No one succeeds alone.

3 Web Design Goals in Conflict

Harvey Ramer
Harvey Ramer
4 min read (845 words)

The three essential qualities of a successful website are aesthetic appeal, content, and speed. Without speed, no one will see your thoughtful written content. Without content, your fast website and beautiful designs are purposeless.

A wireframe illustrating that web design is about the structure of ideas, not large multimedia files.

Aesthetic Appeal

Every successful website achieves its purpose by communicating its message with beauty and with a fast load time. Many beautifully designed websites never reach their customers because they abandon the site before it loads. Despite our love of multimedia, the web is still predominantly a text medium. The visual elements we often prize, images, videos, and beautiful web fonts, can produce wait times that defeat their purpose of dressing your website for success.

“Design is the intermediary between information and understanding.”
— Hans Hoffmann, Painter

We all want to impress others with the beauty of the things we create, so this impulse to prioritize aesthetics is understandable. But beauty only adds value when it enhances an object that fulfills a purpose. When beauty is the end goal, as in fine art, it still serves another goal: moving the emotions of its viewer. If you want your website to get the results you deserve, start with a clear purpose. Then achieve that purpose while making it pleasing to the eyes without unnecessary elements.

We expect a successful business to have a polished visual image, but it doesn’t need to be perfect. Your website should look like you care, have a clear visual hierarchy, and have visually distinct calls to action.

Answer this question: Do I pay more attention to the visual appeal of my website than its speed or written content?

Well-Written Content

When people look at a website I’ve created and comment about how beautiful it looks, I take it as a warning that perhaps the design obscures the message. It never hurts to simplify and clarify—to confirm the content is unobstructed.

Despite the evident value of color, images, and video, the first message anyone will get from your website is through the written word. When your website content helps visitors understand what you offer and who you are and provides a clear plan for their success, it serves you and your customers.

Like a self-conscious dinner guest who draws attention to himself, your website can call attention to itself. Instead, it should be a window into the world your business opens to its customers. By focusing on the transformation you provide, the obstacles your customers will face, and how you help them overcome and achieve their goals, your website opens a new possible world to its visitors.

“Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you’re making.”
— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity[1]

The key to creating an other-focused website is simple: talk to your customers and learn to understand their goals and challenges. Then, use their words to shape your message. Empathy is always the key to good communication. Understand your audience, your message, and your offer. Nothing will work without those things honed to a fine edge.

Answer this question: Do I know my customers well enough to use their words to describe my product, their challenges, and the benefits I provide?

Speed and Responsiveness

As of 2016, more than 50% of website traffic came through mobile devices,[2] and that trend has continued, reaching 58% in 2022.[3] Since mobile devices tend to load content more slowly than computers,[4] Google is encouraging website owners to optimize their website experience for those devices. Ignoring this change can damage your brand due to a poor user experience and may diminish your search engine results.[5] So we can draw a simple conclusion: the speed of your website is as important as its content and design.

“>50% of web traffic comes from mobile.”
— Think with Google

Talking to business owners about the speed of their websites can be challenging. It is something few non-technical people consider—unless they have to wait for someone else’s website to load. But by running a simple website test on PageSpeed Insights by Google, what seemed so abstract and complex becomes simple. If your website performance is 90 or above on mobile, you can consider it fast and focus on your content and design. But if it’s below 90, your website’s speed is holding you back.

Balancing speed, aesthetics, and content can be challenging. In order of priority, I believe your goals should be: content, speed and responsiveness, and aesthetic appeal.

Answer this question: When I test my website with PageSpeed Insights, does it score above 90 for speed on mobile devices?

  1. Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis ↩︎

  2. Think with Google: Marketing Strategies ↩︎

  3. Desktop vs Mobile vs Tablet Market Share Worldwide Sept 2021 - Sept 2022 ↩︎

  4. Think with Google: “The average mobile webpage takes 15.3 seconds to load.” ↩︎

  5. Mobile-first indexing best practices ↩︎

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