We want beautiful photography and a bit of animation
We should show up #1 for our keywords on Google
Can you have it all?
Google has started to include site speed as a metric in search rankings. Google has made the determination that site speed is a key metric of page value. Certainly Google "walks the walk" - just look at the Google homepage, which has one of the quickest page loading times on the web. But, of course, the Google homepage is incredibly sparse. Can your site really be that sparse?
Micro-blogging service Tumblr has been seriously beating up on its smaller competitor Posterous. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry postulates on the Business Insider (part of Silicon Alley Insider) that the biggest reason has little to do with features or fundamental support, but rather is due to Tumblr's superior design.
"Meanwhile Posterous is typical of the Silicon Valley engineering mindset where everything is measured, ranked, weighted. It’s like Google. And having terrible design like Google is great if you have a technology edge. But if you’re in a market where what matters is design edge, that’s not enough. There needs to be great design, by which I don’t mean looks (though they’re important), but how it works for the end user."
Gobry also makes the point that "design focus" is more typical of New York-based companies than Silicon Valley-based companies, but I'll leave that argument to others. For me, the more important point he makes is that, "for consumer web apps today, design matters more than technology."
Michael Estrin quoted me extensively in an article for iMedia Connection entitled, "7 Vital Questions to Ask Your Web Designer". Estrin gets into significantly more depth, but the questions he examines include:
How would you solve our problems?
Who's doing the technical work?
What about content?
What about the users?
Who's in charge?
What if we fire you?
Should we use free code?
I wish Michael had written "open source code" rather than "free code", but really there is little to disagree with here.
Hat tip to Chris Keane for pointing out that sites heavy with AJAX technology lose page views as a result. So, any business that relies on advertising for revenue stands to lose a lot of money because page view numbers will inevitably decline.
Do designers need to be concerned about a tradeoff between usability and revenue? When the goals of a site owner are not aligned with the goals of the site visitors, that's bad news....
For starters, when you're designing your website and/or making your
marketing plan, you can no longer consider your site an entity unto
itself. You need to design for Google. You need to design for a world
where some users come in through the front door and some come in
through the side door, the back door, or even over the transom.
Next, you need to consider Google your friend, a friend who
regularly sends you a customer. You need to listen to your friend so
you can plan for your new customer's arrival.
Last, this type of planning must become a standard part of your marketing communications planning.
OK, so Hilton's new "Hilton Journey's" site is playful, highly branded, and cute. However, there is a lot wrong with it.
I have a high bandwidth connection. It took a LONG time to load. By long, I mean more than 30 seconds. I expect that on dial-up, but not on my cable modem.
Every new page I click on has the same loading time problem.
Even after the page was done loading, the interface was slow. It took a while for the action to develop.
After all this waiting, at least there should have been a nice payoff. Um, no. I finally got to something that implied that if I clicked on it I'd be able to learn more about the beds at Hilton. I was waiting for something innovative and impressive. All I got was two sentences of text and a small picture of a fairly generic-looking bed. Stock photography?
The navigation is nearly illegible. It's vertical, the contrast between the font and background is negligible, and the font is very small.
I don't see how this website helps Hilton achieve its goals. They really should be giving people either instant gratification, or a big payoff. In this case, the site visitor gets neither.
Given that the entire site is done in Flash, it's also possible that they won't get good search engine placement for this, unless they took some very specific steps to deal with that issue (I really don't know in this case.)
Jeremy Lockhorn at ClickZ wrote an article that resonated with me. He believes that there is a conflict between creativity on the one hand, and standards on the other. This is especially true online. Our industry has done countless studies showing what works and what does not work online. However, when every website starts working, behaving, and looking the same, how do you differentiate? How do you show that you're innovative?
This is something that Abstract Edge has managed to do pretty well throughout the years, but it can be a struggle. The right answer is to find a balance, and to look for ways to be creative within the constraints of knowing and understanding best practices.
that Web sites have three seconds to make an impression," said Jeff
Rosenblum, co-founder and research and strategy director of Questus.
"The actual usability is more important than aesthetics, but at the
same time aesthetics are critical."
site design is noted to be a more effective way of getting conversions
from online shoppers, according to Rosenblum. "Information overload is
a critical and consistent problem, and in this study we found that Web
users were more likely to say that a site had too many links as opposed
to too few links," he said.
Scott is the co-founder and managing partner at Abstract Edge, a creative digital agency that provides online marketing, brand-focused design and technology services to organizations with serious content publishing needs.