Creating a Website: Design vs. Performance


Creating a website can be a tug-of-war between heaven and hell when it comes to design vs performance.

Ask a website designer and a marketing expert if design is as important as performance is, and you’ll get two different answers. A website designer will say that design is more important than performance because if the website doesn’t “look well-designed”, then people will not interact with your website. On the other hand, if you ask a marketer (or web developer) the same question, then will say that if your website doesn’t perform, then no amount of “pretty styling” is going to keep your visitors on your website.

So which person is right?
They both are. (kind of)

To illustrate, would you rather have a website that looks pretty but doesn’t function? Or would you rather have a website that doesn’t look pretty but functions?
Here are the arguments:

A website that is well designed but lacks performance

If you have a website that is well-designed (or perhaps over-designed) and lacks performance such as speed, function, seo, and other essentials you could run into major issues. For example, if you are running an E-Commerce website and your customers cannot checkout, then you are losing money every minute of the day. You would stand no chance of surviving online and you could possible destroy your brand by letting your broken website represent the kind of work that your company does.

Even if you aren’t selling online, a lack of performance could destroy your web presence. A lack of SEO tactics could leave your website ranking negatively in search engines and could leave your website and marketing efforts in “ghost town”. If you have a slow website, your visitors will most likely become irritated and leave upon arriving. If your website lacks functionality of common components such as contact forms, calculators, navigation, or non-mobile compatibility, then you will definitely see your website traffic take a nosedive into the abyss.

Professional “Designers” will never see through these components, as they have been taught and trained to regard functionality as #2 in their list of to-dos. A designers main focus is “Design”. “If it looks pretty, that’s all that matters.”


A website that lacks design but has great performance

This is a website that is not pretty (by modern standards), but has great functionality in terms of website speed, seo, and common elements within the website that function exceptionally. A website developer will always tell you that function is always #1 and that design is left to be 2nd.

The reason this option is often chosen over the previous option is that your website can still bring you new customers, increase awareness, and keep your online visitors happy. Unlike a website that lacks performance, a half-designed website that runs like a steam-roller is going to always win over one that just “looks good”.

If you run an E-Commerce store and your website is outdated or old, it still functions. Customers can still purchase your items regardless of how old or outdated your site may be.

However, the argument can be made that if your website looks outdated that it will scare customers away from even trying to purchase an item. This may be true, but at least if they did make it to the checkout area, that they could still in fact, checkout.


Choosing between design and functionality

If I had to choose between the two, I would choose functionality. However, it is 2016, and there is no reason to have to completely go one way or the other. What you need to understand is which one should come first as a priority over the other.

When creating a website, there are always sacrifices that need to be made. Sometimes we sacrifice design for functionality, and sometimes we sacrifice functionality for design.

The trick to creating the perfect website is to know where to sacrifice and what to sacrifice. This will depend on the goals and motives of the client.

Coming from a person who is both a designer, a developer, and a marketer I would have to say that functionality should always be #1 and design should always come #2.

Creating a website that dominates search results and looks pretty takes research, work, and experience.

In order to create such a dominant website, you need to find the perfect blend of design and functionality that achieves the goals of the client, and without sacrificing the ability of that client to grow and sustain their customer or viewer base.


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