On what evidence is your site designed?

Far too often I see sites that are designed by website designers.

Fine you might think – what on Earth could be wrong with that? – they are full-time professional designers aren’t they? – who could be better to design my site for me?

Well: think about this:

  • a website designer is – on average – far more skilled at using the web than your customers will ever be.
  • a website designer looks at websites all day every day: as a result they are far more likely to be bored of “boring design” – that is to say design that just works without being over the top.
  • a website designer will make decisions about your site based on gut feel, the last seventeen sites they’ve designed – an urge to do something different for the sake of it.

Even if there is someone more expert than the designer handling the brief, do you know for certain that they will commission the design in the best possible way?

How many times have you been in a meeting about the site and someone senior has made a hugely significant decision about the design or look and feel of the site based on nothing more than their own preferences?  When was the last time you saw the website being influenced by real research done with your actual target audience?

I’m continually appalled that no one seems to challenge the decisions that designers make, simply because they want something to look cool.  For example, designers love to craft text based links on sites that are in keeping with the “hand crafted mood-colour palette for your brand” or some other tosh – and totally forget (or are never even aware of) the fact that plain blue links are obviously links; people do not need to spend any of their precious cognitive resources trying to work out what is a link on a page and do not get confused as to whether a link goes to a page they’ve already visited or not just because the link has not changed colour.

Challenge designers: on what empirical evidence do you assert that this design element / concept is better? – and by what definition of better?

Chances are it is almost always better in terms of visual design – but overwhelmingly worse for usability and achieving conversion rates: you know – the part where people who come to your site actually accomplish some task that results in you making some money.

Always ask for the first hand research: the evidence – the primary data that constitutes proof and not an opinion.

After all: what would you rather have after a visit to your site? – a happy designer (who you pay) or a happy customer (who’ll pay you?)

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