As a designer, I look at a lot of websites each month; websites across all industries, all styles, simple ones, complex ones, and of course, stunningly beautiful award-winning websites.
Much like everyone else, I enjoy admiring beautiful things; be it a sleek website, a serene painting or a thought-provoking sculpture. But what separates websites from pure art is that websites often, if not always, have a commercial intent behind them. Put bluntly, art’s goal is to evoke emotional and cognitive responses, whereas websites are there to advance business goals.
This is an important distinction to understand. When I’m assessing websites, I don’t base a website’s worth on my own emotional response to the website, but on the data uncovered from under the hood that tells me how well the website is performing for the business.
Some of the questions that go through my head when auditing websites are:
• Will the website be found by the target market and how exactly will they find it?
• Will the visitors be engaged and how will the metrics reflect this?
• Will the website increase conversions and what constitutes a conversion to the business?
• Does the website have a clear business purpose in the first place?
The problem with award-winning websites
Every minute, thousands of websites go live on the World Wide Web. Information management would be a nightmare if we didn’t have these clever search engines, like Google, that turned the indexation of online content into their business and made our lives so much easier in the process.
All of us have used Google at some point or another and surely appreciate how fast it gives access to the information we’re looking for. But why are we making it so hard for Google to discover and decipher our own prized websites?
In our audits we keep coming across websites that are visually stunning, but that have absolutely no thought put into the commercial intent of the website, not to mention ensuring that the website is friendly towards search engines, in effect, discoverable and readable. This essentially means that the website serves no purpose and the money and time spent on it is wasted.
From a business point-of-view, in the online environment a beautiful website is simply not enough and we should stop the proliferation of awarding websites that concentrate purely on the aesthetics. If it’s not discoverable by search engines, no matter how sleek, it doesn’t fulfil its core purpose and is therefore a failure, not a winner.