March 24, 2020

The Power of Investing in Design

Product design and web design are extremely important for the success of modern business. Thanks to modern business giants like Apple, Target, and Microsoft, which have heavily prioritized design, today’s consumers are more aware than ever of good design and thus more sensitive than ever to poor design.

Let’s start with the example of Apple - in an MIT Technology Review article about its famous design approach, Robert Brunner revealed that Apple used to send design team members to factories for weeks at a time to push their manufacturers to innovate new solutions. Brunner served as its director of industrial design from 1989 to early 1996. Today, Apple is the first trillion-dollar company in history and is still the poster boy of great design.

Moving on to Target - this retail giant announced in 2017 that it would spend $7 billion on improving its e-commerce and stores over the next three years and that a good chunk of that would go to sprucing up many of its stores. Now, it’s a common joke on the Internet, especially in the world of Twitter memes, that once you walk into a Target store, you're destined to walk out with a full basket even if you came in to buy just one thing.

As for tech giant Microsoft, it has also had a long history of paying very close attention to product design, pioneering the ethos of responsive web design that is very common today. It was born with Microsoft Encarta 95 and MSN 2.0, nurtured with Windows Media Center and Zune, and came into full bloom in the sleek minimalism of the Windows Phone OS, the Xbox 360 dashboard, and the Windows 8 OS. Microsoft has managed to repeatedly reimagine themselves with more involvement in design by ensuring they always prioritize it in their product development process. 

Design can either make or break your business and the most successful multinational companies in the world clearly know this. This is why it is important for web development agencies to clearly convey the message of making design a top priority to the companies they work with. Below are the top five reasons why agencies need to translate the value of design to key decision-makers in the company.

1. First impressions matter

Just like first impressions are very important when it comes to first dates, the same goes for websites. Today’s consumers encounter hundreds of brands, products, and websites, all competing for their attention. When people first encounter a website a number of questions go through their minds:

  • Who is the brand behind this website?
  • Are they a credible and trustworthy brand?
  • Do they really know what they are doing?
  • Why should I spend more time on this website?
  • Will I be able to get what I want/need here?

The amazing thing is that our brains give us the answers to all these questions within a split second. A Missouri University of Science and Technology study used eye-tracking to determine that website visitors needed a mere 180 milliseconds to form a first impression. Three studies found that people need an even shorter time – just 50 milliseconds. Another study by Google found that it can even drop to as low as 17 milliseconds. People don’t need a lot of time to decide how they feel about a website.

The person viewing the website forms an opinion about it within the blink of an eye so influencing that opinion with great design is a very worthy investment of both time and money. A clean, easy-to-use and functional web design gives the viewer the impression that this is a website worth trusting and further engaging with because it subconsciously assures them that the brand behind it takes them seriously.

2. Beauty is always the final deciding factor

Human beings have an attractiveness bias; we tend to perceive beautiful things as being and functioning better, whether or not they do so in an actual sense. We love to judge books by their covers - this is why we will try a new brand of shampoo that has a cute bottle and are even willing to spend a little extra for it.

When all other factors such as price, benefits, and functions are identical (as is often the case in most product and services categories), we usually prefer to choose the more aesthetically pleasing option. This is where great, sleek design comes in very handy to set any company apart from its competition.

Adobe’s 2015 State of Content report highlighted that given just 15 minutes to consume content, 66 percent would prefer to view something beautifully designed rather than something simple and plain and that 38 percent of people will stop engaging with a website if the content/layout is unattractive. 

3. Good design is the key to standing out

Marketing studies show that the average American is exposed to around 5,000 advertisements and brands per day and yet out of that flood of branding, only 12 are able to leave a lasting impression. What does it take for a business to be among these lucky dozen? You guessed it - beautiful design.

Beautiful design helps a business stand out from the crowd and makes its brand memorable. For example, color is an important design element and has been found to be a very influential factor in what we remember and how vividly we remember it. A study by The Malaysian Journal of Medical Science found that colors can lead to better memory performance and that “…color has the potential to increase chances of environmental stimuli to be encoded, stored, and retrieved successfully.”

4. Design improves the digital customer experience

As tech products become more complex and powerful, UX design has become more important than ever. Everything from application interfaces to data/content display to digital advertisements has to be optimized for better customer experience. Strong web design elements are the key to keeping any software product easy and fun to use for the layman user no matter how complex the back-end may be.

A company that has excelled at this is a homestay booking platform, Airbnb. Despite the fact that this digital marketplace is a complicated software product built with several programming languages, frameworks, and technologies to ensure its stays stable, scalable and secure all the time, Airbnb’s UX design team delivers a delightful user experience. It shows in everything from the page transitions to the icon animations to the payment messages. “Design is taken very seriously here,” says Alex Schleifer, Head of design. “It’s on the same level as product management or marketing.”

Digital innovation is not simply about making more powerful software but also making sure that it is very easy to use for regular users who are not that technical. After all, it is through their consistent use of the software that the technical professionals are able to find new opportunities for innovation.

5. Design pays off… big time!

In 2005, The Design Council studied 63 portfolios of companies that traded on the FTSE (Financial Times Stock Exchange) over the course of a decade. They discovered that companies that emphasized design did way better than the ones that didn’t and even managed to outperform the FTSE 100 index by 200 percent. The study also found that every $100 a business spends on design increases turnover by $225.

Therefore, contrary to the misconception that design does not directly translate into revenue, investing in design results in a much higher conversion rate and increased revenue. It may cost a bit in the short term but not far down the road, design is bound to pay off and agencies should highlight this to clients.

Furthermore, design greatly helps with innovation. A study by The Design Council found that design-alert businesses are “twice as likely to have developed new products or services…” This means that businesses that pay attention to design are far more likely to discover new revenue streams and unique opportunities to pivot into new markets. This is very important in today’s fast-changing business world.

In conclusion

A website is a functional piece of any company’s branding strategy in this digital age but it’s important to keep in mind that outstanding web design is what separates really successful companies from the rest when it comes to reeling in new clients, building credibility, and converting leads. Great web design is the key to building the all-important trust that you need visitors to develop in order to start buying your products.

Overcrowded layouts, lack of navigation architecture, boring designs, pop-up ads, lack of beautiful images/videos, tiny fonts, and slow-loading pages are some of the common mistakes every company and web design agency should be looking to avoid. On the other hand, some of the key elements web development agencies should always make sure to incorporate into their clients’ web design include clear navigation, responsive design, style guide, reusable components design system, value-oriented designs, good copy, page speed, brand consistency, SEO best practices and clear calls-to-action (CTAs).

Despite how important and beneficial it is, website design is very easy to overlook seemingly more important business tasks, especially in small and medium-sized companies. This is why every web development agency should make sure that the key decision-makers in the companies they work with thoroughly understand the above reasons and have a deep appreciation of the power of great design.

By 
Leo Zakour