Web Aesthetics & Functionality | Striking The Balance

The Debate. What?

Nowadays, a lot of people around the globe seem to be mesmerized with the idea of looking good online. In spite of our love or hatred of it, image-driven social media platforms such as Instagram are thriving, particularly among the young, with celebrities, ‘influencers’, and other regular Joes spending countless hours crafting carefully curated feeds reflecting the latest trends.

However, when it comes to the design of our website, do the same ‘aesthetics first’ rules apply, or do users tend to care more about what’s under the surface?

Function versus form has been debated for decades, but perhaps its time we dive into the debate with a thorough breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches before coming to our own conclusions about the role of aesthetics and functionality in design.

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The Gorgeous Web. Why?

1.
Inspire Immediate Interest

There are hundreds of websites competing for the same customers, so it’s imperative that our website draw immediately attention. Research shows that it only takes 50 milliseconds (ms) for visitors to our site to form an opinion about our website and decide whether to stay or leave. During that time, all they have to go by is the look of our site. Let’s therefore not underestimate the value of impactful high-resolution imagery and layout that evoke an emotional reaction in our visitors and keep them on our sites longer.

2.
Establish Brand Presence

When it comes to web presence, every brand should be a creative brand. Our website serves as the perfect platform for showcasing our abilities. It is our playground where we can experiment with features specific to our site and give users a sense of what we can do. If we are players in the services industry, our website acts as the first proof of capability. I often ask myself the question – If their website looks this unprofessional & uninspiring, what will their deliverables look like.

3.
Wow That Audience

It’s true that having a website that is easy to use will be of value to our customers, but it won’t differentiate us from the competition. We’ll have to draw attention to other aspects of our branding and marketing mix to make our business successful. It’s important to don’t just blend in. Creating a gorgeous website can secure our relevance in the industry and create an online presence that sticks in the mind for the right reasons.

4.
Build Rapport

We all like to define ourselves by our sense of style, our hobbies and our interests, so a visually appealing website can help you build relationships with your customers. If visitors see something they like and relate to on your website, you’re one step closer to a sale.

5.
Evoke Emotion

The phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ is true, particularly when browsing the Internet. When surfing online, we don’t want to read lengthy texts. Instead, we want to make snap decisions based on what we see right away. It’s at this point where a visually striking site really shines. By using visual elements, our site can convey complex emotions such as joy, happiness, sadness and even pity almost immediately, which can completely stop a user in their tracks.

The Functional Web. Why?

1.
It’s All About Conversion

A web page designed to convert well must be simple to the user’s eye. Having cleverly placed design elements makes it easier to make the user’s eye focus on the most important area of the page, which is ultimately our call-to-action.

2.
Intuitive Navigation

It is important that our website has great navigation so that users are guided seamlessly from entry to conversion, making the process of finding the information they desire as smooth, easy, and quick as possible.

3.
Optimize Load Time & Speed

Website load speeds are key to the user experience. If our site takes longer than five seconds to load, 20 percent of viewers have already left. Faster sites tend to rank higher in search engines as well. By managing the number and size of graphics, images and elaborate layouts, you can get your website seen more quickly. It’s a great idea to use a CDN for serving images.

4.
Mobile Design Up Front

In the age of mobile devices, it is crucial that your website looks as good on a smartphone as it does on a desktop. Complex visual designs cannot always translate well to smaller screens, while a simple design will.

5.
Easy To Update

The ease of making updates to your website as you add content and start new promotions is essential to your business. Functional websites can help you accomplish this, reducing friction and simplifying your life.

The Bottom line. Let’s Shine!

Designing a website with a pleasing visual appeal will help us achieve our goal of building relationships with our customers and set us apart from our competition. However, a great website is only as good as its functional foundation.

The advantage of functional websites over visually stunning ones lies in the fact that they offer certain benefits that more complex, visually striking sites don’t necessarily provide. If our priority is to make our website easily accessible, usable, and findable, then we should constantly focus on striking a fine balance between aesthetical and functional design.

MAGNA RAUTENBACH

Let’s Get Creative!

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Magna Rautenbach
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