What rest-stop bathrooms and website design have in common: 5 tips from our designer.

Jul 21, 2022

There’s a debate happening out there on the internet about what’s more important: design, messaging, functionality, or user experience? Usually if you ask a designer, they will say that design is the most important, but a really good designer knows how design plays well with all the other elements that go into a website.

The internet is filled with so many websites full of engaging imagery, and unique layouts, but is that enough?

Isn’t it important to make sure your website design grabs the user’s attention?

“Of course it’s important, first impressions are always important… but a beautiful newly tiled bathroom off a highway rest-stop wouldn’t be all that appealing without functioning faucets and toilets would it? Sorry, that was a bad example, I just got back from a road trip…  BUT anyway, the usability and functionality of a website far outweighs what it actually looks like. (Not to mention the load times that come with unnecessarily large images and videos. Every human (and search engine) hates slow loading sites.” 

Hmm, so bathrooms and website design have more in common than I thought? 

“Ha – I’m just saying that while your website might LOOK nice, the usability of it is actually the key to it’s success – Your website might be packed with ‘pretty’ design elements and lots of pages full of lots of words, but if those things aren’t guiding your user to what they are ultimately looking for, then you are making the user think too hard. People don’t like to think. Just imagine all the questions marks popping up over someone’s head when they are looking at a poorly designed website – 

“Hmm there’s so much going on, where do I start?” 

“Can I click that?”

“What are these guys actually trying to sell?”

“Hmm, why did they put that there?” 

“Is that the navigation, or is it over here?” 

Etc… etc.. etc.. 

When I design websites, my job is to get rid of as many question marks as possible.” 

Ok, so if your website design is too busy, it creates confusion and makes people think too hard which will inevitably make them leave your site, is that right?   

“Kind of, but it boils down to every aspect of your website, not just the aesthetics. For example, sometimes people think they are adding ‘personality’ to the site by changing the language of what might otherwise feel boring to them. Here’s a simple example. Say a company is looking to hire, website A has a button that says ‘Jobs’ – This is super obvious and takes very little thought from the user, website B has a button that says “Current Available Roles” – It takes a minute to process right? “Clever” language adds to the question marks over people’s heads. Clear language removes them.

It sounds like you are saying simple is best when it comes to website design? 

“Simple isn’t a great word, I would say intentional is best. Everything on your site should be there for a reason. We live in a very over-stimulated world, even when people are making time for something, they still don’t want to waste that time, and that counts for browsing websites as well. Keeping websites simple will allow people to efficiently scan for what they are looking for. You may think it’s important to dedicate space on your website to the history of your company – it’s not… 99% of people don’t care. They want to know what you do and how you are going to help THEM, (which is why we create StoryBrand websites but that’s a conversation for another day.) Anything that muddles that message is going to add those question marks making it more likely that your potential customer is going to leave your site and go somewhere else.”

What are some basic ways to be intentional in website design? 

“There is a really great book called Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug where he explains all the ins and outs of common sense website design/usability if you want to know all the things…But you are here now so in short, here are 5 things to keep in mind. 

1. Make sure there is a clear visual hierarchy – In short, the more important something is, the more prominent it should be. (Learn more about how to highlight important content here)

2. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel – It’s ok to stick with conventions, (ie logo placement, menu design, link styling, buttons etc.) These things have been tried and tested and enable users to figure out a lot about a website even if they can’t understand a word of it. 

3. Divide pages into clearly defined sections – This will help a user quickly scan and decide which areas they want to focus on and which they can safely ignore.

4. Make sure it’s obvious what is clickable – Much of what people are doing on the web is looking for the next thing to click, so make sure it’s obvious what is clickable and what is not. (Read more about CTA buttons here)

5. Keep the visual noise to a minimum – You don’t want to feel like the website is shouting at you. It’s fatiguing to look at a site when everything is fighting for your attention. Stay intentional, and follow the other tips above to design a site that is easy to navigate.”

Read about how to use images and icons effectively here.

Thanks for sharing your insights! Final question – What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

“Of course! Hmm…I worked at a car dealership when I was like 17 – I was the cashier for all things (parts, car sales, the shop) and the receptionist. I worked 12 hour shifts and because I wore so many hats I couldn’t leave my post so I ate my lunch on the floor under the desk… I’m pretty sure that was illegal but I was too young and naive to say anything so I just quit instead. That place was pretty terrible. 

There’s SO much more that goes into a website than making it look pretty. That’s why we’re a “Words First” agency. But we do pride ourselves on our website design. Ready to redesign your website in a way that leads to more sales? Let’s talk.

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