What makes design great?
Steve Jobs believed that design was more about the way things work, not the way they look. Apple has gone on to become the world’s most valuable brand with that philosophy.
Four web design approaches
- Client-centric web design focuses on converting the website owner’s artistic vision and feature wish list into a web reality.
- User-centric design is all about the user experience. It’s sometimes referred to as a UX design (User eXperience), content-centered or consumer-centric approach.
- SEO-centric design targets search rankings, with Google’s top ten positions as the key objective.
- And ROI-centric design decisions are based upon raising brand awareness, building market share, driving sales and increasing profits. This approach is often referred to as a profit-driven design solution.
To get a better idea of how these approaches translate to real life…
Let’s say you and a few prospective customers decide to take a road trip, as a relationship building exercise.
SEO-centric of course decides to stay home, because the trip does not include a visit to Google headquarters. User-centric obsesses over the comfort of the passengers, so they’ll be very happy they made the trip, and consider coming along again. ROI-centric carefully maps out the most efficient route, checks tire pressures and suggests taking a car with better fuel economy. Cost of customer acquisition is weighed against buying another round of snacks at the convenience store. Meanwhile, Client-centric only cares that the color of paint on the SUV you’ll be traveling in. matches the swatch the prospective customer provided.
From my perspective, getting someone into the vehicle in the first place − or creating your audience first − would have to be the most important. Without it, there would be no trip even to consider. (But, of course, as a marketing copywriter, “audience” is priority #1 to me.)
A growing number of conscientious web designers are coming to the realization that the client-centric approach is extremely short sighted, self-serving, and fundamentally flawed from the outset. Rendering the decision maker’s creative vision becomes the only thing that matters… to the exclusion of almost everything else. Very rarely does this approach bring any value to the audience. And without an audience, you will be unable to influence the decisions of future clients.
ROI-centric design wins on the balance sheet, the only place it actually matters in business
I believe that many designers who won’t fight for the website’s users, or even the company’s balance sheet, are equally self absorbed. They’ve realized that a “give the customer what they want” approach is the shortest, least stressful, path to sign-off and final payment. They know many of their clients’ choices will come back to bite them in the ass, but they say nothing, or at best, make mention of it once in passing.
The return on investment design approach embodies user experience, creation of useful content, SEO and a conversion strategy. In other words, designing for profit covers all the bases but one. Chasing aesthetics, and delivering a very specific look and feel that satisfies one individual, or a small group of them, often conflicts with a far nobler purpose. The best designers design for the client’s client.
Are you of the persuasion that the customer is always right? They are, after all, paying for the work and should make the design decisions.
Or would you agree that, as Google and Facebook have concluded, function trumps aesthetics? The audience determines the value of the website. And the true beauty of a site is revealed in an impressive return on investment.