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In defense of graphics

July 1, 2007
Jim Huber

Graphics are good, I declare. All our Web sites have them and I think they look pretty nice, too. A couple of my previous white papers, however, may have suggested I believe that graphics are bad or do more harm than good.

Let me clarify by saying: Yes, graphics are good... but they are not the most important part of the Web site. My criticism is that many Web designers and Web site owners judge the quality of a Web site by how slick and attractive it is. I think the quality should be judged on how well the site works. And believe me, your site's users will too - even if, at first, they ooo and aaah over the design.

I don't believe that site designs, as some designers say, need to be flashy to stand out from the crowd. People really don't care about that, unless your site is entertainment related. Site designs need to project a professional image for your company or organization. It helps tell the user that your business is for real. Anyone can build a Web site and people know this. They also know the next Web site is a click away. The design creates that first impression that will form the user's opinion in a split second. If the site doesn't look professional, it can diminish - if not destroy - the user's trust in your company and in your site's usability.

With the trust factor, it's like shopping at a retail store or at the back of a van. I don't care how big a socialist/anti-capitalist you are, you'll go to Wal-Mart's pharmacy years before you consider getting your medicine from "some guy in a van".

Regarding the usability factor, an amateur-looking site does not give the impression of a site that is easy to use. It gives the impression that this site was done by an amateur who probably doesn't know how to make a site that is easy to use. There are enough expert sites out there that can't do it right, why would an amateur with Frontpage be any better?

A good design is one that it doesn't take away the wonderful image it projects. It complements the user experience. The design validates the user's impression that their goals will be easily achieved, because your Web site is in the hands of professionals.