“Pretty websites rarely convert as well as unpretty ones.” — Seth Godin
If we’d assign a caloric value for every stock image and superfluous copy on the internet, we’d all have diabetes. We should treat beautiful design as we treat sugar — it’s wonderful but in moderation.
The designer’s job is to make something look good. But making something look good doesn’t translate to more money. It’s a classic “form over function, style over substance” mistake.
“Oh look, what a wonderful website. Oh, the butterflies move their wings. How creative. Look, a double rainbow over a unicorn meadow. How swell. So pretty. Ah, parallax scrolling turns butterflies into pixies [faints] … Enough, I don’t have time to this. [never returns again]”
Shift focus from pretty to useful
During design, there has to be a goal, a point where the owner reaps financial benefit. Everything should revolve around that goal.
In Super Mario, the goal is to save the princess. Every goomba you stomp, mushroom you eat, coin you collect, pit you jump over, sewer pipe you go down — it’s all for the princess. In web design, the client’s financial interest is the princess.
To become a better designer, you need to stop thinking about beefing up your Dribble portfolio and impressing your buddies.
You need to help your client expand their business, even if their artistic senses don’t align with yours.
The designer’s worst nightmare is a pushy client that questions every decision. What’s worse: a client who proposes an awful garish color and a giant Click Me button, or a designer who pushes minimalism, elegant colors and subdues every call to action? It’s a trick question.
The client should have only one real question for the designer: Will the site bring the maximum number of customers possible? (Judged solely by the design itself.)
If a client says: “Put this kitty picture over a brown background and make it spin”, ask what value the visitor gets. If the client insists, put the cat. There’s often a method behind the madness and your only job is to assess if it’s valid.
“You don’t sell a cheap bulk product by giving it a fancy design. If you are a true designer u know how to “dress down” a product packaging to fit the target group.” — anonymous comment
Sometimes there are too many interest groups, each with its own agenda. The designer’s job is to battle all those interests and focus on one thing that generates revenue: customer acquisition.
If a client is stubborn, start charging them for consulting sessions in UX and customer acquisition. They’ll take you seriously and you’ll earn more.
The only true value of good design is its usability:
- What visitors want/need to know?
- Is it clear?
- What to do and where to click next?