Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.
April 24th, 2008
Graphic design is the first thing that many Web site owners and managers think about when they seek out the services of a Web developer. There is no denying that the graphic design element of a Web site is important, in fact research shows that design has an immense and immediate effect on your visitors. Within moments, about 1/2 of those visitors will make a judgment on the credibility of your company based solely on the quality of your graphic design. So design is immensely important, just like a foundation is important for a building. The foundation must be solid and it must come first but without the building on top it acheives little.
Without design being part of a holistic strategic approach to communication, it becomes impotent. A site with no design will trump the most artistically original site if the former has quality content and offers intuitive and easy to use solutions to its target visitors needs. The classic example is the most visited and arguably most successful Web site in the world: Google.
Web sites are a lot like people, their success is ultimately based on the value they contain, not their outward appearance. This is vital to understand so that design is put into its proper place. Web design is still important, it just has to be the dressing for content of real value.
Google is like one of those geniuses who are so recognizable and brilliant that they can get away with wearing an old t-shirt and jeans to deliver a key-note speech. It’s fair to say the brilliance of most of us is not as common knowledge.
Web design is the same, once the foundation of quality content is present, professional and usable design is an excellent catalyst to facilitate communicating the value of your site. In my next post I’ll get into some specifics about our philosophy and methods for designing Web sites that are modern, appealing and clearly communicate the values of your organization.
March 16th, 2007
I’m in the process of designing a PowerPoint presentation for a major technology firm, it’s entertaining to discover how the company’s engineers are fixated on describing every little detail about a product. To begin my design process, I researched some internally developed presentations built by the engineers so as to gain an understanding of the product virtues … let me just say the slides had more flying bullets than a war zone. These presentations were product-orientated smorgasbord of technical diarrhea.
Although I like to rag on engineers and their linear approach to life, companies often fall into the same mistake of focusing on product rather than market value, on top of over-messaging attributes rather than building a brand by emotionally captivating the customer by relating a solution to their need.
As Doug and I continue to learn and grow with our business, we’re finding out that the customer doesn’t care about how big, fancy, and powerful our product is, they only want to hear what we can do for them in terms of making their life better. Unfortunately, I’ve learned the hard way that my audience doesn’t have the time or interest in learning why I’m so great. And who could blame them? Their lives are complicated and busy, they want to cut to the chase so I better be ready with a strong, precise message that is emotionally appealing, easy to understand, and beneficial in terms of solving a problem or issue.
Going back to the technical engineers, I’ll be ingrained in a lengthy battle to shape these presentations into concise messages that actually mean something to the customer. My job is simply to communicate the three pillars customers look for in why they should consider a product; namely that it is available, easy, and affordable.
P.S. One last tip … avoid talking above your customers’ heads and boring them by using vague and uncommon terminology, your attempt to look smart will probably lose you the deal. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way.
February 14th, 2007
Imagine driving down the freeway…you see a billboard with a message about an accountant specializing in international business, just what you’ve been looking for! As you start to read a few sentences at 70 mph, a giant helium-filled monkey that’s anchored in place next to the billboard begins clashing it’s synthetic cymbals while cables retract and expand it’s eyelids. Hey look there’s some sort of logo on the monkey’s shirt for the accounting firm….too late, you’ve sped by the sign.
As ridiculous as this example sounds, it’s exactly what happens many times on websites. We find a site in a Google search that looks like it might be what we’re after, but on its front page were confronted by too many snippets of ambiguous information and distractions and no clear statements of what this site is about.
One of the most ludicrous distracting features that I’ve seen recently is “SitePal.” A zombie-like animated talking head that speaks in slow broken computer generated speech…”Welcome (octave lower) to our Website (two octaves higher) Please mouse over my (pause) face to make me talk. What’s even creepier is that on some versions the characters head slightly bobbles and it’s eyes cross as it attempts to follow your mouse movements.
Having some sort of animated or technical feature on a site can be tempting for its novelty factor. But just because something can be done does not mean that it should be done. Research has consistently shown that superfluous elements are often detrimental to the overall communication and persuasion goals of web sites. For
access to solid research on the topic visit the Stanford Web Credibility Research site or, in keeping with the theme of efficient communication, check out the all-time classic, Don’t Make Me Think, by Steve Krug.