A friend whose home you’ve never visited invites you over for a drink. When you pull up to the curb, you are instantly impressed by the house’s appearance. It’s not a large dwelling by today’s standards, but its carefully maintained law, well manicured trees, and homey porch complete with fall-colored potted mums and casual seating give it great appeal.
Your friend greets you at the door and invites you in. As you step into the entry and living room area you notice that the inside of the house is just as beautiful as the outside. The décor is tidy and full of rich, warm colors. You wonder if your friend has stock in Pottery Barn as she takes your jacket, telling you to make yourself at home while she makes drinks.
You meander to a built-in bookcase to admire the framed photos, but realize the attractive people displayed are images that came in the frames. You also notice that the books lining the shelves aren’t books at all; they’re fiberboard decorations that look like books. Upon closer inspection, you recognize that the flat-screen television mounted above the fireplace is a photo, not TV. A bit rattled, you decide to be seated, but you find that the overstuffed easy chair is lumpy, uncomfortable and covered in cat hair.
Your friend is good at creating an outward image, but, upon closer inspection, it’s fake. You’ve been fooled by something that’s all appearance and no substance.
We are attracted instantly to the visual appeal of a website only to be disappointed by the shallowness of the content. The site is all pretty with no smarts.
On the flip side is the site with amazing content that never gets read because visitors can’t navigate it or aren’t enticed to try because its so visually unappealing that they visit once and then never again.
We aren’t supposed to focus on outward appearances, but we do. We judge books by their covers. We judge websites by their homepages.
In a perfect world, a website would have amazing design and fabulous content. But these elements require different sets of skills. There aren’t many of us who are excellent designers, code experts and amazing writers. We also don’t all have the financial resources to hire a professional designer or copywriter.
So what do we do?
If we’re writers, do we upload a free theme and focus on writing great content? Do we spend countless frustrating hours trying to make our site more visually appealing and never have time to write? Do we write great content that is ignored because our site is ugly or amateur?
What about those great designers? Do they create a jaw-dropping site that people only visit once because the content is poor? Do they burnout quickly and abandon the beautiful site because they hate writing? Do they continually reinvent their site’s appearance in an attempt to substitute visual bling for lackluster content?
If content is king and design is queen, how do you divide the throne? By focusing on our expertise in one area or another, are we sacrificing success?
Let’s Talk Nerdy!
Is design or content more important online? Is there a way to gloss over our area of weakness without damaging the overall site? What are some examples of websites that focus on one area, but do both well?