I love pretty things. From fashion, to architecture, I admire beautiful design. But what separates simply pretty things from great design is functionality. And the most elegant design is essentially a failure if it doesn’t meet the needs of the user.
Take for example, the Alfa Romeo 8C Spider. Now this is a a beautiful car. And if your objective is speed and handling, it is perfectly designed for you. However, if you want to haul around a family of four or loads of building supplies, this is a terrible design. Elements like fuel economy, space for people and their stuff, and the comfort of the ride on pot hole ridden streets make this impractical and inappropriate.
Another example is the elegant post office in Madrid. This incredible structure was built early in 1900s as a central distribution point for mail and telegraphs. It is absolutely breathtaking, but with the rise of the Internet and the decline of mail services, it’s not very functional. Today, the interior is being renovated and transformed into a cultural center and administrative offices for the city.
In both cases, beautiful design just isn’t enough to make something functional. The same is true for web design. While an elegant user interface is important, it isn’t enough to hold the attention of a visitor. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating people start creating ugly websites, but there needs to be something behind the pretty face. There needs to be relevant, compelling content presented in a logical and well organized manner.
Great form comes when design meets specific objectives. Instead of simply upgrading your website to “look more modern,” demand function from your redesign. Make it easy for customers to:
- Find specific information. One measure of your website’s functionality is the type of calls you get. When customers skip over the general questions and begin a conversation with specific questions regarding your product or a service, this is an indication that your website is doing its job.
- Request a quote, schedule an appointment or initiate a sales conversation.
- Share comments and feedback.
What do you want your website to do? Make a list of the functions first, and then worry about the design.
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