Good Web Design – Why There’s So Little

Most small website owners rely almost entirely on themselves or their web developer to create a good website design without them actually knowing what good web design is. Based on my 8 years experience in website design and optimization for visitors and search engines, I can say with a good deal of assurance, many web developers don’t know what good web design is either.

My views are based on the detailed evaluation of hundreds of websites which in many cases look good on the surface to the untrained eye, but when evaluated more closely, are either average to poorly designed websites, bad websites, or just simply suck.

After all, anyone can call themselves a website designer after just creating one website, either their own or for a friend or relative. Most website designers are self-taught and have no qualifications of any kind that relate to the job. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with being self-taught, but a lot depends on where and from whom you learn and what length of apprenticeship you serve in web design.

Bestwebgallery.com a showcase website typical of many showcase sites for good website designs has defined what quality design is to them (according to the statement on their site):

Quality web design = Visual + Technical + Creativity.

The problem with a definition like this is it focuses on the creative and visual aspects of design which is really only of interest to other website designers aspiring to create something that pushes the boundaries even further in the same direction. It also completely ignores whether the website is fit for the purpose for which it should have been designed. Most websites don’t need to be stunningly beautiful to serve a purpose and they don’t need to be “technical” either.

Many web developers think they have to be “creative” and set out to design a website never seen before, or one that behaves in an entirely new and original way. This often leads to an overly graphical and sometimes technically complex website design with an unconventional layout and navigation, that actually creates more problems than it solves.

All these “quality web design” features may impress another designer, but it generally wins no prizes or favours from the public website visitors who generally don’t come to a website to admire the design. Many web developers seem intent on re-inventing the wheel instead of observing the established design conventions that visitors to a website are familiar with. They also seem to have forgotten the basic K.I.S.S. rule of design which is Keep It Simple Stupid.

So, having said quality or good website design is not about Visual, Technical or Creativity just what should it be?

Good Web Design = Satisfying Visitors

There are two distinct groups of visitors to a website that a good website design needs to satisfy and they are people and search engines. Some website designers will argue that designing a website for the search engines is not necessary, or a waste of time. Although I prefer to design websites with search engines in mind, I don’t have a problem if other web designers don’t, providing they have an alternative plan.

If a web designer doesn’t design for the search engines, then they need to have an alternative plan to get traffic to the website and they should explain this plan to the site owner. There is no point in designing the greatest website ever, if there are no means for attracting visitors to the site.

A good web design also needs to satisfy the people who visit the site. If a web designer creates a website that attracts visitors through search engine optimization ( SEO ) or other methods, this will be wasted if the site fails to satisfy enough of those visitors when they arrive.

By satisfying visitors, I mean providing visitors with the information, products or services they came to the website looking for and doing it in way that is satisfying to the visitor. If the website is meant to sell products and/or services the design should also be designed to convert enough visitors into sales or leads to satisfy the site owner.

If it doesn’t do all this then it’s NOT good website design!

When deciding what is, or is not good web design, I use two checklists. One checklist is for evaluating a web page and the other checklist is for evaluating the whole website. The web page evaluation checklist examines over 150 aspects of good page design and the website checklist examines over 120 aspects of good website design.

In an effort to find some good quality website designs in 2011, that meet my standards for good web design, I launched a good web design award with a $500 prize for the winning entry.

Creative Web Design

By contracting a creative web design company to design your new website as opposed to a more traditional web company, you give yourself an unmeasurable edge over your competition in the eyes of your potential customers.

Traditional design companies focus on purely getting a site put together with relevant information, that functionally works. Enter Web 2.0 and more traditional marketing avenues venturing into the marketplace, and creative web design companies have come into the game.

By ‘creative web design’, I refer to websites which still have the functionality and relevant information consumers have come to expect, but have a huge focus on the aesthetic aspect, and use traditional marketing ‘wow factor’ to capture the users attention, and last longer in their mind than those of the competitor.

Picture a billboard with great graphic design and immaculate choice of imagery, compared with an ad on the side of the road simply with a name and number. While you may have chosen to look at both, the creative approach will prompt you, the audience, to remember the creative billboard.

Now picture two websites, side by side. One with a flash intro page, immediately showing a montage of images and grabbing y our attention; which leads into a visually beautiful website where every pixel is perfectly crafted into alignment. Next, a bland website showing you purely text and a basic navigation. The difference is so enormous it’s like comparing Black and White TV with a 3d Movie Theatre.

Through the use of the latest and greatest technology, a creative web design company will use Flash, jQuery, and HTML5 to visually engage the user; however this is where the pitfalls of a creative web design can come into play.

Many years ago, around the year 2000, many graphic design companies started to see an emergence in the marketplace for web services. Many of these companies had employees with a little web experience, enough to get by, and as such they began offering web services. What they didn’t understand was functionality, valid mark-up, cross-browser compatibility, or SEO – all things which a more traditional web design company would take into account.

While this would be classed as a creative web design company, often their creative web design’s wouldn’t be successfully converted from a design into code, and having mis-alignments in a design (especially cross-browser) became commonplace. Without experienced developers on-hand, many of these problems became overlooked, and many substandard creatively designed websites are still around today, with more and more being sent live on the world wide web every day.

For this reason, when looking to hire a creative web design company, you should always be sure to look into their operation, most reputable companies won’t mind you asking a few questions. In a creative web design company, the people building your site should be working as a team. The days of all-rounders are over, and when creativity is to be combined with functionality, it is essential to have a ‘designer’ as well as a ‘developer’ work on your project.

A designer is generally artistically minded, and may have worked as a graphic designer in the print world at some capacity. Thei r goal is to create a visually appealing design for your approval. This will be a static image of what your website is going to look like, as it is much faster to edit a graphic than to edit a coded website. Most creative web design agencies work in a similar fashion, as this allows for the complete artistic talent of the designer to be used, and complete use of the imagination of not only the designer, but also the client.

Once a design is approved, a developer steps in to convert this to a web format in standards compliant code. This may include implementation of a Content Management System (CMS), and generally involves some mild Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as well as cross-browser compatibility. Once this is done, your brand new creative web design is all ready for the World Wide Web.

You need to choose a creative web design company that can fulfil all of your needs from creating a website which suits your brand image and captivates the user, to something which will navigate easily, rank well on search engines, function the same across your entire user-base, and ultimately lead to more conversions in your market.

The main things to keep in mind when choosing a creative web design company are their design to implementation process, their cost, their portfolio, and ultimately the level of service you can expect. I am an online consultant, and can help you shoul d you have trouble finding an agency, or even if you would like me to help in assessing another agencies ability to meet your needs to come up with a creative web design that will fit your needs and help in squashing your competition.

Web Design – Five Simple Steps to Follow

1. Flashy Pages: unwanted Distractions

Most of web designers feel the need to create stylish splash pages that do nothing but create a barrier which stops web users in their tracks and forces them to make the unnecessary decision of whether to push forward to the home page or to leave your website forever. These “website introductions” are typically short Flash-based movies that showcase the web designer’s flash design skill set, yet offer the web user nothing but a distraction. Flash animations are so common these days that it’s almost impossible to actually impress a web user with a Flashy page. The main goal of any website design should be to either deliver the web user what they want or to get the web user to perform an action. a flashy page only slows down this process and should be avoided at all time.

2. Banner Advertisements: Less Is More

When it comes to the strategic placement of banner advertising, the old proverb “less is more” needs to be applied to web design. A single successful banner advertisement is more profitable and valuable then a whole bunch of banner advertisements that get minimal click-through. The harder it is to secure a single banner advertisement space, the more appealing it becomes to advertisers. it’s best to try and fill space with useful content. Another tip is to surround your banner advertisements with as much useful content as possible; this will also make the space more appealing to potential advertisers.

3. Navigation: Is The Important Key

The fastest Bike in the world is useless if no-one knows to drive it. The same goes for websites. Website owners can choose to invest thousands in web design, logo design, flash design, splash pages, funky animations and a whole host of other aesthetic goodies to make the site look fantastic, but if web users cannot navigate around the site to consume the content or purchase products, then the whole website fails to achieve its goals. In web design when it comes to designing effective navigation it’s best to keep it as simple as possible. Once again, web designers will often go overboard and design navigation menus that include flash animations, multi-tiered dropdowns and a whole host of other unnecessary additions that only work to distract the user, instead of helping them navigate around the website. Navigation is the key that unlocks good website design

4. Coding: Never Copy & Paste

Amateur web designers will often copy and paste code from various websites and compile their website like its Frankenstein. When an error occurs, the web designer doesn’t know how to fix it because they didn’t write the code. Web designers must then sit down and waste time working out what each piece of code does, before discovering the error and then rectifying it. During this time it’s the web users who suffer, as they sit through error after error. Although writing the code from scratch causes longer initial development stages and may cost more in the short term, it will save you a lot of time in the long run if any errors do happen to occur. As mentioned above, errors need to be avoided, whatever the cost. Before seeking professionals to do your website design or flash design, always run double-checks to see how much of the code they are actually writing. If the web design agency is copying code from within their own web design / flash design team, then there is nothing to worry about because someone in the agency will know what to do if a problem arises or they typically have an FAQ that can be easily referenced. The only time you should worry is if the code is copied from an external website.

5. Consistency: Way To Success

Regardless of size, every website should remain consistent to ensure the web user knows exactly where they are and where to look at all times. This applies to everything from simple navigation links to the location of help menus. The goal should be to make the web user familiar with all aspects of your website, from the colours used in the design to the overall layout. Some web designers, who are often pressured by management to create a variety of web designs, feel the need to experiment with different colour schemes and website layouts within a single website, but this does nothing but confuse the web user by causing disorientation. Only break consistency when the website is receiving a complete overhaul.