Design is Communication

Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”

 — Jeffrey Zeldman
“Relativity,” by M.C. Escher

Good design is all about communication. The visual and the written content of your website work together – they complement, emphasize and reinforce your vision.

When successful, good design becomes transparent. Key elements like site navigation (a site map is encouraged), appropriate content headings, page titles, and clearly indicated Contact and Home pages are some of the simple ways that you can create intuitive navigation that allows your user to easily find the content that they are looking for. When elements perform as expected, the user is rewarded with a satisfying experience.

Who is the user?

Developing websites with the end user in mind is absolutely essential; not only to appeal to your audience and encourage readership but because *search engines favor sites that are user friendly.

What makes a website user-friendly?

“Usability” is the ease with which an individual can ascertain how to use a given tool or technology. If information is difficult to find, or hard to understand, the average person will give up in frustration. Having a user quit is the worst possible outcome. You will probably never see them again and they may even tell other people about their negative experience.

Usability testing is one way to discover discrepancies between what we (the designer and the business owner) want to happen and what the actual user expectation and behaviors are.

Why do I have to think about this?

Taking a good, hard look at your content from the start of your new web project is essential. Look at your competitor sites and take some notes of what works, what doesn’t work. Think about how you could improve upon their offerings or highlight unique services and abilities specific to your business and brand. Lastly, rate your user experience on those sites:

  • Were they easy to navigate?
  • Did you get lost trying to get back to the home page?
  • Was contact information readily available?
  • Was their information relevant, useful, interesting?

The information you will glean from the 45 minutes or so you might spend doing this is invaluable. You should also share these links, what you liked and didn’t like, with your web designer.