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Good Website Design Means More Than Looking Good

"Website owners are often left with a good looking but poorly performing website, because the web designer didn't know enough about good website design"

Tony Simpson

The majority of web designers focus wrongly on designing a website that appeals visually to their client but who often knows little about good web design.

Granted, the client and web designer may have good taste in terms of what the site looks like, but unfortunately "looking good" doesn't mean the website will perform as the client wants or expects.

Unfortunately the website owner usually doesn't realize they have a poorly performing website until maybe 12 months later and the web designer has moved on to other projects a long time ago.

Even if traffic is low and visitors are just bouncing straight off the site, the web designer when questioned by the client can always say, "it takes time."

And there is some truth in it taking time for a site to establish itself, but no amount of time will make up for a poorly designed website.

The seeds for a poorly performing website can be sown long before the site is launched when neither the client or the web designer have a written purpose or clear objectives for the website.

If you don't have the answers to the questions we ask in our website health check then you are missing essential ingredients in your website's design and your online business.

Not having a clear purpose and measurable objectives ultimately leads to a website that is poorly designed to serve the needs of the visitor or the client.

After years evaluating and optimizing websites, I have concluded many sites are no better designed today than several years ago. I still see the same design mistakes over and over again.

Yes, most of today's websites look a lot better and have more impressive effects, stunning graphics and clever videos. But that doesn’t mean they satisfy the owner or visitor's needs any better.

In reality, effects, graphics and flash videos while enhancing visual appeal of the website can actually make the site perform less well. By perform, I mean how well the website satisfies the objectives that should have been set for it before the design began.

When designing or redesigning a website the first thing you need to determine is the purpose and objectives for the website.


What is the purpose of the website ?

  1. Be a showcase for company products or services ?
  2. Astound visitors with stunning graphics and effects ?
  3. Provide greater company visibility and awareness ?
  4. Get good site reviews from other website designers ?
  5. Inform and educate visitors ?
  6. Attract visitors interested in what the website offers ?
  7. Entertain and engage website visitors ?
  8. Sell products or services ?
  9. Capture leads or subscribers ?
  10. To ultimately dominate a market segment ?


What are the objectives for the website ?

Objectives should be clearly defined by quantities, or goals that can be measured. Things like:
  1. To be in Google's top 10 for W keywords within X months
  2. To have a site conversion rate of at least Y percent
  3. To get Z visitors per month within X months
  4. To gain U quality links in X months
  5. To add T pages per month
  6. To have a web design quality rating of more than 7

Where T,U,W,X,Y and Z are all quantifiable numbers for things that can be measured and confirmed as having been achieved or not.


Quality Design = Visual + Technical + Creativity

The title for this paragraph comes from Bestwebgallery.com who use this to define a "Quality Website Design." Bestwebgallery is a showcase site for the best designed websites that use a wide range of Flash & CSS.

It's important to note the emphasis Best Web Gallery place on visual appearance, technical wiz bangs and creative merit.

To see the extent to which web designers focus on visual appeal rather than a website being fit for purpose, you need only to look at one of the other dozens of showcase websites.

10's of 1,000’s of websites have been reviewed and voted for by other web designers on these showcase sites.

Sites like siteinspire.net, unmatchedstyle.com, beautiful2.com, cartfrenzy.com, webcreme.com, csselite.com, foliofocus.com and creattica.com.

Some state what they regard as good website design in their submission guidelines.

Unmatchedstyle.com for instance acknowledge sites that are stunningly gorgeous while at the same time still observe good usability practices and web standards.

Foliofocus.com showcases the best collection of portfolio sites from web and graphic designers, photographers, and other professionals.

Cartfrenzy.com features the most well-designed e-commerce and shopping websites, or so they say.


Web Design for Peers & Clients

Reviewing showcase sites like these I had to conclude the prevailing mainstream of web designers focus on creating good looking websites that appeal to their peers and clients.

To see if my observations would be confirmed I carried out an audit of a highly rated website featured on unmatchedstyle.com. The site was chosen not only for being highly rated, but also because it was the website of a web design firm.

The website for the case study was that of ehousestudio.com who being a web design firm one would expect to be able to produce a good web design for their own site.

The website received a 9.1 out of 10 rating for good design and a video review by the site editors which you can see at the UnmatchedStyle EhouseStudio Review


EhouseStudio Case Study

Following a detailed website audit of ehousestudio, I determined the web design quality rating of the home page to be 3.9 out of 10 and the website as a whole received a quality rating of 4.2 out of 10.

"My ratings are in stark contrast to the 9.1 rating for good quality web design given by the showcase website"

For the home page I evaluated 12 categories of design, with 135 elements of page design and for the whole website I considered 91 aspects of site design.

The two checklists used to review ehousestudio.com are available for download at web design checklists

The aspects of web design not found, were given a severity rating based on the level of impact the missing aspect had on the design and on the frequency with which it occurred.

The number of aspects on which the web page or website passed combined with the level of severity for those aspects on which it failed was used to determine a rating of good quality web design.


Good Website Design

As a site owner you have to decide if you want to rate the quality of your website based on looking good, or on a detailed assessment of the elements expected in a good website design.

We determine the quality of a web page or website design using our web design checklists which when combined check for over 290 aspects we expect in a good quality web design.

You can download one or both of our PDF web page or website design checklists at our website checklists page.

If you prefer, we also have an online quality calculator which once you enter the required details about your web page or website will automatically do all the calculations and give you a web design quality rating.

To your Success
Website Auditor
Tony Simpson
Website Audit Expert


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Tony Simpson provides website optimization, conversion improvement and web business advice to site owners.

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