Plain Vanilla Works Every Time


I’ve been saying it over and over: get back to basics when you design your website.

Sure, it’s interesting to have Flash and all the new bells and whistles and apps when you plan for a website but it’s not about you.

I often tell clients this. No offense but the website is not designed for YOU.

Clients usually are taken aback with this statement.

They’re mystified.

Yes, my job is to design your website so that your website meets your clients’ needs. This is a reminder that needs to be hammered into people’s heads.

Because your website is NOT your toy. Repeat after me, your website is NOT your toy.

This means it’s not for your entertainment. It’s not for you to enjoy.

It’s to help you communicate with your customers better.

This reminds me of 2 important things which I want to tell you about.

One is Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae, a new book that’s out now. If you know me, you know I am a big fan of Seth’s books. Seth is a brilliant marketer. He also speaks commonsense. He captures it perfectly by asking: is your marketing out of sync?

The title itself tells a story. Isn’t it gross to have sundae on top of meatballs? One is sweet, the other savoury. So both don’t gel. Not at all. If there’s only one thing you can take away from Seth’s book, it’s this: “understand that you don’t get to decide what the market demands. The market does.”

Do go and read the rest of Seth’s insightful stuff. You can also download some sample chapters. (Smart marketing. Like an appetiser, you’d want more after you read the first few chapters. That’s why smart bookstores let you read their unwrapped books because they KNOW you will buy the book, if not now, then later. Sooner or later.)

Besides Seth’s book (which I will probably buy), the other is of course Jakob Nielsen. This man speaks lots of commonsense, tempered with research results. In his latest finding, he says that Web2.0 can be dangerous.

Both Seth and Jakob are actually talking about the same thing if you read closely. They’re saying, use what you need. Not use the latest bling bling because it’s there and you need to look fashionable.

Sure, new bling bling can make you so ubercool. If you’ve been on Facebook, you can find a slew of new apps.

At first they’re exciting toys. But like all toys, their attractiveness fizzles out after a while. And we wait for the next app to come along and dazzle us for the next 5 minutes.

Web2.0, well, they’re not bad, says Nielsen, and I agree with that.

They just complicate matters with their complexity. And draw your customers away from what they’re there for.

The crux is: it’s best to stick to simple designs because simple designs work best. (Hear ye, hear ye). Which brings me to a conversation I had with a client recently – he asked why he couldn’t have flying objects on his website. Flying objects may be cute but they lose their appeal after the 2nd visit. And then what? What is the purpose of the objects that zoom about?

Everything has its function and place on a website. Items are not placed arbitrarily on a website, at least on websites which we design for clients. We don’t do something because it’s cute.

We ask ourselves: does this fulfill a function? Is it useful? Is it going to frustrate our client’s clients when they reach the website? If it is not going to do anything except look cute, why put it there?

Basically, go back to basics if you want to design a website which makes your clients happy. Happy means not confusing them. Happy means not making them search all over your website to find one phone number or one piece of information.

That’s what real web design is about.

Usability and accessibility.

And don’t make meatball sundaes either. 😉

To your regular sundae success,

UPDATE: Download and read Seth’s free PDF called MisMatch (Riffs on Meatball Sundae) from ChangeThis. Love this site. If you want thought-provokers, this site has “manifestos” you can read to your heart’s delight!

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