The key to great website design is in understanding what design does for you.

If you want to really understand the impact of design when it comes to websites you have to make the correlation to fashion. Why? Because the design of your website tells people the same thing about your business as your clothes tell them about you.

I remember an episode of a comedy on TV where the one character went through a phase of wanting to wear only sweatpants. He said that he was comfortable. The main character, who was his best friend, chided him by saying that the message it was sending was “I’ve given up!”

As I am writing this I am wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. I am comfortable. I don’t wear jeans and a sweatshirt when I go to weddings (though sometimes I wish I could) and while I may wear a nice pair of jeans I wouldn’t wear a sweatshirt if I were speaking at a conference or to a business audience.

I remember a rule I learned a while back about “dress code” for business. Basically it was this that the one getting paid needs to be dressed at the same level or one level above those paying. Sound arrogant or foolish? It shouldn’t. People have an idea of “getting what they pay for.” And the first thing they see is the presentation of the person.

If you have a business that is web-based, or if you are using a website to support or drive your business you need to understand this principle.

Your website it the outfit your business wears during your virtual business meetings.

The 3 questions you need to answer before designing a website are:

  1. Who are you meeting with?
  2. Who are your customers?
  3. How are they dressed?

These can be seen as metaphorical, but they must be answered or you won’t dress for the occasion.

You also have to realize that this deal they are making with you – which is the decision they have to make to pay you for whatever it is that you have – could be a huge decision for them. Would you walk into the board room of a Fortune 500 company wearing a gaudy disco outfit from the 70’s and expect to be taken seriously? (I’m sure you can find a scenario where that would work, but work with me here on the “majority.”)

Why would you expect that to work for your website?

You need to have an up-to-date website design that shows that you understand “how people are dressed” on the web and but also “accessorizes” with our own style in just the right amount to get your noticed.

The design of your website is the thing that gives people the confidence to purchase from you… not the product.

They can get the same product elsewhere… they need to be confident that they should purchase it from you.

A good design that works well with the customer and with itself – meaning that the whole experience is smooth, confident and non-threatening – right through to entering in the credit card (if you sell on-line) or filling out the “contact us” form if you sell a service is critical…

Especially if you want the person to purchase AGAIN.

You might by the knock-off designer watch from the guy whispering on the corner once, but the chance of you buying from them again – or even finding them again – is nil.

You don’t want a design that whispers, “hey… psst…”

You want a design that gets them to come in, browse, ask questions, and get to know you.

People search with intent, but they intend to purchase from someone they can trust.

You want a design that says, “Hey… I know you… we have so much in common. I have just what you need.”