Let’s assume that every morning before leaving your house, you choose things to wear for the day based on a variety of factors. These are things like the weather, what clothes are clean at the moment, comfort, appropriateness for the day’s encounters (more on that later), and what suits your mood. Essentially, you choose your clothing for both function (It’s pouring outside; I’m wearing a raincoat) and form (clean and neat vs. crumpled in the hamper); they go together.
The primary functions of clothing are for protection from the elements and to not get arrested for indecency. But there’s much more that goes into our clothing choices and how they are perceived that have to do with form. What you wear says a lot about you, especially for first impressions. Imagine you’re interviewing someone for a professional position. You are likely to notice how much effort they put into presenting themselves as a good candidate. You’ll notice if what they chose to wear is inappropriate for the occasion (e.g. Hawaiian shirt and flip flops), or if it looks like it’s disheveled and falling apart (e.g. wrinkled, ill-fitting, or torn slacks). On the other hand, you’ll make a positive mental note for someone who took the time to put together an outfit that is appropriately formal for the occasion and is well-thought out.
I’m all for personal expression through your appearance (this is coming from someone who currently has blue hair), but I also know that what I look like has an effect on the way I’m perceived. We don’t choose to be judged by our appearance, but we have to accept that we will be. Fortunately, we humans are able to bring more to the table than just our appearance through our skills, knowledge, and professional behavior to compensate for any judgements on our appearance. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for your website. Users will judge your business’s credibility based on their experience with it alone.
Just like the clothes you choose to wear, your website also employs both function and form to give the right impression. The function (the purpose and utility) of your website is simple: to provide the information the visitor is looking for in an easily accessible manner. The form (visual aspects) communicates your brand and all it stands for. The beauty of good web design is that it takes both the function and form into consideration because they are both equally important in its success.
Your website design portrays several things that boil down to the perceived level of professionalism and credibility. Let’s break it down into what we consider to be a successful vs. unsuccessful site and what it says about your company.
A well-designed website says:
A poorly-designed or outdated website says:
Big difference, huh? But don’t take my word for it. There’s an entire group of Stanford researchers who have studied the direct correlation between good website design and functionality and perceived credibility. So take a good hard look at your website. It may be time to suit up.