<< by on May 11th, 2009
For years in the marketing world, I’ve had the unfortunate task of going toe-to-toe with graphic and web designers regarding the purpose of design. And many times, I’ve run into designers who just don’t “get it”. Their focus on design is so strong that they lose sight of what design works best to reach the client’s goals. In fact, I even had once graphic designer tell me once that his die-cut, four-color glossy annual report for a credit union needed that expensive look so that he could add it to his portfolio! Nevermind what the credit union shareholders would think when they saw their dividends being spent on a fancy annual report.
I find the same is often true in the digital world today. While designers are highly talented and can create some beautiful websites, many cannot design websites well for their main purpose — driving revenue.
I read an article in yesterday’s New York Times about Douglas Bowman, formerly a visual designer at Google, who left the company primarily because he felt his design capabilities were being stifled by Google’s desire to drive design by data. “Data eventuallly becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions,” he said on his blog.
My first question… are you a complete idiot? When you’re Google, billions of dollars are at stake with each change you make. How does adding the Google Checkout button to AdWords ads affect click through rate? That’s a very important issue! Anything that affects click through on AdWords ads has to be tested — and anything that does not improve CTR, regardless of how attractive the change may be, should likely be discarded.
Not testing changes can severely backfire on you as designer. Take for example the recent Facebook redesign. Just one group, “Millions Against Facebook’s New Layout and Terms of Service,” has over 2.6 million members.
Besides, why throw the baby out with the bath water? What is the harm in testing all that you do? With all of the visitors to Google’s site, a relevant sample size could be achieved in an hour — what’s the harm with that?
Bowman is now at Twitter, which he finds to be a better fit — for now. But what happens when Twitter finds a revenue model, like Google did? Does Bowman actually think that Twitter will not want to test every aspect of it?
Think I’m being harsh on Bowman and others? Well I started off as a web and graphic designer myself. But I had to change my way of thinking early on. Design has changed. In business, design isn’t about what “looks pretty” — it’s about design that works. Design that inspires visitors to take a call to action. That’s why landing pages work. That’s what post-click marketing is all about.