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Revealed: The #1 Most Important Factor In Good Web Design

My Giveaway PromoI recently ran a contest on Facebook, as an experiment to see how much I could boost the likes on my Facebook page.

Quick result: I wouldn’t say the experiment was successful. I got around 80 responses, and about 160 new page likes, from a starting point of 2000. I really expected it to go more viral than that.

There are a few likely reasons. One is that my audience is not naturally suited to the Facebook platform, being more topical than social. Another is that the competition prize is so good that people wouldn’t really want to share it with all their friends!

I asked Facebook users to do two things:

  1. Like the Web Design from Scratch Facebook page (which 160 of them did).
  2. Add a post on the WDFS Facebook page, telling me “what you think is the most important thing in good web design”.

I think the results overall were great, and it’s such an important point, I figured I’d talk you through my reasoning and how I chose the winning post.

My Killer Criterion

I needed a simple but razor-sharp question that would help me quickly filter through scores of responses.

Thinking this through today, I came up with,

Could a website have this – and still fail?

In other words, if we’re looking for the single most important factor, it needs to be the ultimate one. And that, really, has to boil down to whether the web design supports the website’s goal, whatever that may be (make money, sign up followers, spread a message, etc.)

Let’s apply that to the responses I got.

The Responses (Selection)

I’ll list the responses here (maybe not all of them. If there are very similar ones, I’ll only show one.

“Web Designing means communicating message through your design and functionality to your target audience with the better UI.” (Ajay)

Yes, web design is about communicating a message. But I don’t think that’s the essence of successful design.

“Web design is an invaluable art that defines creativity” (Samson)

Not necessarily Samson. Art is creation for its own sake. Design is the creation of something that solves a problem. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be creative or novel. That’s just a fact.

“I think the most important aspect of web design is to focus on the needs of your audience (clients/customers).” (John M)

A very good response. Yes, we have to focus on their needs, and then do something else: deliver a result that gives them what they want.

And, of course, you have to include the website owner’s needs! Should we focus on every visitor’s need? Or just the ideal target market?

“The best web design is the kind that communicates easily and freely the creator to the viewer. It is more than simple data transmission. Something of the creator/owner is passed on to the viewer who wants more of what the creator is offering.” (Timothy)

True, but also incomplete.

“Most important thing in website design is that to create web pages that let both VISITOR and WEBSITE OWNER get what they want (Information, Money, Service etc.).” (Vishawjeet)

Yes! That’s pretty much exactly what I mean. You’ve neatly defined the two-way trade that has to happen.

(Note, there were a lot of responses that mentioned knowing your user, and giving them what they want, which is essential, but only half the picture. So I haven’t included all those other responses here.

“Understanding and aligning the customers (personas) intent to the message they are in search of depending where they are on the awareness ladder in a fashion that matches their personal buying style blending content relevance to search request with great copy short and long and a visual experience of simplicity without being simple.” (Simon)

Very comprehensive, and it is one sentence, thanks Simon. I’m really looking for something more essential & simple though.

“Create an environment which encourages visitors to perform a measurable action.” (Munsterweb)

Another really good answer! This really points to achieving the website’s goals.

“The most important thing about good web design is that each page solves a specific problem for the visitor while building trust in the Brand and providing strong motivation for them to take some sort of action next.” (Chris M)

Yes, web pages should help a variety of visitors resolve a variety of needs. Trust and motivation are also important, and leading to specific desired actions.

“For me, the most important thing about web design is knowing your client.” (Tim C)

You’re right, but it’s another incomplete answer, and doesn’t apply to all web designing situations.

“Quality content must be the top priority followed by a user-friendly design that communicates what your website is all about and for whom it is intended.” (Jared)

I’m a huge believer in good-quality content. We need to generate action, though, which leads to specific goals for the website and its owner.

“The most important thing is information; know your client’s service, client’s competitor, and client’s demand and problems.” (Riku)

Those are all important aspects, correct. It’s only part of the process, though, not the ultimate goal.

“The #1 most important thing in good web design is crafting a website that actually grows the business – through either quality leads or direct sales. That’s all that ultimately matters and must be the focus. Usability, simplicity, etc. can often help, but they’re only means to an end. You need to find the messaging and flow that resonates with and converts the business’s unique target customers.” (Andrew P)

An excellent answer, Andrew, but can’t win because not every website belongs to a business, and the requirement was to write one sentence. Sorry to be so picky :-)

“The most important points in good web design must be simplicity, a focal point to grab the visitors attention and to convince them they are in the right place.” (Leanne)

Another great answer, with good points.

“I believe the most important thing in web design is to give the users exactly what they are looking for with your unique approach that no other site provides.” (Grant)

An excellent answer. Of course, not every site/page needs to have a totally unique approach. Sometimes, the right approach is totally familiar and conventional.

“The most important thing in good web design is…..wait for it, wait for it….. the design needs to help solve a business or organisational or procedural problem and be linked very closely to the overall business/organisational plan. I am now a stat!” (Dave H)

A great answer, Dave! In a sense, the most important thing about web design is to solve the problem/opportunity that the website exists to solve. You’re exactly right.

“The most important factors in web design come down to 2 things: 1) Getting the RIGHT kind of visitors to your website (i.e. not just any kind of traffic, but people that are actually likely to buy from you) and 2) converting them into customers (through having a strong, irresistible offer that motivates them to take action).” (Timothy H)

Also excellent Timothy.. You’re one of  the few people who mentioned getting the right visitors. Not every website is in the business of creating customers, though. Sometimes, success might be measured by the number of existing customers who find the answer to their question, saving a customer service helpline call, for example.

“Ben, the most important thing in good web design is having a website that attracts traffic and/or leads that will produce exponential conversion.” (Michelle)

A good response Michelle. Not sure about “exponential conversion” though..

“Great website design converts visitors into ? (substitute your website goals here).” (Steven L)

Outstanding answer!

“The most important thing in good web design is getting conversions.” (Luiz)

Another great answer, but that’s the goal.. What is it that distinguishes great web design?

“The most important thing about web design is using the process of elimination till only what’s needed is left” (Jennifer)

I completely agree that’s important, but (applying my test question) you could still do that and it somehow fail. (If you don’t get traffic, for example.)

“The most important thing in good web design: it’s about ensuring the transaction the client wants takes place – a click, a phone call, a purchase and *everything* most be focussed on that.” (Kevin L)

Yes, another very good answer on the lines of “deliver the business goals”. Quite correct.

“Content is king!” (Alistair)

That’s a great answer Alistair! If I were picking a winner based on wisdom-per-character, you’d win!

“Copy is the most important factor in good web design!” (Stevie Rae)

You guys are making this really difficult for me :-)

“I think the most important thing in good website design is the flow or funnel. Ben taught me that you need to guide people where to go next. When they get to your site, they need to know immediately that they are in the correct place. Then you grab their hand and bring them where they need to go. ” (Dave S)

Yes, true. I still think it has to include targeting the right people Dave.

“We have to make a good first impression when somebody visits our site and good web design is very important from that point of view…” (Anna)

Being very picky, I’m not sure it needs to be a “good” first impression. Answering the “Am I in the right place?” question is critical, and of course that first impression needs to be appropriate.

“The most important thing is to give people what they want in a way that gets you what you want” (Carl)

That is brilliant Carl! Very succinct, and focused on success. I like it.

“Website that converts” (Nathan)

Great answer.

Wow! You guys are really smart!

“The most important thing about web design: creating an efficient and engaging user experience linking what your target audience wants (not needs) and what you have to offer.” (Norm)

Yes, another really good answer Norm.

“I’ve been studying Ben for at least six years and I’ve learned so much from him–the most important web design idea being that web design is direct marketing; designers sell and their designs can be measured and managed just like other direct marketing campaigns.” (Jason)

A good description of the challenge, Jason, but doesn’t really help us zoom in on the correct approach. But I love that you mentioned measurability!

Shortlist

Here’s my shortlist of the 7 best responses:

“Most important thing in website design is that to create web pages that let both VISITOR and WEBSITE OWNER get what they want (Information, Money, Service etc.).” (Vishawjeet)

Can a website be truly successful without giving both visitors and owner what they really want? No.

“Create an environment which encourages visitors to perform a measurable action.” (Munsterweb)

True, but it’s more than measurable action. It needs to be the right action. I need to be picky now.

“The most important thing in good web design is…..wait for it, wait for it….. the design needs to help solve a business or organisational or procedural problem and be linked very closely to the overall business/organisational plan. I am now a stat!” (Dave H)

Yes to solving a problem, but how? Vishawjeet’s answer is still the most comprehensive.

“The most important factors in web design come down to 2 things: 1) Getting the RIGHT kind of visitors to your website (i.e. not just any kind of traffic, but people that are actually likely to buy from you) and 2) converting them into customers (through having a strong, irresistible offer that motivates them to take action).” (Timothy H)

I can’t disagree with this response (although I really did ask for one thing). It is a perfect answer though.

“Great website design converts visitors into ? (substitute your website goals here).” (Steven L)

Yes, we want conversions, and I like that this response leaves the ultimate goal optional. A great response!

“The most important thing in good web design: it’s about ensuring the transaction the client wants takes place – a click, a phone call, a purchase and *everything* most be focussed on that.” (Kevin L)

I can’t disagree Kevin!

The Result

1-awardI really can’t fault Vishawjeet’s or Timothy’s responses, so I’m going to award the bonus package to both of them.

And I’ll give the other shortlisted runners-up free access to my “Ultimate Web Design” course, which is all about getting to the core of this vital question. Thanks guys.

Huge thank you to everyone who took part! I hope it was as interesting and fun for you as it has been for me.

If you really want to know how to make more money with web design – for your own sites or for your clients – I believe Ultimate Web Design is THE BEST RESOURCE you can get!

(Anyway, if you try it, apply it, and don’t make more than your money back, I’ll refund your payment so there’s nothing to lose!)

About the author

Ben Hunt

Ben is the creator of Web Design From Scratch. He started writing articles about web design to kill time on a long train commute, and is now one of the most influential figures on the subject of effective web design. He has written three books and spoken at multiple conferences internationally.

deborah long - 10 months ago

Hello

The discount you offered (minus $200) is this payment of $97 for full life time access to you videos or just for one month?

Would I have to pay again?

Deborah

    Ben Hunt - 10 months ago

    Hi Deborah. You get lifetime access.

Timothy Brennan Junior - 10 months ago

Ben,
Thanks for the discount. How do I go about applying it?
Tim

    Ben Hunt - 10 months ago

    Hi Tim. Just go ahead and order. You don’t need a code. I’ll put it back up to full price in a few days.

Ian - 10 months ago

Clearly, I’m not in it for the competition win here, but I reckon I can trump all of these! (arrogant, I know…).

There *is* one thing you cannot take away from a website, without it failing (or at least, not performing well as a business asset).

“Consistently authored content that confirms/identifies their problem/issue/desire and delivers a trustable solution/alternative/purchase”

* Targeting: good, not necessary. Sift enough dross, you’ll find gold – and traffic stress is cheap to overcome.

* Mutual satisfaction: irrelevant. If the potential customer gets what they want, so does the owner. This is just 2 perspectives on a single situation.

* Encouraging action: too soft! You want results? Identify with the problem and provide a solution! Most people hit Google for one reason: to find a solution. New shoes, how to do that jQuery thing, losing weight, whatever. Most activity is searching for an answer or solution. So provide it.

When you combine the above with the idea that 50% of people don’t make it past the first google result, well, you’ve got your “critical” answer: content – it’s SEO, it’s communication and most importantly: it’s delivery of the solution to their problem.

Break it down!

1. If it’s not consistently authored, SEO rankings are sketchy and you’re short on potentials. NOTE: I’m saying “authored” – not copied, stitched together, aggregated etc. Write the stuff you lazy asses!

2. If it doesn’t identify with the problem, chances of search matching are much slimmer. Plus you lose rapport immediately.

3. If it doesn’t provide a/the solution, you’ve wasted their time AND failed to make a sale/conversion AND cranked up your bounce rate (which is back to SEO).

Take away any of the parts and you fail on 3 fronts: SEO/potentials arriving -> rapport/trust/confidence -> acquisition of solution/conversion.

    Ben Hunt - 10 months ago

    Interesting response Ian, thanks. I’m in agreement.

    In “Ultimate Web Design” I absolutely push the importance that a webpage has to promise to solve your problem.

    I do think that identifying with the problem has to go hand in hand with segmentation of your market, though. In many ways, a market is identified by its problem!

Ian - 10 months ago

Couldn’t agree more, but to flip it on its head: I’d argue that the problem DEFINES the market(s), rather than your market(segment) being classified by its problem(s). The problem is the top level characteristic, not the market!

For website purposes, I believe that a site should be an offer or promise of a solution to a specific set of problems/issues/desires.

This ties in with SEO. Problem+solution pairs are handled with (according to size/content): paragraphs, pages, categories/sections, domains/sites. Each focused on the problem & related searches. The problem drives the market.

The only trick then is segmenting the searches performed to ensure the right problem goes to the right solution. That’s the annoying part :)

The only thing I find that derives from the market is the colour scheme and the prose. And even the prose should be written to cover the personality types, in sequence.

    Ben Hunt - 10 months ago

    All good and wise points Ian. Have you red “Convert!“, where I present the multiplicity model and Awareness Ladder model to deal with the segmenting problem you describe?

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