Great website design or just great images and video?

18 03 2010

This week I have had a couple of conversations on Twitter with regards to creating great websites quickly and easily. For many, templates with the use of widgets (as available through wordPress for example) is almost perfect, allowing websites to be put together very quickly. However, this only works when your web requirements are for simple use of media and presenting this to visitors of your website…In addition, people often believe that they have created “stunning” websites, when in reality, the website design is a standard format (nothing special) but consists of some great images and use of various media…This doesn’t really constitute great website design…

With a branch of my own company specialising in website design, I am often interested in looking at great new websites – especially those which people term has having great design. However, in most cases I look at the design and how the website works and fine that there is nothing new there, nothing great at all, rather the website consists of great images and use of video.

Beware templates

Template websites are great for quick website design and delivering something quickly. If you are a small business owner, and don’t require much in terms of functionality (or anything out of the ordinary) – then templates are a great option. They are quick to implement, flexible to an extent and cheap….However, be aware, that the design (even once tweaked) can look disjointed at times and not “fit” well…I have often found that “CMS” based solutions (especially open source versions) deliver websites that are heavy on template use. Modifications are made by using “widgets” and moving them around, however the actual design never “flows” that great. Another downside is that more often than not, you will be able to find another website out there using the same template looking almost identical to your own – this is never good especially if the other company is a competitor.

However, any template can be improved and look a lot better with the use of great images….

Great media = great design

This isn’t true I know. However, for the vast majority of standard website users (and even marketing people, IT people, business decision makers etc) the first thing we notice, and then think of as the website design, is the video, is the colours used, is the images and how they are shown. This means then to have a great looking website, the most important aspect is not design, but the images and video you use….

Just as it is true that great images can make a standard designed website look great, it is true that poor images and media quality can make a great design look poor.

I would like at this point to set a challenge. At the websites you visit, look at them carefully. Work out what you like, what you dislike and try to separate what is “design” from what is a great image / video. Once you can do this, you will find that websites are often very similar in their underlying design. In many cases you will also find that the “design” element is often the secondary part of the overall feel and experience you get from the website…

Your type of website

Remember that the type of website you require will also determine the type of design that can be put together. For example, a content managed eCommerce website design will be very different to something that is showing off say, a car design. You also have to take into consideration such things as readability, accessibility and SEO (many of these things are, let’s say, forgotten by a number of great designs out there). If you are in the business of selling a product or service on line – then no doubt you will want something very plain, easy to navigate and something that enables Google and Bing to easily index your content. This means instantly that the technologies you use, and what you can and can’t do from a “design” perspective is very different to our “car” website – which may not need to take into consideration any of these factors…

What are the best examples?

 The best examples of great website design seamlessly blend great use of images and video into the way the website reacts / feels. It is hard to explain – but a great design builds on the use of great images and videos and incorporates them into the whole experience. When this is done well, a website really stands out from the crowd (and you can see that – just like anything in life – you get what you pay for).

Unfortunately – far too many organisations approach web designs and say “build me a great stunning website” to which the design starts to do. However, if the organisation hasn’t got great images, great videos or use of various media the website design process is highly limited from the outset. Even in an eCommerce world, if the images of the products are poor, then the whole website design feels as if it suffers….

Remember, websites are part of marketing to an extent, so you need to ensure your material, including images, video and copy are top notch. Only then can a web designer show their worth and build some stunning web experiences….

Some examples

Here are a couple of examples I have seen in the past couple of days that I love….See how they blend great images, video with seamless design and feel of the website. See how the navigation to content interacts with the images and video etc to give a unique experience….(Forget SEO and any other restrictions here…I just like the design)

http://eu.wrangler.com/

http://www.bountybev.com/home.html

http://www.walktowashington.org/

http://www.gm.ca/gm/english/vehicles/buick/behind-the-beauty/feature?adv=94437#/HOME

http://204beech.com/category/background/

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7 responses

19 03 2010
Dan Shearmur

Not sure if you noticed but http://www.walktowashington.org/ and http://204beech.com/category/background/ are both running wordpress.

22 03 2010
Andrew Smith @onedegree

Yes was aware they are using elements from wordpress 🙂

Many websites run it for their blogging engine etc. but not to actually provide the “guts” of their website…..which is great. I know of many organisations that run wordpress for blogging – but their actual website is written and designed by them and they simply “plug” into wordpress for necessary elements / functionality…

However, many people now use wordPress to build actual websites – which again is fine – but they then find they can be very limited to what they want to do with that website. At the end of the day – it is all down to requirements and expectations…I get a little frustrated when people claim they deisgned and developed a website when all they have done is apply a template theme (to lets say wordpress)….That doesnt make them a web designer or developer – just good at using a particular tool…

6 04 2010
Gigantic software

First thing about is that your Website should not only be information based, it should also be improving to look at. A good website design is one that has the power to attract and possess visitors. And unnecessary to say, this is one of the major factors for the success of your business.

25 06 2010
refreshstudio

great Small Business Web Design blog. Having a website that is easy to navigate around and is easy on the eye gives you a better bounce rate. If the bounce rate is over 60% maybe time for a new look? keep up the good work!

14 07 2010
Charissa

Where can you look in the page source to see if a website is running wordpress? Where can I find good articles about using WordPress to make a good-looking site that doesn’t scream “template?”
I’ve taken on some new work where I’m being asked to use wordpress for web design rather from scratch and would love some more information on making great-looking sites that way. Right now all my confidence lies in making sites from scratch.

15 07 2010
Andrew Smith @onedegree

I am not sure that you can determin if a site is running wordpress just by looking at small elements of the source. You probably can see though via some of the links the source contains.

Template websites are good if you want a quick win and are ok with the more traditional looking websites. However, if your client is looking for something a bit more innovative, then you may well find that templates are far too restrictive. Sure you can get some very nice templates and themes, but the layout and how a user uses these is all pretty much the same….If though you go down the template route, to make it look nice ensure you get some good design principles in place such as use of space and colour schemes. Then look to use graphics to enhance the visual aspect of your webpage….This is pretty much the only options open to you when using many templates…

21 07 2010
Evan Mugford

I really enjoyed reading your article, and it passed some time at the end of my shift 🙂 great images only work with a great layout, this is very well explained here, ill have to bookmark this to show clients!

Thanks
Moddish
Website Design Firm

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