If features and content outweigh a poor design, you’ll still use a website and come back to it.
A classic example is NIB‘s online banking system. I use it all the time, but there’s one major problem. It doesn’t display correctly in firefox and you actually can’t login to your account unless you use IE, plus it looks pretty ugly. It’s annoying for me. Firefox is a better browser imo and many tech-savvy people use it, so why should we have to suffer if NIB’s tech department can’t keep up to date?
So that’s a design issue. But what i’m saying is, i overlook that because i NEED to use their content (in this case e-banking). So although it’s annoying for me and very dull design wise, i work around it.
On the other hand, a beautiful, classy design with not very unique or useful features will have me hovering over that ‘bookmark’ button and it almost forces me to push it. If a site looks good and can offer me some sort of useful service… i’ll bookmark it and use it. A perfect example for me, is JPEGr.com. I bought it purely for it’s looks and paid a little bit extra for that. It stood out from the rest and even though it wasn’t a particularly unique service, i was lured in by it’s seductive charm. The design sold it.
I ended up paying $500 because i was attracted to it. A similar site with the same functions, probably would have set me back $100 or less.
You can’t learn how to design nice sites, it comes naturally to the designer. You can’t manufacture that talent or bottle it and sell it. Therefore it is priceless. This is something i’ve learned through building BeerChief.
Very early on, we decided we needed to do the idea justice and have something we could really be proud of.
We’ve received literally hundreds of different entries for different contests, and the majority didn’t stand out, they didn’t hit me. I rarely got excited about a design or said to myself ; “That’s bloody fantastic!”. But once you do see a real stunning design, you know it. I knew the moment i saw our landing page, it wasn’t going to be beaten. In fact, if you look at the comments, i actually said as soon as i seen it, “i’d imagine it will be tough to top this“.
And that’s what a great design does. It owns the stage. It cannot be bettered. You know straight away it has style, class, something unique about it and that all important x factor. The most successful sites out there like google, myspace, msn, ebay, youtube etc.. don’t have particularly breathtaking designs, but that’s because they don’t need them to sell their service or product. They simply keep it simple to please everyone. That said, i can guarantee you they spend days debating over suttle changes to their design which you or I may not even notice.
But if you don’t have a particularly unique site, you NEED to be different and site design is an area where you can be different.