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.
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. If Google and Bing aren't the focus of the journey, why should he waste the time.
User-centric obsesses over the comfort of the passengers, so they’ll be very happy they made the trip, and consider coming along on the next one. She thoughtfully brings along some magazines and bottles of water.
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 colour of paint and leather of the SUV you'll be traveling in matches well with the colour palette fan she brought along.
From my perspective, as a content marketer, 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. 🙂
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 buyers and sellers.
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. These designers have 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 later, 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. Including all the features the site's owner wants can be equally harmful to the user experience, slowing the site to a crawl with code bloat. The best web 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 be making the design decisions. Right!?!?
Or would you agree that, as Google and Facebook have concluded, function trumps aesthetics? Audience engagement and response decide the value of the website. And the true beauty of a site is revealed in an impressive return on investment.
Cole Wiebe helps brands and professionals grow their influence and value online; so they can “out content”™ their competition. Cole is a content strategist, content writer, conversion copywriter and online marketing coach.
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