The almighty Seth Godin published a bold and contentious blog post this week stating that you can either have a pretty website or a website that converts. He wrote:
Pretty websites …are rarely websites that convert as well as unpretty ones.
…it’s a mistake to expect your pretty website to generate cash, to have the maximum percentage of clicks, to have the most efficient possible funnel of attention to action.
Listen, Seth is a clever guy. He’s also out to create viral (*ahem* controversial) content.
Let’s get something clear:
There’s a difference between pretty design and good design (a.k.a. design that works).
(Just as there is a difference between ugly design and bad design.)
What makes design good?
Insofar as web design, it comes down to usability.
- It makes for a good user experience (UX) so that people can find what they need to quickly.
- It makes for good information architecture (things are organized in a logical way). As Steve Krug puts it in the title of his seminal book, “Don’t make me think.”
- The website responds to different size screens (responsive design).
In a nutshell, it shows common sense.
Pretty design could have polished typography and slick colors, some stunning photos, and that’s it. It can be like a hot guy reading a Garfield book: great to look at but otherwise completely useless.
Pretty design can still give the user a terrible experience if s/he can’t comfortably navigate it, if things aren’t easy to find (“Where’s that contact form?!”), and so on. (Think back to the last time you were on a date with a beautiful-looking person …who ruined everything when they opened their mouth.)
I believe that you can have a website that is both pretty and well designed — and that therefore converts. It’s not a matter of pretty vs good.
Rather, it’s a matter of strategy & purpose vs unplanned, uneducated, beauty-oriented choices.
Which one you choose will determine whether you end up with design that works for your business, or a hot but dumb guy for a date.
So whether you’re planning your first website or getting ready for a redesign, think about your website’s purpose. It is the planning that ought to inform the design, not the other way around. Think about how to design strategically.
Or get in touch with Website Superhero to lead the way, of course!
Both of my website packages include at least one one-hour Superhero Strategy Session, plus my Superhero Website Planning Workbook and a detailed intake questionnaire to get crystal clear on your website’s purpose and goals. Hellooo, strategic design a.k.a. conversions!