Raise your hand if you like beautiful things. Now raise your hand if you also like things that work. Hopefully, you raised your hands both times (it’s OK if you didn’t actually raise your hand, but c’mon, stop being so lazy.) My heavy-handed point is: Virtually everyone wants things to look good and function well.
Online, this manifests itself in different ways. People want elaborate, visually stunning web representations of themselves or their companies. Visual media, no doubt, is a crucial component to the web. We are moved by beautiful and stunning images and video every day, so it makes sense that we tend to highlight and gravitate towards those types of media online. The issue arises when too much emphasis is placed on creating a visually appealing site. Remember, having people hang out and marvel at your content is only one part of the equation.
Typically, when dealing with online strategies there are plenty of conversions that need to be considered. Conversion can sound very market-y to a lot of people, so let’s break down what I mean when I use the word.
For those that are cool with the term conversion, skip ahead to the next paragraph. Back to those of you who aren’t down with the term. I’m defining a conversion as, something you want the people who come to your web destination to do once they’re there. Do you want them to contact you? Click on something? Hang around and marvel at your creation and all its’ wonders? Depending on what you’re doing (building a community, selling via ecommerce, increasing presence online) what a “conversion” is, is going to vary. That’s not so bad right?
If you focus too much energy on how the site looks, but neglect things like social media integration, analytics and SEO efforts you’re missing the point. Yes, it’s important to have a site that looks good, but it’s also equally (if not more) important to have the site do what you need it to do. People often ask, “Can I still have a site/page that looks good and functions well?” the answer of course, is yes. There is no rule that says you can’t have a great looking site that also works really well. If there was a rule like that, it would be a pretty awful rule. Look no further than Facebook to see a prime example of function and aesthetics working in harmony. Say what you want about Facebook, but the simplicity (well, it used to be simple didn’t it?) is one of the site’s major pros. Combine that with a site that is built to display visual media and you have a winning formula.
Flexibility is Crucial
Flexibility is not just for practitioners of yoga and Eastern European gymnasts. Having a digital strategy that can adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape is a key part of a successful web strategy. One of the reasons I stress functionality is because I’ve seen too many people get stuck in the middle when web technology changes. The key is to have a digital presence that can change with the times. As the times move faster and faster this becomes even more important.
As much as I’ve been telling you that design and functionality don’t have to be at odds with one another, the reality is sometimes you have to make tough decisions regarding the two. If there’s ever a question of, “should I make this look better or work better?” always err on the side of working better. Again, the goal is to have people use your website for its intended purpose. If you’re a graphic designer by all means showcase your work, but make sure you’re leading the viewers on your site to your ultimate conversion (for a graphic design website this might be a clicking on a “contact us” button or submitting a request for a consultation.) Remember, having the best product in town doesn’t mean anything if people don’t know how to get it.
1) Identify Your Key Conversions
2) Don’t Let Design (or any one aspect) Drive Your Entire Digital Strategy
3) Flexibility is Essential
4) Function and Beauty Can Co-Exist
The main thing to bear in mind when coming up with a digital strategy is what your ultimate goals are. I’m constantly try to hammer home this point because it makes everything else so much easier when you have clear goals. While it’s tempting to have the flashiest (pardon the pun) web presence out there, sometimes that doesn’t translate into success. Success can be defined many ways online so make sure you know how you’re defining your success before you start building.