.