Design Defined: What it is and How it Applies to your Website

Design Defined: What it is and How it Applies to your Website

William Morris wallpaper

What are we talking about when we talk about design? Paul Rand (an American graphic designer–best known for designing the logos of ABC, IBM, UPS and more) says,



Design is the method of putting form and content together. Design, just as art, has multiple definitions; there is no single definition. Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated.



Design can mean any of the following:

  1. (v.) to indicate with a distinctive mark, sign or name.
  2. (n.) purpose, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object
  3. (v.) to decide upon the look and functioning of an object (typically through a detailed drawing)

And these are only a few of the definitions. Design is simple. Design is complex. Design is a plan of intention. It is the idea before the product. It exists first in the mind and then in the senses. The designer creates an experience. Design (especially web design) refers to both a function and an aesthetic.

Ferninand A. Porsche (German Designer, best known for the Porsche 911) agrees. He says,


Design must be functional, and functionality must be translated into visual aesthetics, without any reliance on gimmicks that have to be explained.



Design can not exist alone as a function, as how something works (though certainly it is that); however, it must also, if we’re doing it “right,” lean toward form–how it looks, feels, etc. And as we live in a time of efficiency, of fast streamlined production, it is important that we not lose the importance of art in design. That we focus on both what it it looks like and how it feels (how it works).


Porsche 911
Porsche 911

With a medium so complex and vast as web-design, it might be useful to remember this when formulating an idea for design:


Keep nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.



William Morris, British artist, designer, writer in the 1800’s, said this. The same can be said for design. Design combines use and beauty; it is art with a purpose.

A well-designed site allows us to accomplish our intended task online easily and with pleasure. And if pleasure is what we most seek in life (if Freud is right, and I think he might be on this one), it only makes sense as designers, as marketers, as business owners, that we add pleasure into the aspects of function. And why not be a pleasing experience, when after all, 72% of Millennials do online research before buying in store (Forbes). With that much time spent online, we want to have fun doing it.

How do you keep us coming back?

We are impatient creatures, and sensitive to time. So sensitive that if a site takes more than three seconds to load, 40 percent of us will leave the page, making load time the most important factor in site traffic. This is where back-end design comes in–the “how it works.”

Visual design comes in second in importance of maintaining site traffic, specifically color theme. It comes as no surprise that the color we most prefer is the most pervasive color in the natural world: green, with blue not far behind; followed by purple, orange, and yellow (respectively), and then red which actually is aversive, causing sites to lose traffic (-1.35%).

Usage is also affected by layout and whether or not a site uses html (html increases traffic). But perhaps the most important reason to put the effort into building a well-designed site is to maintain the trust of your readers/users. After all, 94% of people cite design (or lack thereof) the reason they do not trust a site.

The Formula

Let’s say a formula for what good design can bring us looks something like this: art with purpose (design) creates a pleasurable experience and trust (increase in site traffic) creates wealth (sales). A win-win-win situation, if you’re asking us. And if you are, we can help you make it happen.

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