Web Design is about Business, Not Art

One of the things I most hate about web design is “design for its own sake”. There are plenty of examples of what I’m talking about around the internet. The sort of sites where the designer has put together a great looking layout, with marvellous colours and beautiful design touches here and there. Sounds like exactly what you’d be after from your site’s web design, right?

Wrong. What a website needs to be first and foremost is a sales tool. So you only have to ask yourself two questions when confronted by a design for your site:

  1. Will it help me generate more sales?
  2. Or is it simply a showcase for the designer’s graphical capabilities?

It’s worth looking into this further, as it’s a concept that many designers – especially inexperienced or ineffective ones – don’t seem to be able to grasp.

Sure, we all want to show off our outstanding talents to the world and be able to point to something with a sense of pride, as we say “I did that”. But that’s about art, not business. And essentially the internet is about business, not art. At least, for the vast majority of organisations that wish to have a website, it is.

In my spare time, I may wish to put together a conceptual multimedia artwork that expresses everything I want to say about the human condition.

But when I’m working for you, I’m focused on achieving your goals – the main one of which is almost certainly to generate more sales from your website.

Which is why I’ll never suggest the inclusion of something on your site that I have to explain by saying something like “It’s design, it looks nice”. And if you have a web designer who does try to justify things in this fashion, you should call a halt to the process now and send them straight back to the drawing board with a big “$” sign strapped to the top of it, to focus their mind on what you really want them to deliver. (That, or simply sack them and find a designer who does understand the fundamental purpose of having a website in the first place).

Am I saying that it isn’t possible to have a good looking site that performs well as a sales tool? No, certainly not. But what I am saying is that every element of the site should be there to enhance the primary purpose, not distract from it.

That primary purpose being to generate more business for you, not generate more design kudos for me.