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Don’t Fall In Love With Your Design

July 29, 2014

Far too often I talk to people who think that their website’s design works “just fine” for their business. Because their design is “just fine”, they don’t see any need to adjust their website’s design. They are comfortable with what they have, and assume visitors to their website are comfortable with it as well.

Other companies think their website design is fantastic. This is typical of companies who have a new website design. “Our designer created something wonderful!” For these companies, they see no reason to change the design because their design couldn’t get any better. They assume the people visiting their website feel the same.

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder. Data Isn’t.

What could possibly be wrong with being comfortable with your design? What could possibly be wrong with thinking your design is great?

When I hear statements like “my design is fine/okay/great and I don’t need to change it”, my first response is to dig into the website’s data. Maybe they are right that the website is amazing but the data will quickly reveal what’s going on with the website. Far too often, when I start looking at the data, there are problems with how the website is performing due to the website’s current design.

How you perceive your website’s design (or how any one person perceives your website’s design) is irrelevant. Just because you like it doesn’t mean your visitors will agree. What really matters is how the majority of the people visiting your website perceive and, more importantly, use your website’s design. Do the people who visit your website really understand what you are selling? Do the people who visit your website want to do business with you? If the visitor does want to do business with you, does your website’s design help that visitor convert into a customer?

In short, your website’s design isn’t art. Art can be (and should be!) something you can fall in love with and enjoy. Your perception of the art is all that matters and you needn’t look at data to objectively measure it.

In contrast, a website’s design is a visual tool that needs to serve your business. Can it look nice? Can it even be a design you like? Of course. But, how it looks and how much you like the way it looks comes second to how your customers use that website design. If your website’s design isn’t helping drive conversions, then the website design isn’t working.

What Really Matters About A Website Design

Instead of evaluating the design based on how much you, or a small group of people at your company, feel about your website’s design, you need to evaluate your website design by how it performs. In general, you want to review the following (among others):

  • Understanding. Within 5 seconds, do people understand what your website offers? Within a minute or two, can people understand how to get what they came to your website to get?
  • Navigation. Are people finding the pages you want them to find in the order you’d expect them to find them in? (Learn more about navigation best practices.)
  • Engagement. Are people using your website or are they leaving the first chance they get? (Learn more about tracking website engagement with events.)
  • Conversion. Are people using your website to connect with you, contact you, or buy from you? (Learn more about what goals to track on your website.)

The Perfect Website Design?

I have yet to hear of a single website, large or small, that was performing perfectly for the business in all of those areas. Website’s need continual optimization to improve how they perform for your business. Your website design, whether it is “new and wonderful” or “old and just fine” needs to be tested and refined to ensure that it is working as best as it possibly can to help you engage with your customers.

That doesn’t mean you need to redesign your website. Given the risks involved with a website redesign, I often discourage a complete website design overhaul, except when the current design is significantly harming your business. You want to make small changes like adjusting the call to actions on your top landing pages, simplifying the introductory text, or simplifying your navigation. By making small changes, and testing their impact, you can begin to understand what is really working or not working with your website’s design.

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