An Opinion page piece in today's WSJ* discusses changes in the design of consumer tech products over the last twenty-some years. The writer made some points that got me thinking...
Contrasting the role of engineers with designers he made the point that "engineers tend to focus on sheer technical limits: what can be done. But designers are focused on what should be done... building things that solve actual problems or fulfill real wants." With the advances in computing power over the last two decades he sees design as a "key differentiator and driving force behind billion dollar companies."
We see a parallel in the world of website design. While many web developers have long been entranced by what's technically possible, our focus has moved toward design that provides users with compelling solutions to real problems. Using a defined, business model based design process we've seen firsthand how design works as a powerful source of differentiation (and growth) for clients in multiple industries.
In terms of look and feel, this approach supports a leaner, less cluttered, more elegant design. But, elegance isn't an end in itself. (Apple products notwithstanding.)
Effective web design must also resonate with the target customer through messaging that convincingly answers the (universal) "what's in it for me" question. More than that, effective web design must clearly explain the client's value proposition while building trust in the offer and the client company.
At the same time, effective design positions the company's brand and clarifies the brand's attributes while providing intuitive navigation to guide the visitor to the next click in the path to conversion. (According to Google, all of this has to happen within six seconds; the time the average visitor spends evaluating a website before they decide to explore further or "bounce" out.)
Clearly, effective web design is hard, but well worth the effort. We think the WSJ piece summarized the principle nicely: "Design is the key to building the next great wave of companies."
*See The Design Revolution in Consumer Tech by Steve Vassallo; The Wall Street Journal; August 7, 2017