How to gain customers (and revenue!) with good design

So, you’ve got your business set up. Your product is excellent and you have an amazing team. You’re even starting to get some leads. You’ve done all this work — but what about design? Is design more than just a pretty and #aesthetic website? Should you bother investing in good design when you’ve already got a simple and functional layout? Could you be making even more money with a better-designed website?

Short answer: yes. Long answer: also yes.

In this post, we’ll go over what “bad design” is and what it looks like, all the ways bad design will hurt your business, and how to avoid bad design.

How bad design costs you

So, why exactly does bad design hurt your bottom line? In a nutshell, bad design can drive customers away from you and into the arms of your competitors. You won’t have the chance to even make a sales pitch; you’ve already lost your leads because they couldn’t figure out how to start or be bothered to continue a free trial. Let’s delve into this a little deeper…

1. Bad design misrepresents you

Your product might be stellar and unique and exactly what your leads need, but they won’t see that if the design is poorly done. They’ll just see a bad website, an unprofessional (and possibly unreliable) team, and decide against you. Even if your design isn’t totally hideous, it still needs to accurately represent your product and what you do best. Don’t overlook this step — transparency is key to good design.

Pro-tip: Put your strengths front and center, and be transparent about what you don’t do. Learn more about why transparency sells here.

2. Say goodbye to SEO

Your website’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ranking is the likelihood that your website will show up when someone is Googling a search term. SEO is the magic key to being discovered — and you always want to be on page 1 of the results. (Not only do the vast majority of people not browse past the first page of their Google search results, but the click-through rate is also dramatically lower on the second page.)

Basically, search engines like Google use algorithms to determine a website’s credibility and where it should rank. For example, a website that is responsive to mobile viewing is going to have better SEO. When designing a website, you should be thinking about design features that will make those little Google-bots happy and rank you higher. Trust us, getting on the first page of Google is a huge milestone and will help your business.

3. Bad design doesn’t stand out

Again, having a decent-looking website or packaging is one thing, but does it look like all the others? Do you blend in with the crowd — aka. your competitors? You could argue that branding and design are huge reasons why Apple can charge a premium for its products when there are plenty of very good competing products out there whose only fault is that they don’t stand out.

Now, let’s look at common design mistakes to avoid.

Examples of bad design

Basically, bad design is anything that detracts from your customers’ experience and costs your customers (and sales). Here’s a list of design mistakes that will chase customers away and mess with your business:

Slow website: If your website is taking forever to load, customers will leave. It’s the digital age — we’ve got a short attention span and want to get things done and fast. In fact, the average consumer expects a website to load in two seconds. If your website loads too slowly, customers will likely get impatient and leave. Design absolutely plays a role here and can impact speed in a couple of ways.

Pro-tip: If you have too many videos, or are using massive image files instead of compressing them, your website will probably grind to a halt. Other ways to design for speed include using a hamburger menu instead of a full-on navigation bar and using only one font. (And remember, “minimalistic” doesn’t always mean “boring!”)

Websites that don’t work on different platforms: Have you ever tried to go on a website on your phone, only to discover that it’s not optimized for mobile browsing? It’s annoying and makes you want to close the page — which means you probably won’t give them your business. These days, people tend to use their mobile devices more than their computers. Make sure your website is designed to look good whether someone is looking at it on a computer, tablet, or cell phone.

Clutter: Marie Kondo said it best: clutter decidedly does not spark joy. A cluttered website has too many bells and whistles — autoplay videos, animations, flashy ads, background music… for most potential customers, those are gimmicky headaches that slow down the site (and may even annoy them). Not only that, but these quirks are also difficult to get right on mobile devices.

Fluff: In the same vein as visual and audio clutter, you don’t want your website to be too text-heavy. People tend to skip overly-long paragraphs, and in fact, research from the Nielsen Norman Group states that 79% of people scan when reading online; only 16% read word-by-word. Good design helps make the words on your site (aka. the copy) more scannable — which means it’s more likely to be read. Fluff can take the form of both bad design as well as bad writing, and you should definitely hire a good copywriter! But that’s an article for another day…

Confusing navigation: Having a functional navigation system isn’t as simple as it looks. A poorly designed navigation menu on your site leaves customers frustrated and not knowing how to get where they want to go. If your website or app isn’t intuitive, you might force your customers to use the search function (hopefully it exists) or worse, be so confused that they have doubts about your company and product — and head over to your competitor’s website.

It’s not just about the website: So far we’ve been talking about design issues specific to websites. But these concepts also apply to your other branding assets. These include any touchpoints where your customers and prospects see your brand; everyone is an opportunity to make or break a potential sale, and they should present a cohesive brand story. Research from Lucidpress says that by presenting their brand stories consistently, companies can increase their revenue on average by 33%.

For example, if you have a super modern look on your packaging, you probably shouldn’t have old-school fonts and traditional-looking business cards. Branding assets can be ads (digital or print), emails, social media posts, packaging, and more. Effective design is crucial for each one — eliminate the visual clutter and fluffy language, and make sure your overall message is clear.

Bad design isn’t just about being ugly. It directly impacts how your customers and prospects interact with your brand and hurts your bottom line. Remember, this list isn’t exhaustive — these are just some of the biggest and most common mistakes we see when we’re called in to fix bad design.

Now that we have a good idea of what bad design is, let’s move on and talk about how to make sure you’re getting good design.

How to make sure you’re getting good design work

Contrary to popular belief, you can get functional, gorgeous designs, even if you don’t have a background in design or an in-house designer on your team — it’ll just take some time, research, and experimenting. (For example, you could become a self-taught designer and use tools like Squarespace, Webflow, and Wix.)

Or, you can do what’s easier — and more efficient: hire a designer. This way, you can take advantage of a specialist’s expertise and be able to focus on what you’re good at — like building your business. Either hire designers to work in-house as part of your team, or get in touch with a good design agency.

So how do you pick someone to trust with your website?

  • Make sure their website is a testament to their skills.
  • Read reviews, get a feel for their values and vision.
  • Look at their portfolio and list of clients.

And don’t forget to listen to your intuition. We’ve spent this whole article talking about all the ways customers can be scared off, but when you’re shopping for designers, you’re the customer and you have to be confident in who you choose to give your business to.

Web Design by The Digital Panda

Let’s recap what we covered:

  • Bad design is anything that will make customers (and potential customers) flee your website and not come back.
  • Bad design is expensive. It costs you money, customers, and time.
  • Invest in good design by upping your design chops or partner with a design agency — you’ll be rewarded for it. In fact, according to Adobe’s State of Create 2016 report, almost 60% of respondents would do business with a company over one of its competitors based on good design.

So, how much more could you be adding to your bottom line with better design?

Our team here at The Digital Panda knows all about good design. If you’re looking to hire designers to create beautiful, compelling, and functional websites, you're in the right place!

Some more good reads

Rhythm in design: Why and how to leverage it

Why you need stakeholder buy-in (and how to get it)

Interface design & rhythm: Basics of composition in design

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