As we enter into a new golden age of design, good design has never been more important to the success of a business. Consumer awareness of good design is at an all-time high, thanks to companies like Apple, Target, and Starbucks, who make design a top priority.
The most successful companies know there are compelling reasons to prioritize design to improve the odds of success. Good design creates meaningful first impressions, helps you differentiate yourself from your competitors, can solve problems, and boosts brand awareness and the bottom line.
Why should your startup or small business invest in quality design? Let us count the ways…
First impressions matter
People have a very short attention span. In fact, according to a Princeton University study, snap judgments count. The study found after seeing a face for only 1/10th of a second people formed opinions about that person. Judgments were made on attractiveness, likeability, and trustworthiness, and prolonged exposure to that face just reinforced the initial impression.
The same goes for websites. Three studies found that a mere 50 milliseconds were all people needed to form an opinion about a website. Google performed similar testing and found an even slimmer margin: a speedy 17 to 50 milliseconds were all people needed to decide how they felt about a website.
The results show that both visual complexity and prototypicality play crucial roles in the process of forming an aesthetic judgment. It happens within incredibly short time frames between 17 and 50 milliseconds. By comparison, the average blink of an eye takes 100 to 400 milliseconds.
When people first encounter a website or marketing campaign a number of questions go through their minds:
- Who is this?
- Is it trustworthy?
- Is it credible?
- Is it professional?
- Am I in the right place?
- Does this have what I want?
Think about what kind of first impression you want your customers to have. If you want to appear reliable and trustworthy, make sure your website design is cleanly laid out and uncluttered. Want to seem fun and exciting? Look into bold color choices and use imagery that has energy. Informative and useful? Put content up front and make it easy for people to navigate and find.
Effective design can go a long way in making sure your customers’ first impression is a good one.
Attractive design helps you stand out
Marketing studies show that the average American is exposed to around 5,000 advertisements and brands per day. Out of that veritable flood, they found only 12 made enough of an impact to leave an impression. You can help your business be one of those twelve through effective, attractive design.
Often when consumers are faced with a decision between things with similar features or benefits, they go with the one that they either recognize or that has a more pleasing design. Smashing Magazine’s Steven Bradley explained it well:
Human beings have an attractiveness bias; we perceive beautiful things as being better, regardless of whether they actually are better. All else being equal, we prefer beautiful things, and we believe beautiful things function better. As in nature, function can follow form.
A List Apart’s Stephen Anderson demonstrates this attractiveness bias well with a simple button example:
Cognitively speaking, both of these are obviously buttons. Neither button is ‘wrong’ as in our previous example. However, research into attention, persuasion, choice, happiness, learning, and other similar topics suggests that the more attractive button is likely to be more usable by most people.
Use well-established design principles when creating brand assets, websites, or anything else that your customers see. Creating attractive experiences will go a long way to help your business stand out.
Good design solves problems (yours and your customers’)
How something looks is important, but addressing your customer’s problems is one of the most effective ways to leverage good design.
A good way for you to figure out what these problems are and how to address them is to use a technique known as “The 5 Whys”.
Created by Toyota founder Sakichi Toyoda as a way to uncover technical issues with his company’s manufacturing process, the 5 whys are a simple but effective process. First, you state the problem. Then you ask yourself “why?” five times.
Let’s look at an example.
Problem: Customers don’t understand why our product is better than our competitors.
1. Why? Because people think both products have the same feature set and functionality.
2. Why? Because our marketing concentrates more on building brand awareness and less on product awareness.
3. Why? Because our website doesn’t clearly state what our product does and what value it provides.
4. Why? Because our competitor does a better job of educating consumers on how to use their product effectively.
5. Why? Because we don’t know how to speak to our product’s target audience in a clear and effective way.
You can ask more than five questions, but five questions can typically help you work out what problems you need to focus on.
Another important part of solving problems through good design is having success metrics so you know when a solution is actually working. This can take many forms. Pure numbers (more conversions, more sign ups, more people clicking), higher customer satisfaction, or fewer calls or support tickets are just a few examples.
Whatever “whys” you decide to tackle and how you measure your success, addressing internal or external problems through good design can go a long way to improve your reputation and reach.
Good design helps boost your business
Here’s something to be wary of: badly designed websites are often not read, trusted or visited for any length of time. That means that more than ever, design is playing a crucial role in making sure your business attracts and retains a customer base. John Maeda, design partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, says:
Top companies are leading with design. Others that aren’t willing to invest in design because they think it can’t be measured or tied to ROI will fall behind. Business as usual is no longer good enough. Mature industries that have focused on more, better and faster now need to adjust their thinking to include design as a key value differentiator.
The idea that design is fiscally beneficial has been proven time and again. In 2005, a group called The Design Council studied 63 portfolios of companies that traded on the FTSE (Financial Times Stock Exchange) over a ten year period. Companies that put an emphasis on design outperformed the FTSE 100 index by 200%.
It’s becoming more difficult to get the attention of consumers when they are overwhelmed with choice. Tellingly, Adobe’s 2015 report on the State of Content emphasizes that with 15 minutes to consume content, 66% would prefer to view something beautifully designed vs. simple and plain.
Want to stand out as a brand worth noticing? Beautiful and thoughtful design is the way to do it.
Design connects you to your customers
Great designs use color, layout, and smart font choice to connect to their consumer in meaningful, emotionally driven ways. Incorporating impactful, memorable, and emotional connection in the visual display of your brand is the best way to show the world who you are and what your brand stands for.
Your designs should support the principles you have built your company around, and strive to reach your customers’ hearts (rather than their wallets).
Create valuable, sustainable customer relationships by building your brand’s visual identity on the foundation of emotional connection. There’s no better way to secure consumer loyalty than by connecting you through your shared values, and a great design is the most effective way to illustrate them.
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