Design is essential

Here at Performance Foundry we are all about speed and efficiency — hence the “performance” in our name. We focus on efficiency over design, because the ugly truth is that a beautiful web design will not grab you the #1 spot in a Google search.

This doesn’t mean that design isn’t important — it is. But web design isn’t just about how things look, the position of your header or the colour palette you’ve chosen. When we talk about web design we’re mostly talking about user experience, or UX.

Who are you designing for?

Your site needs to accommodate two audiences: bots (mostly Google) and humans. And as you know, we humans like our information fast and easily digestible. Our reading style has changed since the Internet became an important part of our lives — we no longer read text, we generally just scan it, looking for key information.

The way we read has changed.
The way we read has changed.

What is good design?

A good design is one that doesn’t get in the middle of you and your content. A great design is one you don’t even notice.

That’s why if you browse enough sites, you begin to notice a pattern — many sites look surprisingly similar. It’s like how car dashboards and TV remotes are usually spectacularly unoriginal, because you should be able to use them without having to read a manual first.

Good design takes users right where they need to go.
Good design takes users right where they need to go.

Good design sweeps visitors through the site, making the information they’re looking for obvious and easy to find. Have you had the experience of looking for a search bar or phone number on a website, but not being able to find it? That’s bad design, and that feeling of frustration you felt at the time is probably easy to remember. However, you have probably never noticed the hundreds of times you’ve found just what you were looking for on a site — good design doesn’t stand in the way, doesn’t make you frustrated, just takes you where you need to go.

There’s a lesson here. When it comes to websites, design needs to be usable and barely noticeable. Not beautiful, not awesome, but frustration-free. That is what User Experience is all about.

Four tips for better design

Like anything, there’s fashion in website design. Look at a site from 1996 and it’ll show its age. Best practices these days suggest that your site should be:

1. Simple
Don’t try to fit too many elements or colours into your site. Choose three key colours that will repeat throughout, and leave a fair amount of blank space. GoodUI.org suggests going for a one-column approach, rather than cluttering up the page with too many navigation options and sidebars.

2. Responsive
There’s nothing worse than a site that doesn’t fit your screen. When users change the size of their browser window, the elements on the page should adjust to fit. Have you ever had the experience of trying to click “submit” on a form, but the button was hidden below the far reaches of your screen? It’s happened to me, and it wasn’t pretty.

3. Clear
Keep your calls to action to a minimum rather than cluttering up your menu bar and sidebar with links. A navigation bar at the top and a single call to action at the bottom of the page keeps things clear and easy to follow.

4. Yours
Although I said earlier that many websites have a similar design, don’t choose a design that’s so generic as to have no meaning at all. Uxmyths.com says that good design is “about giving people a delightful and meaningful experience.” It won’t be meaningful if your personality isn’t there. Have a bit of fun, choose colours you like, and enjoy the design experience.

Want a great website?

If you’re looking for a new website, or help with an existing one, get in touch with us today — we’d love to help!

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