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You may have noticed that in certain business and marketing circles there exists a “backlash” against the design community. Despite the rise of attractive, user-friendly solutions, in such circles unattractive designs have somehow managed to remain at the verge of acceptance. You’ll hear ideas being thrown around like “design is a waste of time — we have a really ugly site that outsells our competitors 3 to 1” or “we are not worried about the design, we’ll outsource it or use a free WordPress theme, let us focus more on the product”.
You can almost sense a little bit of pride in how ugly their web-site is, or that they are treating design as a commodity. However off base these types of thoughts might be, there is clearly a lack of respect for designers in the business community at times. I’d like to address how you can shatter this barrier and talk to business folk in a language they understand.
This article provides you with five guidelines you can use as a designer to “speak business” — even if it’s just to get your foot in the door or land a big project.
1. Pretty doesn’t mean effective: statistics are your friend! Link
Designers like to show off portfolios. It can look stunning, but business people like to see numbers. What was the conversion rate on that opt-in? What was the bounce rate and average time on site? What was the most clicked on link from the home page?
To a business person, “beautiful” or “visually stunning” are just a first step. They only really matter if “beautiful” or “visually stunning” turns into more sales. Probably the worst offender here is the classic “all flash” site that is gorgeous and completely impossible to use or update. Everything has a cost/benefits trade off, and that includes design.
Compare these two sites for a moment. The first is from 2Advanced Studios1 and includes some fancy animation.
The second is from Perry Marshall, who sells a book on Google Adwords.
Despite being uglier, we can probably agree that Perry’s site is significantly better at getting new customers. It may not be better in other areas, but it all depends on what the goal of the site is. Speaking of which…
2. Every design should have a measurable goal Link
Saying that the goal is to “build the brand of XYZ” or “create an online presence” is meaningless to a business-minded person. A goal is only a goal if it is measurable.
What are some good examples of a measurable goal? Generating leads, making sales, a number of phone calls, opt-ins, subscribers, incoming links, PageRank, etc. Instead of trying to convince them that “attractive visual design of this sign-up form would attract more visitors” present them real numbers such as “in the past this design solution effectively increased the conversion rates by 35%”.