FUNCTION MEETS STYLE: DESIGNING A WEBSITE FROM SCRATCH

While interviewing multiple web design firms on behalf of a client who wanted to start from scratch with a new website – it became clear that there are two trains of thought about this critical centerpiece of a company’s brand and communications.

One philosophy was demonstrated most by the designers I met with; tell me what the content is and we’ll put together a website. They wanted to discuss colors and typefaces and the boxes on the home page. They had lots of suggestions for why I should pay them to handle SEO and very few questions about the client or his intent. This group also tended to hesitate when I said the client wanted to do his own updates, so the platform they chose needed to let him do that.

The second approach was the one that won me over; this designer asked me to tell him about my client, the company, how we wanted the web visitor to feel. This winner went on to talk about function first and design second. He was pleased to hear the client wanted to be able to do updates as that would mean the site would have fresh content and the client would be involved and hopefully very happy with the end result.

I asked the winning designer; John, to tell me more.

He went on to say that today’s new software templates have so many options for functionality that that is the logical place to begin a conversation about design. Do you want high energy or contemplative? Do you want the visitor to buy-buy-buy or feel? Maybe both? What about texture? ‘Texture’ I asked? He showed me backgrounds with visual texture and the myriad elements that would bring life to a site design.

Most importantly we discussed making the site compelling on a mobile devise as this was currently how 50% of the viewers would be accessing the site, and that number was only going to grow.

Wow if we could interject smell into all this we’d really have something. But then again, I think working with John and his transparent and stand-out approach to web design really is something. My client will be pleased, I am delighted and today I learned that a web designer has more new tools for creating a site than I ever imagined. Especially if those tools are in the hands of a designer who cannot only create and visualize, but thinks through the user experience too.

Update Jan 2012 – I updated the Bennett & Company website this month, and sincerely enjoyed the process. You are your website! Let me know what you think? How did we do?

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