The death of website design (as we know it)

December 8, 2023

I’m predicting a major change will take place in the web industry during the next few years. As businesses start to demand results from their websites (in terms of generating new enquiries and sales), web companies will be forced to sharpen their act as marketers.

No longer will it be good enough to simply rely on graphic designers and IT geeks to build a website that looks nice and functions well technically. That’s the old way of building websites. Tomorrow’s successful web companies will be marketers first and foremost.

I’m often appalled when clients tell me they have spent many thousands on a website design that fundamentally doesn’t work – or, even worse, a redesign that I have no reason to expect will work better than the site it replaced.

Recently, an Auckland company asked me for advice on why they weren’t making any sales from their e-commerce site, after spending $40,000 to have it redesigned! Looking at the site, it was easy to see why. Although it had some nice fancy effects, it was a nightmare for prospective buyers to find their way around. The home page was so busy, you didn’t know where to look first.

What’s wrong with the current way of building websites?

Typically, a web design company will present their client with a couple of mockups, and let the client choose the one they like best. Then they build the site to that design. The problem is, from a marketing viewpoint, no one really has any idea how well the site will perform.

Even if the web designer is one of the rare few who have some marketing nous, at best they are only making an educated guess about what will produce the best response.

That’s why we need a radical change in the way websites are designed

One of the great advantages of the Internet, compared with any other advertising medium, is that everything you do is measurable. Unilke other forms of advertising where 50% is wasted (you just don’t know which 50%) with web advertising you can see exactly how your site is performing to convert visitors into customers.

The new aproach to building websites, which clients will increasingly demand, will be to regard website design as a process, during which the site tweaked until it achieves a strong conversion rate.

Testing, testing, testing!

It’s hard for a web designer to break away from the natural compulsion to go with our own personal instincts and tastes, and instead be willing to put our designs to the test… and be willing to tweak things until we get the best possible results.

But the rewards of doing this are immense.

Which of these two websites is better?

For example, take a look at the two websites below. Which of these two sites do you think performed better in terms of getting visitors to take action?

These sites are both owned by one of my clients. We both agreed the one on the right “looks nicer” … more modern etc. But over a few weeks of driving traffic to the sites by per per click advertising, the site on the left out-performed the one on the right by about four to one!

In other words, four times as many people submitted the survey form (which is the desired response) for the site on the left. This site, when you look at it, seems more “old fashioned” with no fancy effects. Conversely, the “modern looking”  site, which has some nice effects when you hover over the images, proved to be a flop.

The moral is… you don’t know until you test!  (To be continued…)

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