What’s more important – design or functionality?

My professional background comes from the world of design. I’ve been fortunate enough during my career to have many international design awards on my resume. So, I’d like to think that I have a pretty good understanding of the value of design when it comes to marketing. I’ve also had the privilege of expanding my knowledge of marketing over the years through formal training and through life experience to gain a better understanding of what makes people react to visual communication.

Looking strictly online, we see that there are oodles of website design shops out there that are producing killer looking websites – and they’ve become quite successful at it. The disappointing fact is that many are simply taking advantage of people who don’t fully understand marketing by placing their entire marketing strategy on the back of what amounts to a coat of paint. Whether it be intentionally or unintentionally, there are thousands of beautiful websites that are simply sitting there looking good – and not accomplishing much else.

It’s like highschool all over again.

Let’s take it to the print world for a moment. I could design an award winning brochure for a client that they could put in a gorgeous display in their place of business. If no one ever walks into the business, how would they ever get to see this award winning brochure? Design can only take you so far. You can always polish a turd, but at the end of the day a turd still gets flushed. Beautiful design should simply exist to support a much larger strategic endeavor.

A little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll

The functionality of a website is much more important than what it looks like, but truth be told, the combination of both is the recipe for success. The content strategy behind a website is what is king. Unless someone is browsing Instagram, they aren’t looking for pretty pictures. They’re looking for information and answers to questions that will solve their problems and make their lives easier. Success is determined by how quickly and effectively they can have their questions answered and they will put more value and credibility into the source that provides them with this information.

So if your web development team has been all about the look and nothing else, you may need to ask yourself (and them) a few questions:

  • What is the purpose of the website?
    Is your website intended to just be an online brochure or do you want it to be an extension of your brand? Anyone can design their own website for free and there’s plenty of low cost and free design templates that look fantastic. However, there is skill involved in producing an effective website. I could technically change the brakes on my car, but later that afternoon you’d probably find me crashed through the front of a KFC with mayonnaise in my hair. Leave it to professionals you can trust.

Good thing I keep extra wet wipes in the glove compartment.

  • How is the website going to affect my brand?
    Do the people designing your website have an understanding of inbound marketing? Do they understand that your website is an extension of your brand or are they simply known for designing beautiful websites? Few can help you create relevant content with a clear understanding of your audience’s pain points.
  • What kind of return on investment do I expect?
    If you don’t expect any return on your investment, then don’t bother wasting your time and money. You need to view your website as global location that reflects your brand and requires constant attention. How much effort you want to put into your online marketing strategy will determine what you get out of it.

Great design is important. It can draw attention and help build brand credibility, but as I’ve mentioned, it needs to be supported by a sound strategy and great content that people find valuable.


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