Potato, Potato, Potato – Where's the Meat?
Good web design involves restraint and balance. Attention to detail and clear objectives are key. When designing a website we strive to establish a visual language that engages our visitors' attention, guides them to the information they're seeking and encourages them to act. By “act” I refer to making a phone call, buying a product, filling out a form, downloading a brochure or some other form of engagement.
I was recently handed a design from one of my agency clients where the home page was chock full of all kinds of goodies – listings and blocks touting News, Upcoming Events, Trade Shows, Technical Guides, Employment Opportunities, Case Studies, White-papers, Request-a-Sample, Join Our Newsletter, Handy Tips and the list goes on.
Now, with all respect, this was designed by an accomplished designer with years of experience. Sometimes, however, in the face of client demands and requests we fall into the feature creep syndrome. The client comes with a wish list of all the things they want to include. Then the emails start coming as the client remembers other things that need to be included and the list grows. Gradually the home page gets more and more dense and, as it grows more populated, it becomes less effective.
What's the main course and what's the vegetables? I asked. And, are all vegetables created equal?For those who consider ketchup a vegetable, maybe, but for the rest of us, no. And then if we keep going, pouring gravy all over everything, all subtlety is lost. Before you know it our gourmet meal is now goulash (no offense to goulash lovers).
We need to quickly inform visitors (including search engines) who you are, what you do and why what you have to offer is for them. We need to help them quickly assess can I find what I'm looking for here? And of course, we need to follow through by making it easy to navigate to what they want as directly as possible.
Good design engages and guides our visitors towards the actions we want them to take – actions that will provide mutual benefit to both us and them. If your objective is to generate leads through calls then is your phone number prominently displayed on every page throughout the site? If you want them to buy something have you made clear and enticing offers? And if the user does what you're asking, what's the payoff for them? In the parlance of our inner 5 year-old, “What's for dessert?”
Whether a designer, a site owner or a developer step back and consider your site's design from the standpoint of your visitor. Is the site clear? What am I being told (or sold)? What am I being asked to do?
Our site design needs to address the fact that visitors can only really focus on one thing at a time and not all content is of equal importance. Good design leads our visitor's eye from what we consider to be our most import offering (main course) down the page to the other offerings in hopes that if they don't go for the main course then they'll find something else appealing that will lead to a satisfying experience for both you and your visitor.
Where's the meat? the potatoes, the greens – and most importantly, how do I get to the dessert?