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How Bad Design Increases Business July 16, 2007

Posted by mikeglanz in Design - UI.
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Sorry for you designers who read my blog regularly. Let me explain something though:

Better Design does NOT mean Better Website.

I’ll give you the background:

I’m looking to get HireAHelper designed and I know a guy who does a decent job of that sort of thing, actually he’s pretty much a genius when it comes to CSS/HTML/Photoshop and using the three to make unbelievable sites. He very much subscribes to the methods of building sites that people like the founders of HappyCog preach about. I would dare say that he might be better than people that are working there and better than some best selling authors on standards based web design.

So I’m thinking great, I have the ultimate hookup, I’ll use this guy to get me first class design for a fraction of the cost and it will help us in the long run. Well he flaked. He didn’t hold up his end of the deal he did two things that will deter me from recommending him:

1. He set deadlines and didn’t meet them.

2. He set more deadlines and didn’t meet them.

But you know why he got “fired”? The thing that made me put a stop to his work, decide that it was worth paying him for what he had done, then trashing it, admitting my mistake and starting from scratch with another designer? It’s reason 3.

3. He designed (or started to design) a site that looked great but didn’t accomplish the task at hand. It has the foundation of a site that would win awards for design… but not one that would keep customers. So I trashed it.

Why?

I know HireAHelper needs to “be” a few things in order for people to trust it. It needs to be established… not the website that was thrown together and has been live for 2 weeks. People need to “know” subconsciously seeing the site that it has been around for a while (even if it hasn’t) and that its reputable. Really great design doesn’t mean reputable. Lets look at some examples.

Ask yourself the question “How long has this company been in business?” when looking at the following sites:

DoMyStuff.com

HeyAmigo.net

ma.gnolia.com

Would you say more than 2 years for any of them? Why not?

Let’s contrast this with the following “Badly” designed sites:

Emove.com

HelpUSell.com

NetFlix.com

Even if you hadn’t heard of them… would you question that they had been around for a while? Would you know exactly what they do?

Here’s my point. It’s MUCH more important to represent stability/reliability/trustworthiness than to win design contests.

Its even MORE important to get conversions that to focus on “semantic” html/css.

I have heard stories about HTML so bad it didn’t have the <html> tags in it, to be honest I would take the <html> tags out of my entire site, AND do the entire design in frontpage… NO… Claris Homepage even with 15 embedded tables per page and have NOTHING compatible in Firefox or Safari if ONLY TO GET .01% MORE CONVERSIONS.

The web is a marketplace. When people stopped respecting the rules of the market it crashed. They put priority on getting users with no revenue stream. They put priority on fancy trinkets of websites that didn’t produce income or even have a business model. That was Web 1.0 bubble.

This is Web2.0. Whether its a bubble or not is up to us. You can put priority on pretty design, and trendy colors (essentially this). Or you can put priority on getting more conversions, on making your “storefront” (whether you sell advertising, products, or services) more profitable. Even if that means putting an ugly sign up form on your homepage.

After thinking long and hard about HireAHelper‘s home page I have come to this conclusion… it’s worth it to pay for design ONLY if it leads to conversions. Right now I would pay twice as much for the designer (some college intern no doubt) who designed HelpUSell.com, as the “world’s best” design and branding company HappyCog if the resulting site was going to be like Ma.gnolia.com. Why because my target audience (I’m not targetting “web2.0ers”) is a group of people who will associate the “bad” design with a reputable company. They think the site looks “professional” and not “like a college project” (while the exact opposite may actually be true).

So hears my warning to designers. Don’t design yourself out of a job. Put business first. When using your little key terms such as “increased usability”, “softer colors”, and “semantic code” you better have a reason for those things that points to more profit for your employer/client.

Look for “How Bad Design Increases Business Part 2” in the near future…

For now check out what these people have said about design as well…

Seth

Matt

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