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When looking for a web design agency, it’s easy to fall for promises or great looking sites that can’t deliver for their clients.
Let me be clear: around 50% of our clients come to us after a failed experience. They are split in three main groups:
- Those that opted for low cost and got cheap value
- Those that paid a lot of money for beautiful sites that don’t work
- Those that needed UX Design but got web design instead
I may add “those that needed marketing and/or SEO to actually make their sites MAKE MONEY”, but that is a more complex discussion.
In the first case, the low cost design is tempting and sometimes they may even have some nice design examples. In the vast majority of cases, they were made by other designers or are purchased templates. But of course, many clients ignore that.
The second case is the infamous “design first” scenario. It is not new, it is not even related to the web. It started with the advertising boom in the 1960s, and the great designs of which no one remembered the product. You have probably read articles about this, and actually recognize examples to this day. These ads or designs fail because they don’t focus on users or even the product. Instead, they’re just a expression of the designer’s ego
In this second case, you may get wonderful designs, almost works of art. The problem is that they are usually not functional. And the problem is magnified because after having paid so much money, the client refuses to acknowledge the loss and insists with its beautiful design. In some cases, the client tries to “patch” the problems and the design begins to lose its structure, with uncertain results.
Finally, the third case is that of those clients who believe they need web design when in reality they need the entire UX design process. This is a much more complex case, because it literally involves “building the house from the roof”.
For the purpose of this article, we will call Web Design to the process where the client gets a visual product (a website) without the steps required for User Experience Design or User Interface Design (UI or UID for short)
1) Web design services vs User Experience Design (UXD)
First thing first: before we start with what do you need to know when looking for a web design agency, let’s explain what is web design, and how it differs from User Experience Design or UXD.
To know if what your project needs is web design or UX design, the first thing you must define is your goals.
Obviously, UX design experts are going to recommend a full UX process, which makes the project more expensive and longer. But you don’t always need it!
Web design: It’s all about what you see
Web design is basically what one sees on a website, be it on desktop or mobile. It usually lacks prior research and at most the designer takes a brief from the client and tries to do it as well as possible.
Although with this description it seems that web design is not a big deal and therefore does not deserve more investment, it is not.
Good web design is a highly specialized area, and the best designers are those who know all the variables inherent to said area.
However, be aware that in most cases you will need to get the following items elsewhere (or charged apart by the same web design agency):
- Marketing Strategy
- Site Speed Optimization
- CMS Implementation (for example WordPress)
And remember: no matter what some people (specially designers or design agencies) may say, Web Design is not the same as UI Design. The difference is not clear for those that are not into this business, and apparently is the same. However, UI Design requires a scientific approach and intentionality.In other words: web design is random. UI Design is intentional. Click To Tweet
User Experience Design: It’s all about the user
Contrary to the previous case, in User Experience Design the focus is not on the site itself, but on the user.
In other words: we no longer talk about designing a website. We talk about designing an experience, whose tangible expression would be a user interface.
This experience is determined by a series of previous, constant and cyclical steps, based on research and testing.
Obviously, since the process is longer, more constant, and requires more time and dedicated people, the cost far exceeds that of web design.
And while some may think that a website is the same as a user interface, this is wrong. The easiest way to demonstrate this is with … data: a user interface based on constant research and testing will have better results than a website in 100% of cases.
And it is as simple as this: imagine yourself in the middle of an unknown forest, and that you have to find the urgent exit. Web design is like looking for the exit at random. UXD is like having the path marked with illuminated signs.
Does this mean you shouldn’t use a simple web design process? No! There are many cases where a simple website design is more than enough! Not convinced? Keep reading!
2) Website Design is Fast
Website design is fast, therefore more affordable than UXD. Speed and affordability are obvious advantages that we cannot ignore.
For any decent web design agency, a website takes between one and 3 weeks (depending on complexity, number of pages, and customer feedback). Of course, it could be designed in one day. In fact, there are designers who offer to design sites or applications in one or two days. In the vast majority of cases, the client will obtain case 1) that we referred to at the beginning.
This does not mean that it cannot be done in a day or two in any case. But these are exceptional cases. Perhaps the designer had an inspirational rapture and accomplished an amazing design. But again: it is an exception. Or pure pride of the designer who thinks that his first option is the ideal one without even bothering to verify it.
However, one to three weeks is a logical and reasonable time that will surely be sufficient both in terms of time and money.
This means that if our project requires quick actions (such as acting in a particular scenario, such as an emergency or a business opportunity), web design without prior UX research will be a better option.
3) Web design is easily replicable
Another advantage we have is that this type of design is easily replicable, which allows us to create different versions for different sites or pages within the same website. We can even use this to create A / B or multivariate tests or generate usability options!
(Clarification: although the case cited in the previous paragraph resembles a user interface process, we are talking about something much simpler and faster)
This replication ability is very useful when we have repetitive processes and we only need a “container” for this process.
For example: we know that a certain design for a landing page worked very well for us with a product. It makes perfect sense to reuse that design with minimal changes for another product.
Another case would be when we need to create many pages that will only vary their text content. For example, design of blogs, information sites, catalogs, etc.
4) Website design is agile and multifaceted
Unlike UX design, which must contemplate a series of premises, or follow guidelines that are determined by research with users, web design is more agile and fluid.
A good webdesigner knows what elements to use and how to use them to get the most advantage. He can do it by intuition, experience or case study.
But he also works fluently with web developers and knows how to design for code (for example using Bootstrap or Foundation grids, or avoiding complex interactions). Sometimes the same web-designer can implement the front-end code more efficiently than a programmer.
Also, even if he is not a SEO specialist, a top-notch web designer knows how to facilitate the implementation of SEO strategies for the client. In case of implementing the website by himself, he can generate sites with semantic code and apply all the necessary headers and meta-information. He can also work aspects of Site Speed Optimization and others.
Note: If you’re looking for a full web service that includes design, development and some basic SEO, we recommend you consider a web design agency rather than an individual designer. While you may find a incredibly capable designer that can do all of this, chances are a web design agency will have more resources and specialized human resources. Also, agencies can overlap work, but individual designers can only work in a linear way, so the project will take more.
In other words: while a UX process has clearly defined responsibilities where it is necessary to wait for certain parts of the process to conclude to continue with the next, a responsive web design can be implemented in hours. (Note: depending on the complexity of the site, the design takes longer than the code).
Of course, things are left to chance and the work is not going to be as consistent as in the UX process. But for fast projects that do not require generating significant traction (for example the design of informational sites, NGO sites, cultural websites, the design and development of some low-profile government sites and politics sites, among others), the possibility of designing and developing a responsive site in a couple weeks is a great advantage.
Having said that: if the website requires a lot of traction, generating income or engagement with users, it is always recommended to use a UXD approach.
5) Web design is wonderful. But…
Sure, this article can find all the advantages of web design and help you when making a decision for the development of your site or business.
But it would be irresponsible to say that one design without research will outperform another with research. It is practically impossible.
Furthermore, you do not know if your competition is not doing research to develop their websites. Perhaps taking your own site as an example!
We are UXD experts. But at the same time we are a web design agency with more than 1000 designed sites. Therefore, unlike other articles you can find on the web, we do not have any special interest: as much as you need a UX company or a web design agency, you can turn to us!
To make the decision a little easier, we are going to list a list of things to keep in mind to know when we can use web design and when it is convenient to invest a little more and follow a complete UX process.
When to use Web Design
- When you need to respond quickly with a website
- In cases where there is no budget
- When sales or engagement requirements are not important
- If we want to communicate information without further interaction
- When we want to test previous versions to more complex developments
- When you have a reliable web design agency you can trust.
When should we use UXD
- In any case where user interaction is important
- ECommerce sites
- Projects that must respect legal accessibility regulations
- When SEO strategies and requirements are important
- Marketing projects
- Multi-platform developments
- Businesses that carry out their activity both online and offline
- Projects that work with CX
In general lines, whenever possible you should prefer a User Experience Design process, without a doubt.
But as we mentioned in several cases in this article, it is possible to have a well designed website. A site that is aesthetic, but meets marketing, SEO, and good programming practices.
At Dorve UX, we can provide you with UXD services and web design services. Which one are you going to choose? If you need help, please check our UX and web design services page.
And if you have doubts, do not hesitate to contact us, we will gladly help you choose the best option for your budget.
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