Why Web Design Isn’t Just Visual

Single lamp in an empty room

Web Design: Are You Sitting Comfortably?

When the subject of web design is discussed a large majority of individuals would focus on how a site looks. Which is fair enough I guess. It’s definitely the one, if not primary aspect in which most people would hone in on.

But what if a website that looked beautiful and upon first inspection gave that real ‘wow factor’ suddenly placed the user in an uncomfortable position? Lets elaborate a little further on this.

You’re in a shop and you spot the most beautifully designed armchair. The expensive price tag doesn’t put you off (lucky you!) and you swear blind that this one chair is perfect for your living room. The fine craftsmanship is evident from just looking at it and with its striking features it’s bound to impress your friends and family. But then you sit on it. Suddenly this stunning armchair isn’t so fabulous and to be quite honest it’s starting to make your back ache.

So with this in mind, you can say that this particular armchair is poorly designed. A product that doesn’t work or function very well is ugly. It’s poorly designed. What a great product should be is harmonious. Where the real beauty lies is that is quite simply works.

When care and attention is given to a product at design level, that’s when great design really takes place. It’s also appreciated by users.

Functionality & Design

Are these two things different? No, not really. It’s very easy to just think of design or in this case, web design as being a visual thing. Design is made up of various different factors. One key area of web design which is equal to the visual aspect is the functionality of the website. Good functionality enhances the user experience (UX).

If a user can visit a website and intuitively know how it works and where to go to access information then this would be classed as good design – from a functionality point of view. If a user can achieve this but at the same time enjoy the rich features the site has to offer and interact with it without compromise then this is pretty damn good web designing. Especially when the site looks visually pleasing, has real cutting edge and not at the expense of usability.

This level of design can easily be seen in some of the worlds greatest products.

Innovation can only be accomplished if risks are taken

Take the Apple iPhone for example. This is a product that doesn’t need a user manual. My father who, lets say isn’t the most knowledgable guy when it comes to technology (sorry dad!) can pick this device up and I could ask him to open up my emails and he would be able to.

Scratch the surface a little more and ask him to open up the phone settings he would intuitively be able to do this and do it quickly. I know this to be true as it’s something I’ve tested him on. Everything from the user interface (UI) and the smart use of icons allowed him to find his way around the device. What’s interesting is that when a user can’t use something, they automatically assume it’s their fault. Good design is putting the power into the users hands.

Web design is no different.

Image of web design taking place on a large screen

Care & Carelessness

It’s human nature to appreciate a caring gesture or thought. If users are aware of anything it’s usually when something has been delivered with care and attention. They are also very aware of when something has been handled carelessly. The level of appreciation any consumer has will be a direct result of how good the product is. Not just how it looks.

Good design is thinking about every single possible user, not just what you believe you think they want. You can’t just assume that every user will know how a website or mobile app will work. Of course, there is some level of general expectation that a user knows how to use a commonly used medium or device. But this can’t and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

What a great product should be is harmonious

User testing goes a long, long way. Taking the time to test a website (or product) shows that you care. Care for the end user and care for your client.

As a designer it’s very easy to let ego get in the way, but it’s worth remembering that you’re designing for a large audience. Not just yourself. This is the difference between care and carelessness.

Taking initial risks is healthy too. Good design will lean upon best practices, but innovation can only be accomplished if risks are taken. It’s very easy to design something based on what we know users want. But sometimes it’s worth taking the risk and trying to deliver something that they never knew they needed.

If you take a risk and in testing it causes confusion then you go back and try again. We often do this in our web design process. Throw something into the mix that may not have originally been briefed but when it comes to presenting the concepts, we sometimes walk into the room with something additional too.

The level of appreciation any consumer has will be a direct result of how good the product is. Not just how it looks.

Simplicity

We all know the phrase ‘sometimes less is more’. How many times have you seen a painting or a drawing and thought to yourself, ‘I could have done that’. It’s very easy to think that a space must be filled. Be it in a room or on a web page. But by allowing space you’re allowing for the content to breathe. The content is given a platform to stand out.

This doesn’t mean that a website should be bland or boring. It can’t be. It needs to engage the user and keep them interested.

So there are some very fine lines involved when it comes to web design and user experience. But what good design should do is provide solutions and solve problems. Solutions to how best present content but also do it in an aesthetically pleasing and rewarding way to those viewing it.