Perfect Design Does Not Mean a Perfect Web Site

In the old media industry (print) all you really had to do was get the design right.   Follow the rules and your design would sing.

However the web is not print – bet you have heard that before.

Designing a web site is more than just a perfect visual design. A design that follows all the principles of good design.   You know all those universal design rules like the:  80/20 rule, affordance, element alignment, closure, colour use, convergence, gutenberg diagram, hick’s Law, iconic representation, mimicry, rule of thirds, signal to noise  and the like.

Well as any experienced designer will tell you, a design can have all these things right.   This will engage to a degree, and look correct, with no off-putting elements.  Yet still it can fail with an audience.   The site can look fantastic visually and have even perfect content.  Still it will just not achieve it’s goals.

What is going wrong?  Is it the designer?  Maybe they just aren’t experienced enough? Or is it something else?

The real issue here is that  the web  itself is interactive.   It can often take more than a good design to bring a web site to life and really engage with a customer.

That said even if you get the interaction design correct a site can still fail.

The reason for this is simple – designers do not have ESP.

We can’t read minds on what the audience wants and needs in terms of the web site design.   All we can do is  take a gamble on the design based on our experience of what has worked in the past and a brief overview (often supplied by the client).

Now you may think that surely the web industry hasn’t been operating with such a hit and miss affair from the last 15 odd years.   Truth is in certain sectors it has.

Realistically lots of things can do wrong.   Such as:

  • What if the client has the wrong idea about their customers
  • What if it is an industry the designer is not familiar with – after all we can’t know every industry backwards.
  • What if the designer is being rushed and just applies a general generic design to the site.

This is where user testing and user research comes in.   As designers we can’t know it all.   We don’t have an encyclopedic  knowledge of the hopes, dreams, likes, dislikes, motivations, desires and such for every person or even audience on the planet.

Sure we may have encountered similar situations in the past, but often for a web site to be truly effective and not waste it’s design and development budget you need to consider it as a unique project and have some form of user research conducted.

This is why we do user research, this is why you too should be considering a little user research in your next project.   Or are you just going to rely on the designers ESP?