The Importance of Web Design

A study by researchers at Carleton University in Ottawa show that first impressions count in website design. They showed that people form opinions about the look of your website in 1/20th of a second. The aesthetic of your design is thus an important factor in the success of your website and online business.

Given the importance of site design I wanted to spend a few posts talking about some aspects of web design and what makes for a good design. I’ll begin today with some general comments and move into more specific details over the next few posts.

By no means will the aesthetic of your site be the only factor in your site’s success of lack of success. It is one factor among many, but given the increasing competition for the internet dollar it only makes sense to have as much of a competitive advantage as you can.

The importance on aesthetics doesn’t mean to have a good site design you need to overdue it with the imagery or add fancy flash animation. In fact I’ll argue that other than for a few specific industries both will probably do more harm than good. What I think is important however is to ensure your site has a ‘professional’ look.

Professional vs. Amateur Web Design

A ‘professional’ design I don’t necessarily mean you need to pay a professional to design your site though as a web designer I do think it’s a good idea. Professional designers (the good ones anyway) have been trained or have trained themselves be able control very subtle parts of a design that will often have a rather large impact.

We’ve all seen examples of amateur designs that make you wonder who thought showing the site to the public was a good idea. These sites are often cluttered to the point that you can’t distinguish one element of the page from another. Some use colors in a way that causes pain to your eyes, or seem so jumbled that none of the elements on the page belong together.

For me a dead giveaway that a site was done by an amateur is when all of the text on the site centered. For whatever reason when most people first set of to design a site they think that having everything centered is the way to go. I’ll admit the first site or two I ever designed had a lot of centered text. Fortunately for me they were all done in a web design class and most of my classmates were doing the same thing.

My article Designing with C.R.A.P. (the title makes more sense after you’ve read the article I promise) discusses some basic and simple design principals can go a long way toward creating a more professional website design.

For me the best designs are those that keep out of your way and don’t draw attention to the design itself. Some of the best designs are those you’ll never notice because the design has allowed you to move right into the process of interacting with the site, finding what you want as quickly as possible and moving on to the rest of your life.

The point I started with and have hopefully maintained throughout is that design is very important in the success of a website. Again it’s not the only factor and there are many successful sites suffering from poor design. And while the cost of hiring a web professional to design your website might seem prohibitive at first it’s not nearly as great a cost as not having a quality design. Most of those poorly designed yet successful site spent a lot more to get that success than what it would have cost to get a good design.

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Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.


  1. Good post Steve. I gotta admit, I’m guilty of more than just a few of the offenses you mentioned. I too started with a lot of centered text, but it doesn’t take long before you realize that sometings just not right ;P

    Off to read C.R.A.P. next!


  2. I too am guilty of centering text. For me it’s a symmetry thing. It drives me insane when the page is not balanced, and sometimes centering the text is all that is needed to even out a design.

    Unfortunately my furniture is also arranged in the same fashion.

    • It’s not that centered text is automatically a bad thing. It communicates certain messages and if those messages fit with what you’re trying to say it makes sense. Wedding invitations for example are often centered and symmetrical balanced.

      Wanting to center everything seems common in new designers, but often there are better ways to deal with text. Symmetry has its place, but so does asymmetry.

  3. “For me the best designs are those that keep out of your way and don’t draw attention to the design itself.”

    This is one of the best advice that Ive read till now.

    I am new in web design,still learning. Your posts are great.Thank you.

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