Neil Patel

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7 Secrets Graphic Designers Won’t Tell You about Effective Website Design

Ever had a run-in with a graphic designer who promised you a brilliant design—but all you got was a big mess?

No, you’re not an expert, but you know what’s good and what’s not. You also know when you’re being taken advantage of.

All you wanted was a website that would help you succeed online, and what you got instead wasn’t worth the pixels it was displayed on.

And what’s worse is you have to start over.

You’ve lost months of time, burned through thousands of dollars, hurt your business reputation, and gone through the emotional turmoil of it all.

And the worst part? Now you have to do the whole thing over again.

It’s scary because let’s be honest: what if take two is just as much of a nightmare?

Well, we’re not going to let it happen again. Here are some secrets many graphic designers won’t tell you, and knowing them can save you a bundle of both time and money.

Secret #1: Pretty doesn’t count

Yes, you want your site to look nice and create visual impact with visitors, but good looks don’t bring in sales.

A great tour guide does, though—and that’s your website’s job. It presents your business to visitors and welcomes them, showing them around and introducing them to points of interest they should definitely see before they leave.

As a tour guide, your website has the task of providing visitors with the right guidance to direct them to where they want to go—and to where you want them to go as well.

Is it bad to be pretty?

No, I wouldn’t go that far. If you can have both a beautiful design and get results, then go for it.

If you find yourself having to choose between one or the other though, stick with getting results.

HubSpot took this advice to heart when they chose to redesign their site a few years ago. Instead of starting from an attractive design, they started with the data and built up the site from there.

Winning design awards may be nice, but it doesn’t pay the bills.

Secret #2: You don’t need a redesign

Imagine you’re standing there wondering how to be more appealing to the opposite sex.

Ask a hairstylist, and he’ll say a great cut. Ask a makeup artist, and she’ll say a makeover. Ask a confidence coach, and… you get the picture.

So what do you think happens when you ask a graphic designer how to improve your website?


Remember, your design is just one piece of a bigger picture. What if your message is wrong, and you need a copywriting overhaul?

What if your brand image is pulling in the wrong target market?

What if your marketing strategy has holes in it? What if there’s an issue with your product or service?

You can’t afford to ask 12 specialists their opinion—you’ll end up overhauling every element of your business!

Ask a big-picture specialist for help—someone who can analyze several elements of your site and pinpoint the problem area.

These experts know all the elements, understand how they work together and how much weight each carries in the conversion equation.

You might be surprised to find out there’s nothing wrong with your design at all, and just a fast copy tweak or a new marketing strategy does the trick.

For example, a simple headline revision (like this 2018 case study from MessageBird demonstrates) can completely change how customers see your brand.

Bravo—you saved yourself thousands of dollars!

Secret #3: You don’t need to spend a fortune

People say you get what you pay for, and sometimes, that’s true. But it’s not true that you need to spend your life savings on a good website.

There are too many designers out there preying on your ignorance, charging exorbitant rates for their own profit.

They blind you with techspeak and fancy coding terms.

Don’t put up with it.

The reality is that for most smaller sites, the price has actually decreased over the past few decades.

That’s because templates and platforms like WordPress have made site design even easier and faster.

Decide your budget and find graphic designers who can work within it. Look for designers that fit the style of site you’d like for your business.

Visit other sites you like and see who designed them. Ask for quotes, take your time and shop around.

It’ll save you thousands of dollars.

Secret #4: Maintaining a website isn’t expensive

Many business owners get ripped off on this one. Since graphic design and website development is usually a one-time expense, unethical providers try to loop you in as a customer they can bill every month for recurring charges.

Sometimes you really need a recurring service, but oftentimes the prices simply aren’t fair.

Web hosting? You can pay as little as $5 a month these days—why pay more?

Maintenance? What maintenance? Oh, the upgrades that might come along every now and then?

Well, opt for WordPress or another content management system that lets you do your own upgrades just by clicking a button.

Changes to content? A content management system wins again.

Login to your site, and in two or three clicks, you’re updating your prices, changing your copy or adding a new page all by yourself.

When someone offers you an upsell maintenance package, ask what they’ll do for that money. Then go to Google and find out just how easy it is to do what they’ve offered you.

Not interested in maintaining your site? By all means, hire someone to do it for you. Just be sure you’re not being overcharged for quick and easy jobs.

Secret #5: You don’t need to be totally unique

It’s true that you need to stand out these days and look different from all the rest.

The problem is that some designers take it a little too far, and they design you a site that’s so unique it breaks all the rules—and not in a good way.

Your stunning site ends up being a confusing experience for visitors.

Designers need to create sites that follow web conventions and usability rules because these are the ultimate guides to navigating your site quickly and easily.

If you break them, you’ll confuse your visitors.

For example, consumers know they’ll generally find a subscription service like Subscribers or email newsletter opt-in on the top of a site—it’s always found here.

A lot of sites also use a Hello Bar across the top.

Logos are usually found in the top left of a site, and navigation bars are usually found below header areas.

Shun conventions, and you’ll create a visitor experience that’s similar to walking into an alien world. Nothing is where it’s supposed to be, everything is backward, and it’s confusing at best.

And what happens?

People leave. Your website becomes crippled and ineffective, all in the name of being unique.

Secret #6: Branding is a special skill, and not all designers do it well

Another little secret?

Most designers aren’t skilled in developing brand identities. They’re good at developing graphic design that reflects your brand identity, but if you haven’t supplied them with that crucial information, they’re just assuming.

They’re assuming your target market, and what appeals to those ideal customers.

They’re assuming the values of your business and its marketing message.

They’re assuming its personality and the type of experience your customers will have when they work with you or buy from you.

And you know what they say about assuming, right?

It’s far better to work with a branding specialist to your developer your identity before you hire your designer, or work exclusively with graphic designers who understand branding and can develop a site that reflects your brand identity.

Otherwise, you’ll just attract the wrong kind of people, and the entire website will be a waste of money.

Secret #7: Design isn’t just about Photoshop—it’s about psychology

This is the biggie.

The secret to a great website isn’t in having a pretty design and some compelling content. The real secret is in psychology and consumer behavior.

A graphic designer needs to know color psychology and the associations’ people make with specific shades and tones.

He needs to know what imagery will appeal to people, the type of people it’ll appeal to, and why it appeals to them.

He needs to know what’s going on in peoples’ minds when they land on sites and as they navigate through yours.

For example, is your designer familiar with common layout patterns on the web?

Are smooth curves better than concentric circles? Is IBM blue the best color, or is deep red a better choice?

What will draw people to the right or the left? What emotional state should the site create?

Where do a person’s eyes travel, and what will make them stop?

Good designers know all this and much more.

They understand that their goal is to influence a visitor’s psychological state of mind and perception of your business.


The more designers know about how people behave, what makes them take action and ways they react to different elements, the better they can implement persuasive strategies into your site.

Then they build you a site that captures interest, holds it, and brings you sales.

Isn’t that what you want?

About the Author: Need help turning a bad design experience into a great one or want to work with a top team ready to bring you success? Contact James Chartrand at Men with Pens.

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