Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Design? - How much does it REALLY matter? - MEMBERSHIP SITE - WEB DESIGN (originally posted april 10 2009)

I must admit, this is one key dilemma and I need and answer on that one!

At this stage, I have been keeping pages to the minimum in terms of design.

For many reasons... I won't get into it.

Now, the question is

"Does better design increase or descrease sales?"

"Does it even matter?"

May REALLY high traffic websites are very minimalistic in design from drudge report ot craigslist + many more, they would score a lousy 20% in the scale of design.

This does not seem to hurt them a bit.

On the other hand, you can have incredibly well designed websites which have absolutely no success online.

Of course, the key is content, but the question is:

How much design is needed?

Is it even necessary to do something about it?

Well, here is an attempt to answer that question:

I saw myself being turned off by certain sites vbecause theyw ere REALLY ugly!

I saw myself leaving sites as well because the disgn was clean but VERY boring.

I saw myself as well attracted to certain sites because the design was VERY pleasant. I saw myself coming back because not only the content was high quality, the way it was presented was extremely refreshing.

So, the design can positively or negatively influence my experience on a site.

Now, back to vitalcoaching.com

here is the thing:

I know that right now, the site performs ok.

And... I have at this stage, no idea what to do next:

  • Leave the design exactly the way it is?
  • Work on it a bit... Just a couple of adjustements here and there?
  • Hire a designer to pimp it up?
  • Put lots of energy in it because now that I have solid content, design is THE limiting factor?

One more confession.

When I check the stats, 85% of visitors leave the site within a few seconds.

This has always been like that.

It could be

  • Error in the way stats are recorded - yes! It's possible
  • They notice that it's not a super high traffic website and leave
  • Lack of social web 2.0 features
  • Poor design
  • This 85% is good! It is what happens to any site (except the big super high traffic portals)

At this stage, I don't know the answer to that question.

So, let's check that:

I identified a few nicely designed sites


  • Site 1: cool design 80% - social bookmarking - I arrive on the page... - Do I stay? No - why? Because there is nothing there that I need - The offer and the demand don't meet


  • Site 2: No idea what the site is about... I think it is design actually and technology - internet - Design quality 95% - Really nice appealing - I start surfing triggered by the design only - Another plus - The site has a few nice attractive social features that makes it appear connected! - It is obvious with the number of readers or twitter followers that the site does attract at leats some good attention

Now, here is what happens after a few minutes on the site... I actually start getting tired or bored by the design already!

That's strange! I have been on the site only a few minutes and the design itself feel almost like it's draining my attention.

It hooked me for a few minutes because I am interested in analysing the design ideas but I quickly look for solid content.

After a few minutes on it... i still did not identify a compelling reason to sign up! Shocking!

--------1st ESSENTIAL CONCLUSION----------

Yes, I realize that often a very attractive design actually distractes me from the content. In a way, the design that attracts me the most is like white canvas that supports the content.

I don't want to be distracted. I want to be able to focus on the content


--------2nd ESSENTIAL CONCLUSION----------

once the design is clean, usability of the site matters most. In fact, usability comes before design. Yes! Much before. A site which is difficult to navaigate and where key info is impossibel to find is SUPER ANNOYING! - It's a traffic killer I am sure... As first time visitors resits coming back in the future


--------3rd ESSENTIAL CONCLUSION----------

The site is like the canvas that supports the content. Take an art gallery. If is packed with objects and decoration, it actually distracts from the artwork, right?

Art galleries walls are always white because white is neutral - anything you put on it comes out!


--------4rth ESSENTIAL CONCLUSION----------

More than design, SOCIAL FEATURES! Life!

This is as well something that in my eyes, outperforms design in terms of impact. Take a site like Youtube. It's not the design that gets people comong back, it is the content, social features, usability, etc.


Here it is as a conclusion:

  • Keep the design super clean - NO DISTRACTIONS!
  • Usablity!

Here you have it!

Now, some websites are so ugly that it does actually turn me off.

These sites make the mistake of trying to focus on the design but make a real poor job at it!

Really poor!

Now, let's put these ideas to the test and check some more sites:


  • Site 10 (skipped a few where I had nothing special to say except that the design was not a good reason enough to keep me there)

Now, the next site I visit is a fitness and weightloss site with a known weightloss expert.

Nothing speactacular on the site.

Except that it's not overwehlming! It's clear + images

Only a small fraction of the navigation is visible and hidden beyond the bootom of the screen, so you have to scroll down to see it.

What catches my attention straight away is the you tube vid that takes about 30% of the space.

I instantly start watching and I am hooked - I want to see more and know what this is about.

So, far, from all the sites I visited, this is the one I want to engage a connection with.

I am about to download the free e-book which grabs 30% of the space.

Well, this is it!

  • An appealing free download
  • A well poitioned video in the middle of the page
  • A picture
  • A clean logo
  • A catchy headline
  • Some bright an refreshing colors
  • Lots of space
  • Very simple design - Clean and refreshing but nothing fancy

That's a good recipe

------SIDE NOTE-------------


After all this positive experience, I am directed to this PDF report - Now things change! The positive intercative and refreshing surfing experience is interupted and I enter into a very different rhythm.

This e-book contains some links but I don't click on them because I don't want to waste time opening a new window.

Reading the ebook requires me to shift + I can't bookmark parts of the e-book. It's much more difficult to use.

I'll check that further another time.


  • Site 11

Same story - lots of appealing and entertaining videos - like it - I am hooked and just for entertainment would stay on the site

Design is clean and powerful

Again, it works

Same idea as the previous site

Both contain littel text + videos + appealing content + images + supportive design that is powerful + super simple navigation

This second one has social features (comments, ratings, etc) - the first one didn't.

In a way, no social features does not hurt but you have picture of other people, stories, etc.

So, the networking or connected element is there.


  • Site 12

POP UP jums right up at me!

Don't ask me to sign up for something when i don't even know who you are!

Is the content that boring that you need to distract me from what you created yourself? Why?

I already took the time to visit your site and now you want to distract me from it? Why?

Now, that I closed the pop up, this site is very good for its clarity!

Again, obvious video content, clear design, super simple navigation - etc.

Again, a good recipe for the success... That's a place I want to come back to and check. It works for me AGAIN!!!!


  • site 13

Obvious call for subscribing! 3 forms on the page ask me to subscribe to news. It works! I did!

Simple navigation

Clear design

Again, the design is clean but almost overdone.

The content suffers.

I need something more raw, more direct, that really connects with me.

I miss the vids.

When reading through the pages, the communication style is not direct enough.

I need more raw! More direct! Really!

Scores lower than the previous 3 sites.

This one enters into the category of attractive but not enough life + the design also saturates quickly after a few minutes on the site.

I need your content to be king, not your image!

Right now, your content is ensalved to your design!

That's the impression I get!

You hide what you have to say behind a veil.

You don't give me the real thing, you hide it from me.


Next site...

What comes to mind?

A bit messy - headlines are too long - you lose me - If you want to catch my eye, give me something simpler I can catch, not a doze ideas, just one!

There is something messy and difficult to grasp about that one.

I can relate to it because I tend towards that type of design...

The problem?

  • The visual zones are not well defined
  • The headlines are too long
  • The blog side bar is a mess - there is too much - nothing stands out

I know the guy already, so I might stick around and I know that the content is engaging and has a high connecting edge.

He connects, yes!

But after quickly scrolling the page, I still don't really know what this is a bout or how he can help me.

I don't know what kind of audience he catters to + I don't know what product he offers.

It's not clear.

There is abunch of icons at the bottom which ad chaos...

So, here is what is missing:

  • Well define visual zones
  • Clearer and more direct headlines


Now, back to my site...

Here we go...

Every page can be optimized but let's start by the home page:

  • The side bar with the membership comes under the fold - you need to croll down to access the content - price - features - login are hidden
  • I need a vid on the home page

Good ideas

  • The headlines links on the navigation - good idea - That's the simple headlines I am attracted to instantly
  • The design is refreshing but there is A LOT!
  • The colours in the coaching and membership navigation links need to be cleared and restored to white.
  • Icons with pictures! Good! Keep it that way!

The home page only gets a tiny fraction of the visits!

95% of visitors access the site through a backdoor! - so all pages needs to be optimized with the best possible page structure.


The essential questions to answer are:

Why do 85% of visitors leave within seconds?

What can I do about it?


These are the questions I need real answers for!

By the way, I think these scores are ok - I still get lots of traffic, returning visitors + activity on the site... But if there is something that hurts the site, I need to find out EXACTLY what it is and if possible, do something about it!