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Design Matters: To drive results, consider the effectiveness of design.

Guest blogger: Eileen Burick from Burick Communications Design.

On occasion, I invite guest bloggers to share a subject they have expertise in.  Eileen Burick and her husband Bob are the dynamic duo for high-end visual communications, print and web, and I value  their insight and expertise.  We spoke about the shift away from good original design focus to templates and what it means.  Here is her blog on the subject to help the CMO’s and Marketing Directors across the country bring focus in this area with their agencies and teams.

Design Matters

While there is understandably much focus on Search Engine Optimization, when a web viewer is delivered from a link they’ve found on organic, paid or linked search to their desired destination — even if the content is high quality — and the resulting web site’s visual presentation is average, cluttered or unprofessionally executed and the viewer has to work too hard to find the information they are searching for, the page view has a high likely hood of being quickly abandoned.

Research confirms that users make aesthetic decisions about the overall visual impression of web pages in as little as 50 milliseconds (1/20th of a second).* If the look and feel of a site doesn’t deliver on the brand promise, conversions are lost. SEO functions like the yellow pages which may get a viewer to the landing page but if expectations are unmet because of poor visual impact, the SEO effort loses its effectiveness.
If image is important then SEO alone is not enough to propel sales. Employing a basket of visually distinctive technologies and tactics with multiple touch-points and telling a relevant “story” as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy, will over the long-term prove most effective.
There is so much competition among Web sites that in order to truly “stand out from the crowd” it is critical that all three components — search optimization, quality content and effective, aesthetically pleasing visual impact — be addressed and developed with maximum care.

User Interface (UI) Designer, Hitesh Puri writes that “Attractive things work better.” The visual aesthetics that frame and define content are much more than simply a “skin” that we can apply or discard without consequence. Users react in fast, profound, and lasting ways to the aesthetics of what they see and use, and research shows that the sophisticated visual content presentation influences user perceptions of usability, trust, and confidence in the web content they view. Those user judgments begin within 50 milliseconds of seeing the first page of your site.

Smart graphic design is always some balance of current expressive trends, information architecture, classical layout aesthetics, and detailed research on user preferences and motivations. You should never ignore solid user experience data, but mountains of data won’t auto-magically build you a successful site. Design is a synthetic activity. It can be informed by the results of analysis, but the tools of analysis don’t create beautiful designs. Douglas Bowman’s recent experience as a graphic designer among Google’s engineers who want “data” behind every aesthetic decision is instructive: data and user feedback are always important components of good design, but they are never its sole ingredients.”

The Stanford Web Credibility Project (http://credibility.stanford.edu/) found that “…nearly half of all consumers (or 46.1%) in the study assessed the credibility of sites based in part on the appeal of the overall visual design of a site, including layout, typography, font size and color schemes.

Participants seemed to make their credibility-based decisions about the people or organization behind the site based upon the site’s overall visual appeal.”

As search commoditizes its results the way to differentiate a company or a brand is through design. When there are so many template, “me-too” sites competing for attention, defining a unique ambiance and “voice” is critical to conversion.

Dr. Ralph F. Wilson describes it this way: “Ambience is defined as “a feeling or mood associated with a particular place, person, or thing. Atmosphere. Web developers call it ‘look-and-feel.’ Though it’s hard to define, you know it when you see it. In a website, ambience is produced by a pleasing combination of logo, style, layout, typography, white space, color, types of photos used, and the “voice” of the copy. All these and more define the business’s “brand.”

You can learn a great deal about a business in the first five seconds that you’re on its site. Is it older and conservative, or young and edgy? Is it “all business” or is there fun peeking around the corner? Is it rather pompous and self-possessed, or does it seem care about the customer? At first glance, does it look like it can meet your need, or not? Is it bland and faceless, or does it have personality?

I hope that you now understand the difference between a standard template business site and a custom approach that communicates your business personality in a memorable way. While you can communicate your unique voice in a bland site, you won’t be visually memorable.”

So, to be memorable and to drive results, consider the relevance and effectiveness of design.
Tiny URL:  http://tinyurl.com/ybxaxw6

http://hiteshpuri.blogspot.com/2009/11/visual-decision-making.html?widgetType=BlogArchive&widgetId=BlogArchive1&action=toggle&dir=open&toggle=MONTHLY-1254335400000&toggleopen=MONTHLY-1257013800000

Eileen Burick, President, Burick Communication Design
eileen@burick.com  602-866-3305 
Please visit  http://www.burick.com/briefcase_henkel/
HIGH-END MARKETING COLLATERAL MATERIALS  |  VISUALLY DISTINCTIVE DESIGN FOR THE WEB

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