I have spent a fair bit of time recently scouring the web trying to find out what has been happening in the design world of late. What has struck me in particular is the amount of absolutely stunning design that seems to exist for nothing more than to look beautiful. This has got me thinking, what is it that makes a design good? Does it just need to look good or should designers be aiming for something more?

Personally I believe there is a lot more to good design than making something pleasing to the eye. Take websites for example. A website needs to look good to get your consumers attention but more importantly it needs to deliver a message and be user-friendly. If the consumer can’t find the information they were looking for or they don’t get the message you were trying to deliver, the website has failed, no matter how beautiful it looks. There is also the key consideration of making sure it is an extension of your branding rather than a stand alone piece.

One trend I have noticed recently, particularly with companies selling sporting and surfing goods, is image heavy sites often combined with Flash. Once the page has loaded it looks brilliant but if you have a slow internet connection, or are in a hurry, there is a good chance you may not get to that stage in the first place.There is nothing more frustrating than needing a piece of information quickly but having to wait several minutes as you navigate through pages that take forever to download all in the name of good looks.

Another common flaw that I have noticed regularly is a lack of logic with the hierarchy. A well thought out website hierarchy is easy to navigate through and follows a logical pattern. A customer should be able to find the information they want quickly and without too much effort. It should also be easy to navigate back a couple of pages if necessary. Information such as contact details and store locations should be easy to access, not hidden several pages into a site as I have seen before. A website is a tool to help sell a product or service and nothing should get in the way of that, including aesthetics.

If a website is content heavy then chances are the copy contains a lot of important information that is intended to be read, therefore it should be designed to make it easy to do so. Choice of colour, font and line spacing needs to be given careful consideration. Design techniques such as reversed out panels can look great within a layout but if they don’t read well then they shouldn’t be considered good design.

Essentially a website exists to present information to a customer about a product, service or company. While it is important for it to look good I believe the primary emphasis should be placed on it functioning well. That’s not to say that function and form can’t co-exist. Beautiful design can definitely follow once a good base and structure has been established. The best websites I have ever used not only look fantastic, but are also enjoyable to use and contain useful, easy to find information.

Take a look at our gallery and check out a variety of websites designed for usability that haven’t forgotten about looking good.