You could have a Kumbaya fest wrecked pretty quickly when the talk turns to website design. On the one hand you have the folks that insist the design and overall layout be ‘sexy’ or have some pizazz, sometimes to the point of distraction or vacuousness. On the other hand you have that serious crowd that offers up a strictly functional design and layout in order to get their clients and prospective clients in, through, and off the site with ease.
I am in the middle. The way I look at it is, you want to attract warm-leads and weed out the tire-kickers. A) you invested in this ’employee’ and continue to work it in order to provide goods/services (and a supporting infrastructure) that your online visitors expect, and b) you have resources and tooling set up efficiently and you can’t be bogged down in cold leads and research or appeasement, or worse, continual explanations.
You want your site to be clear and to attract and retain visitors that you want as clients. You build for your market – for example, a prospective client from long ago wanted a site overhaul to include focused and working organic SEO and a better travel path through the site for visitors. This meant realigning titles, menu links, paths, etc. I made them just that and the look and layout was determined by their market and client: tech to small business and home users. Clean, fast, K.I.S.S., functional…they said: not sexy enough, needs more ‘flash’. I asked them why they though it needed more flash and they said people expect to see fancy and sexy on web sites, especially because they are fleeting and hard to please with short attention spans.
I agreed, to a point. Then I reminded that people weren’t the target, clients were. In developing their new site I spoke to their market, to their clients and prospective clients. They disagreed and they did not want the site without adding a certain ‘loudness’ to it. They loved everything else and we were poised to work-the-hell out of it with supporting marketing but I had to make design changes that I thought would undermine the focus, the push. In the end, it was their site and I hired someone to add ‘some’ of what they wanted and the whole project turned out great and they were happy clients.
I no longer work with them, however, because of opposing ideologies. From what I understand, the site performs well, esp the SEO, but visitors don’t stick around and some feedback indicated a sort of ‘garishness’ that turned them off.
I guess the moral is, if you’re just throwing sex-appeal around with your website, then those prospective clients that you attract will be as fleeting and demanding as a modelling contract. If you design appealing and functional for your market it’s a win-win for everyone and your prospective clients will most likely be more amenable to thinking about doing business with you, and will certainly require less care.