Good design is not mere decoration, but rather a resonant embodiment of your message. At its heart, effective design is about communication; much of which happens at a non-verbal level. The design of your website should first and foremost be driven by a strategically distilled brand positioning. Each part of the design – visual, linguistic, and functional should all flow together to create a resonant user experience that positions your organization appropriately in the mind of the audience.
One of the foundation stones of good design is crisp, well-crafted execution that says “We get it. We are real professionals,” and exudes knowing capability and confidence. It is a well-tailored suit. It is good grooming. While most of your audience are not designers (unless of course, your audience are designers), everyone picks up on the visual cues and gets a sense of whether something “feels right” based on quality of design. It’s not about brushing on a coat of “pretty,” and it’s certainly not about being attractive, but vacuous. Strong design is the framework that ties together the constituent parts of your communication touchpoint into a lucid, articulate package and says with confidence “I know what I’m talking about.” This fact was borne out in more than one study conducted at Stanford, where design was found to be the top (or one of the top) ranking factors when subjects evaluated the credibility of a company via its website.
Additionally, with respect to interactive experiences such as websites, design also encompasses a process of crafting not just how things are presented visually, but also functionally. A listing of offerings that lets you see what is important up front while flexibly allowing you to sort according to valuable criteria is a much better design than one that merely lists, and forces you pop in and out of detail pages to discover relevant information. This is precisely how Hexatrope reworked the property catalog page for B&L Properties’ student housing websites. The previous site featured a list of linked addresses. The new design shows a list of all properties with photo and key criteria like “number of beds” and “blocks to campus,” and lets you re-order results according to which criteria you deem most important. Additionally, it gives you the ability to filter the list by various criteria in order to zero in on which property is the best fit. See the experience redesign here.