What is the purpose of designing a website and is it so important that it is said to have a “beautiful design”?

A few months ago, I had lunch with an “influential blogger”. Someone who is solicited worldwide to give conferences, which alone generates a turnover of several hundred thousand euros. In short, the kind of person you want to receive advice.

Suddenly, according to the conversation, he said: “The design of a website, we do not care. If you look around, there are a lot of websites that work when they are ugly. As long as it’s functional, it’s the main thing.”

I like that kind of affirmation, which upsets our certainties. But what must one think of his sentence? Is the design of a website a superficial fantasy?


Design weaves the relationship of trust with the site

A few years ago, I took a strange obsession for Indonesian furniture in solid hevea. Do not try to understand, it’s useless; By the way of my research on the web, I came across a site that offered exactly what I was looking for. Except that the design of the website in question seemed blocked in the 90 s: a colorful background, fonts of another time.

I ended up calling them and the first question I asked a flabbergasted manager was: “The catalog on the site is up to date? Yes, he was … I placed an order and the service was perfect, very professional. But without my crush on a piece of furniture, I would never have jumped.

This personal experience is a very good example: as an Internet user, we tend to link the design of a website to the level of trust that can be placed in it.

When design influences your perception …

In a study titled Trust and Mistrust of Online Health Sites, researchers asked 15 people to search the web for information to answer a fairly important health question about them.

They then interviewed the participants for their impressions of the sites visited and their relevance.

It turns out that 94% of women who judged an unreliable site relied on design to draw this conclusion. Only 6% of them cited reasons related to the content of the site.

Among the factors that led women to judge a site as “unreliable” included:

  1. A complex or loaded design.
  2. Fonts too small.
  3. Colors too “marked”.
  4. A navigation little ergonomic.
  5. Pop-ups or banners too aggressive.

Conversely, to judge a site as trustworthy, 83% of people relied on content (only 17% on design).

In other words, good design does not necessarily make your content trustworthy … but bad design can make people flee before they have had time to discover your content.

The design of a website would allow the site to go through a “first-selection” phase: keep the user on the page.

The design of a website is not just about aesthetics

As the blogger, whom I met “as long as it’s functional,” is the main thing, as the blogger aptly pointed out … “Design is not just about aesthetics.

We can have a design relatively inconsistent with the aesthetic standards of the moment while being extremely powerful! Google recently recalled: “A page that seems to have been created in the 90s is appropriate if the page is functional and fulfills its purpose.”

Ergonomics: a must

Today, we can not do without a reflection on ergonomics and the user experience.

A design must adapt to different screen sizes (be “responsive”), otherwise search engines can relegate it to the background; design flaws can have a radical impact on traffic and/or profitability (this is the case for e-commerce sites that still have a complex conversion tunnel, where the user must fill a thousand fields before finally being able to place an order) …

A good design works on many metrics like the time spent by visitors on pages, the conversion rate.

I recently saw a site that received 35% of its visitors from mobiles … but only 7% of its sales and less than 3% of its turnover. His problem ? A non-responsive site, which would discourage mobile visitors or lead them to make smaller purchases than if the site had been adapted.

Good ergonomics include being able to easily access information and navigate the site without difficulty.

Aesthetics: not so optional?

The aesthetic probably goes in the background after the ergonomics. If we take the example of “ugly sites that are successful”, we note that despite their criticism aesthetic, they are all extremely functional.

eBay may be cluttered, it directs you perfectly towards your goal: sell or buy quickly. Craigslist, with its precise categories, allows you to quickly find what you are looking for.

All part of a simple question: what is the visitor doing on your site? If he comes looking for information, give him this information. If he comes to buy, guide him to the purchase. If he wants to build relationships, create a community.

However, the aesthetic brings an added value that ergonomics does not have. This is what often arouses emotions in the visitor: it is this superb photo of travel that will awaken your need for holidays, it is this site with clean lines that already plunges you into the clean and relaxing world a spa.

I think we should never underestimate the power of this emotion. In marketing, emotional branding (for a brand to retain customers by appealing to their emotions) remains a very effective strategy. And while these “old sites” like Craigslist today retain the loyalty of their readership, it is also because, over the years, their appearance is part of what has woven a strong emotional connection with readers.

Does the design have different importance depending on the size of the site?

I think in the end we can not neglect the importance of design when creating your site in the current era, without the seniority to act as “social proof”. Very large sites or sites that have existed for a long time can probably afford more freedom because their reputation is established, their identity is associated with their design … but what about a site that has not this story?

If its design makes the visitor flee even before the content (and ergonomics!) Have had the opportunity to prove themselves, it does not give him the opportunity to build his reputation.

In short, I do not really agree with the blogger I met.