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Website Design – What is more important Beauty or Usability?
This is an age old question that everyone concerned Or at least I feel it is an old query that just about every website development team often debates after the launch of a successful website. I am only speaking from personal experience of when I used to work as a Web Developer and the Website launch officer. As a website developer I used to be in constant conversation with the web designing team during the length of the project; both working together to make sure we have a good website. Hence once a website was released and successful both the web designer as well myself as the web developer used praise our own work.
Furthermore, as a website launch officer as well I was involved coordinating between the web developers and web designers during launch. I witnessed some strange debates at this time between the web designer and the web developer. Both of them claiming full credit for the success of the website and neither giving credit to the other. The amazing thing was this wasn’t a one of event. Every time a website was released I used to witness such conversations between the two teams.
This got me thinking on this highly debatable topic as to what is more important for website. Is it that good layout can make a website successful or is it the functionality? Effectively is beauty more important or usability?
This topic can easily be thrown out of the door by a simple answer that both are equally important. And if it wasn’t for these debates in the Web Development team after ever launch I would probably have done that. Hence I was inclined to take a closer look at this topic and figure out how much weightage do the visitors give to the aesthetics of a website. Is it the aesthetics of the website that help the conversion rate and finally how the usability of the websites rates against aesthetics?
The aesthetics of a website (the user interface) plays a major role in the success of a website. To be more specific here are they contribute to the success of a website:
Grab your attention: The first and foremost task of the design of any website is to attract attention. It is necessary for a website to be visually appealing in order to get the visitors started. Going by human nature, in general we prefer a good and appealing design rather than something ugly. At the same time it pays to know who your audience is. For example is the audience going to be mainly kids or is it for the working professionals. If the designer is armed by these facts the website design can be optimized for the same.
Good first impression: First impression count a lot no matter what the situation. Even when we meet someone face to face, our first impression of the other person will linger on the subsequent meetings as well. It usually doesn’t take a lot of time to analyse whether or not you want to spend time with that person or not. The same pretty much applies to a website online. If there is something of a website that creates a bad first impression, it is going to be a factor every time. This may mean the visitor may not come back again or may be even mean that the visitor may give a low rating to the website.
Build the Relation: If the website is visually appealing and the visitor can relate to the design it will help build a long term relationship. It is almost like it will become a part of the visitor’s portfolio. In the sense that we usually identify our self by our hobbies, taste in music, the way we look and then also with the type of specific websites we visit. Hence the website a person uses can also tell a little about them. Providing a personalised experience, targeted at the right group of people will help the website.
An extra boost: If a website is almost perfect in the way it presents itself then this can also be viewed as a sign of quality. Hence this fulfils the visitor’s requirements to some extent. In fact a visually appealing website means you are already half way there. Thus now even if there are minor flaws in the functionality, (as far as it is not unusable) the perfect design with carry the website and make sure to secure the trust of the visitor. Thus a visually stunning website can very well create a tolerance level of some kind.
That good feeling: I guess you may have come across this phrase several times now: “Picture is worth a thousand words”. However this applies perfectly well here. The pictures and graphics placed on the website make a big difference to how the visitor will react. A picture conveys a feeling, helps generate an emotion, trust, comfort, hope and even a lingering memory. Hence the ideal site will be aesthetic and at the same time need to have the right choice of images to send the right message across.
So the website has a good look and feel and has awed the visitor but does it really deliver on its promises. For example if it is Matrimonial website with attractive images and good profiles and hence very appealing, does it really allow the visitor with easy access to and advanced search feature or does the advanced search feature really work efficiently and find matching profiles based on the search options entered. Basically the site needs to ‘work’ besides being a ‘pretty design’.
Hence usability of a website is rated quite high as well. This is place where the design and functionality need to go hand in hand. The website should be designed to complement the functionality. At the same time the should be designed intuitively and not leave the visitor guessing on what is next. At times like this is very risky to do something different since if you do no deliver to the visitor’s expectations you are likely to lose the visitor. This is why special care needs to be given to the navigation of the website and flow of the website. Looking at the website from the visitor’s perspective can help the case. As far as the visitor finds his way around and can follow the flow of the website without much efforts you should be hit as along as the website works.
Besides this the mobile age is here. Hence it is imperative your website works on most of the mobile devices as well. In addition to just working on a mobile device the website needs to be equally appealing and feature rich for the mobile users as well, especially since they constitute as a major portion the Internet users.
In the modern day website browsing it would seem that both the design and the functionality go hand in hand and one cannot do without the other. The online e-commerce scene is also now very competitive and hence everyone is likely to be scrambling to get their design and functionality right so that it is appealing to the visitors.
That said the fact remains that there was a time when there was no graphics on the Internet. This was in the 90’s. There were many website and the design option where either text for HTML or simply text. A website would be fully functional however you would not have much of an interface to use the website. Even the images being used on the website were exclusively for download and you were not able to preview them online on the browser. Websites still worked then and there was no design as we know it now.
For example those where the days when you surf to yahoo.com to check your mail using a complete text interface. You did not have any profile picture, nor was there any website logo. But everything worked. You could login to your account and read, send and forward emails.
I don’t really want to be biased by saying that functionality is more important especially since I have admitted to working as a Web Developer in the past. However the fact remains that in the past functionality was everything. Although times have now changed a website needs to be appealing and visually stunning and creatively designed as well besides being just functional.
Hence if you are considering to make a website for your firm, you will be requiring a good designer as well as a good web developer.
Alakmalak is one Website design and development company that understands the pros and cons of giving the design and development different levels of importance. Hence they build consistent websites that deliver on their promises. It is thus no surprise that they have successfully developed more than 2000 websites for their clients from all around the world.
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