Now I know that some web designers out there can’t wait to get to the comment section to “rip me a new one,” but please humor me and read through my reasoning here. I hope you will see this is a well thought out and valid argument worth your time. Then after reading you are more than welcome to “let me have it” in the comments.
We have all heard “Content is King” - so many times that we probably forget exactly what that means and why it is important.
Google and Craigslist as Examples
Simple isn’t always bad. Simple can be a very good thing. Take a look at two of the most popular sites on the web, Google and Craigslist. They are extremely simple without a whole lot of design work. It is the content that makes these sites so valuable. Granted Google’s content is a little different as their content is the value of their search results and Craigslist is all user generated content with the purpose of finding interested parties, but they accomplish their goals.
How about MySpace vs Facebook as another example? At one time MySpace was by far the largest and dominate Social Network on the Web. Fast forward to the present, and it has been taken over by Facebook. One of the big differences between the two sites is MySpace allows users to completely design their pages through custom CSS and templates. Facebook locks users into a pretty neutral theme. These loud, noisy, and sometimes obnoxious MySpace profiles have been buried to the corners of the internet and now Facebook stands supreme with its simple design. I’m sure some of you are already arguing, “Well yeah, some people should never be allowed to design a webpage” and I would agree, but that isn’t really the point I’m making here.
Expired Content is Worse than Worthless
Staying relevant is vitally important. Nothing is worse than visiting a site and seeing banners for events that happened last month still being promoted. A few years back I was going through a redesign process of an Art website, and the group wanted to have pretty flash banners along with elaborate images promoting all the upcoming events. When it was asked “Who is going to create these new graphics?” and more importantly “Who is going to decide and start announcing events early enough to have a designer create these graphics?” the answers were all, “I thought you were going to do that for us.” The greatest power of a CMS is that it allows “almost” anyone to edit a webpage without being an HTML expert. Unfortunately a good easy button for Photoshop experts has yet to be built.
Being able to quickly and accurately keep websites updated with relevant and important information is crucial. Imagine going to Weather.com to look at today’s weather and seeing yesterday’s forecast because it takes too long to create a rain cloud graphic for today or they haven’t gotten around to updating the weather in your location. A lot of good that’ll do you when you are soaking wet trying to get home from your adventure today.
Search Engines Don’t Care About Design
Yes that is right - go take a look at a lynx browser and you will see what your site looks like to a search engine. Not the prettiest thing out there, is it? Can you figure out what you are doing on this graphically challenged version of your site? If not, you might want to spend some time working on that.
Now am I saying that design doesn’t matter at all? Of course not! I’m simply saying that what your site consists of is more important than what it looks like. So next time you begin to talk about a redesign or creation of a new site spend more time focusing on what is the value adding content that will be placed on the site instead of what it looks like.
Photo Credit: Fan of Four Kings by incurable_hippie