Design vs usability

The importance of finding the perfect balance between the two

  • Michael Klooster

  • December 6, 2018

In this day in age where even dogs have a massive online presence with millions of followers it’s hard not to want a site with a crazy unique design that stands out amongst the rest. However looks can only take you so far.In this article I will be talking about the importance of finding that balance between design and usability.

What is usability?

First things first what is usability? Well To keep it as simple as possible usability is basically how users experience your website. Things like your navigation, how they can contact you and where you place valuable information can all play a part of your sites usability. But why is usability important? Well simple because as I mentioned earlier it affects how users experience your site and a bad experience is a lost client. That’s why it’s important to structure your content correctly and to not favor design over usability. A common example of design over usability I often see sites do is the infamous hamburger menu on desktop. I have seen countless sites do this, often they use this because they want to add a minimalist style to their site by hiding the navigation and only showing it on click, but this is a mistake.

Users are impatient in fact they are extremely impatient when it comes to websites and even putting one extra click between them and their goal will cost you a potential client. Replacing the standard navigation where most information is in plain sight with a hidden one where the user has to click on it before they can access what they’re looking for is bad for usability. This form of navigation is only used on mobile since it is unavoidable there due to the screens size.

Now it might sound silly losing a client because of one extra click but I cannot stress on how impatient users can get and how important it is to guide your users by making everything as easy to find as possible. You have probably experienced yourself before not being able to find something on a site because it was structured oddly or having to sit through some fancy text load in animation on every page load. Things like that despite maybe looking creative drive people away and should be avoided.

A supporting role

So far from this article it sounds like design isn’t important at all and that usability is the main hero however every hero needs a sidekick right? In this context design is that sidekick and still plays an important role. If your site looks bad users will shy away from it, or maybe not even trust your services at all. Imagine going to a web shop and it looks like the site hasn’t been updated since the late nineties you wouldn’t trust that site and would leave immediately. Design is important because the first thing users see but design always has to play a supporting role.

One such example of design elements playing a supporting role is ghost buttons. For those that don’t know ghost buttons are buttons where you see a text surrounded by an outline and a transparent background, like the contact us button we use for our form on this site.

" At the end of the day users are visiting your site because they need something not because of the design "

Picture a websites headers there’s a large text on the homepage much like ours something along the lines of we offer cheap airline tickets. Below that are two ghost buttons one has a transparent background and the text reads contact, the other is filled in with a blue background and reads book now. In this context the button that you want your clients to click the most is the filled in one. This is because when placed next to each other the filled in one will be more noticeable and thus will be clicked more often. This is a good example of design and usability working together.

The design of your site has to be appealing and catch a user’s attention but the usability of your site has to keep them engaged and using your site.

Balance is key

Look no site is perfect and there will always be times when you choose to sacrifice some functionality for looks or vice versa even our site is guilty of that crime. But a website should never become a chore to use simply because you thought some elements looked nicer that way, or because you wanted to make something artistic or creative. Doing that is like selling your clients expired milk in a fancy carton, it might look nice on the outside but man does it stink on the inside.

At the end of the day users are visiting your site because they need something not because of the design, they need a product or a service or they are looking for information. You should make those needs easy to find while using design to support the usability and boost the appeal of your site. Do this and you’re sure to have satisfied users, because nothing is better than a site that works great and looks great doing it.

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