What does high-end web design mean?
In the early stages of any web design process, we need to understand the people we’re working with, their company, context and their clients. We call it our discovery phase. It’s a two-way process that allows us to discover the challenges, complexities and opportunities they face. The process also educates our clients to understand and evaluate the solutions that we then suggest and later present to them.
The process is crucial, but it takes time. Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to help everyone. So, we find we need to choose who we work with carefully. Avoiding working with the wrong prospect frees up time for the right opportunities – the companies we really can make a difference too.
One red flag is summed up in a simple, overused phrase – “I want it to look high-end”. A legitimate aim. Probably a sensible way to explain a vague sense of exclusivity. An immediate sign the client hasn’t yet started doing the hard thinking. We’ve been shown Apple’s multi-million-pound website as an example quite a few times. Our likely response is that it’s likely not applicable to your industry and probably won’t be achieved on a tiny budget. We do get it you want to look like you like you punch above your weight and attract the ‘right sort’ of clients. We’re just not sure you will.
Good web design solves problems
In our experience, there’s no marketing value or user experience advantage in wanting to punch above your weight. The thing is, ‘high end’ just doesn’t mean what some people think it means. Sure, if you give a web designer enough time and a good enough brief they can deliver fantastically designed web page. But it’s the planning and thinking that solves real life legitimate business needs, not great designs.
You can see how ‘high-end’ is often a lazy term, one that shifts the emphasis away from all the hard thinking that’s required. With the best will in the world, beauty alone doesn’t sell. But get it right, and brand values are communicated with crystal clarity. Which are further supported by strong, coherent messaging and a user experience that engages everyone who comes across it. That’s what works. That’s what sells.
Moving beyond the phrase high-end web design
As a result of all this, we quickly ban the phrase ‘high end’ and look to dig a whole lot deeper. We put results above beauty. We place practicality and excellent user experiences over simple good looks and style. It doesn’t mean the websites we design are ugly – far from it – they are just as good looking as any of the ‘high-end’ creations cited in the initial brief. But they are also extremely carefully thought through, commercially robust and hard-working. We create websites in the partnership. We educate you to think like your clients do and then to elevate the possible ways to communicate with them. We guide the hard thinking that is needed. There’s nothing ‘high-end’ about the process. It’s challenging.
So what does it mean to produce something that looks beautiful and works beautifully? If we still used the term, this is what we would mean by ‘high end’:
Planning comes first. You need to be pinning down all the practical aspects of a website before even considering the way it should look. Your business goals, your customers’ needs, the user experience, they all score high when your bottom line is at stake. When you help your designer understand who your company and what drives it, a brilliant web design is a natural outcome.
An understanding of who you’re talking to
You can’t design a successful website without knowing exactly who the target audience is, and what they desire/want/need from experience.
A design that’s appropriate for the industry
Being appropriate doesn’t mean reverting to the flat centre ground. It means tailoring the design specifically to the audience. Your audience will feel at home when they arrive on your site, knowing they’ve landed in the right place. If you’re a funeral director and your website looks and feels like a fashion designer’s site, you aren’t going to get very far.
A sense of consistency
You can’t build a powerful, recognisable brand without the right level of uniformity, a look and feel that runs through a site like the lettering through a stick of Brighton rock.
Sticking to the plan
After all that time, care and effort, it’s crazy not to keep to the plans that went into the design and development of the rationale behind the pages. It might be a thrilling ride when you chop and change, but the result will almost always be a dog’s dinner.
Content is king
Words matter. You need the right kind of words, in the right style and tone. Also, you need to tell the receiver clearly and simply everything they need to know at every stage of the sales journey. Search engines need words too – words are the one and only way Google and co can tell what a website is about successfully. A ‘high-end’ website with practically no words might look nice, but it won’t play nice. It’ll perform very poorly.
Testing, testing, 123…
You can make assumptions about how people will use a site. But, there’s no reason why your assumptions will be right. Testing is the only real way to establish how users navigate a site. Delivering the wisdom needed to tweak pages until they perform flawlessly.
Working in partnership
From our experience, one-off projects don’t work. Reason being, a website is never a finished product. It’s a moveable feast that changes with users desires, the competitive landscape, the needs of search engines, your changing business model and goals, and strong graphic design trends.
Onward digital marketing
We stopped creating websites then walking away a long time ago. Good design is useless without a purpose, ongoing marketing and promotion.
You don’t need high-end design
You don’t need the high-end design in the traditional sense. You need high-end web design in the Mass Impressions sense. Which is something that goes a lot deeper and ultimately means a lot more to your bottom line. We work in close partnership with our clients. If that floats your boat, let’s talk about making a real success of your business with an appropriate, attractive and wholly practical website and taking it into a shiny, bright future in the long term.