Couple weeks ago, I asked my twitter chat community #IempowerU which they thought was more important: substance or style. I posed this question because it is one I have struggled with over the years. Initially, I thought it was more important to have substance. When I click on a link to view a site, I want to learn something that I didn’t know before. I want to leave that site with a brain full of new things to think about and consider. And I wanted to provide that same kind of site to viewers of my content. What it looked like was secondary.
Until the last year or so.
Now, I think that style, or at the very least, the “look” of the site is equally important, especially for the new viewer to my subject matter expertise.
The internet has been around for awhile now, the new has worn off to the extent that we all now know what to expect. We know what we have seen on other sites and expect the next one to look and behave accordingly. When it doesn’t, we are not as trusting as we could have been. Matter of fact, this very thing can lead to a site visitor questioning our subject matter expertise – the substance. If that were to happen, they may not even stick around long enough to read that content.
I don’t think that this means we all have to be “early adopters” feverishly combing the ‘net for the latest greatest tool, toy or trend to add to our online presence. Rather, I think it’s important to be aware of the most current trends in both design and functionality. Then, most importantly, pick the ones that appeal to you and your target market and discard the rest.
In 2011, I built the first rendition of my community site in dark blue, burgundy, with white letters, because those are my favorite colors. I was pleased with the colors, they made me feel good. Fortunately, several members of the community encouraged me privately to lighten things up a bit. After conceding on these points, I ran across an article on the latest color fashion trends for community sites – it was “in” to have a web design that was light, bright and minimalistic.
On the other hand, several weeks later, I built a website for a personal trainer. With my newfound knowledge of what was “in”, I considered building it to be light and bright and airy. But, my client said NO. He wanted it black, blue and “racy”. I went looking to see what other personal training sites looked like – and they followed the style that he wanted. He felt like his customers would not take him seriously if they didn’t show up to a site that looked like it was supposed to.
In both cases there were functional elements that had to be adjusted, despite what might be “in” or not. My client wanted his content links to align with his color scheme. The link color he selected did not contrast enough with the text to alert the viewer. So, we broke from this to provide his viewers with a better experience.
In my 1st community site, I wanted to add plugin features that were not compatible with other main elements to the site. Eventually, I had to abandon those whistles and bells in favor of maintaining the integrity of the site. I am eternally grateful to those original community members for sticking around through all those learning curves!
Because the internet evolves so quickly, functionality changes may not be a “nice thing” to adjust – but will be critical to maintaining your existing online presence at the same level. Such is the case with making sure that your site is “mobile friendly”. If you want to know more about this, please sign up for the Weekly Tips. I tell you what and why this is important, as well as how to check and then make sure that your site is “mobile friendly”.
Images courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net