Design for Performance

Account Director, Miles Hospitality
Published 6/17/16
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The pendulum always swings back.

Information overload has officially arrived.

Mindfulness, tuning in to the present – the act of shutting out the noise competing for one’s attention – has become a “thing.” A thing that must be taught, studied and diligently practiced to achieve. Where once we endeavored to improve our golf swing or up our tennis game, now it seems we must employ techniques to train ourselves to avoid distraction.

So, cruelly, just as technology has evolved to bring us visually dynamic functionality – like parallax scrolling, which allows for multidirectional navigation and wonderfully creative, narrative-driven websites with integrated streaming video backgrounds – the pendulum shifts and the caution in results-driven web design is to avoid visual distraction to improve performance.

Skift, among others, recently cautioned web designers against falling into the trap of distracting animation, over-reliance on video and design that weighs down a site’s load time and decreases conversion rates. This year, nearly every Top 10 Best Practices in Web Design begins with simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.

The pendulum has swung.

This design pendulum isn’t unique to the marketing world.

Back when those tiny little Olsen twins became fashion icons carrying around ridiculously large handbags they could curl up inside of (Google it, gents and women under 30), minimalism followed. Enter Kate Spade.

Yesterday’s McMansions led to today’s tiny house movement, in which families are eschewing overly indulgent homes for houses in the 200- to 400-sq.-ft. range. 

Prediction: People living in those little houses with their pets and children are going to crave a larger place soon.

The pendulum will swing. It always does.  

But the thing is, in advertising, clean design and clear messaging isn’t a fad. Or at least it shouldn’t be. 

Sure, I adore my hard-to-read Elizabethan fonts, overly-intricate Hardy-esque designs and unexpected animations. But I would never employ these fabulous tools at the expense of performance. When trackability allows us to tie nearly every paid message to a direct ROI, there simply isn’t an excuse for creating ads because we “like” them.  

Smart advertisers – and their clients – know that it’s the performance that counts.  

There is no marketing Svengali able to intuit what the customer wants based on an insanely accurate personal opinion. While we all have the style we like, function over form delivers the bottom line.  

Fortunately for online marketers, tracking provides indisputable evidence for what works best. A/B testing allows us to accurately determine whether a specific design, message or offer is effective. Entire think tanks exist for the sole purpose of studying conversion marketing.  

Professional marketing shouldn’t be a guessing game with expensive advertising deployed because a stakeholder liked it... or great strategies scrapped because one powerful person didn’t.

Smart, thoughtful, captivating messages delivered with a compelling design - these things will always work in advertising, online and off. As new capabilities are added, the unchanging truism is no different today than it was 10 years ago when you learned how to apply transitions in a Power Point presentation: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. 

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, either.  

Where conversion is measurable, changes should be made incrementally, tested, refined and, once confirmed, employed to their greatest possible impact.

While articles decry that “Multitasking is a Myth” and “Design is Distraction,” just remember that this isn’t new. In print we used to call it “burying the lead.” A prominent call to action will always be vital to effective marketing; the impact of clear messaging isn’t a fad. Smart implementation of new tools based on quantifiable analysis isn’t a trend, and they certainly aren’t susceptible to the whims of the pendulum.