This is a conversation I have over and over with new clients. (It’s OK, I’m happy to have it.)
Client: I want lightning bolts to come out of the screen
Me: Cool! We can do that. It’s going to cost twice as much, 10% of your users will no longer be able to view your website because of compatibility issues, and it’s going to be harder for customers to find the information behind the lightning bolts, but we can do it.
One thing I’ve found working as an independent web developer for small business and micro-enterprises for 5 years, is that customers (your customers) are always looking for content, not flashy stuff.
The old model of business says to make your car dealership big and nice because once you get them in the door, they’ll be captivated by all your bling and you’ll land the sale. Today, it doesn’t matter so much what your car lot looks like, because they’ve got your products pulled up alongside three of your competitors. They’re not trapped on your website to be captivated by your presentation, they’re ultimately going to go with the company that provides the best information and the best price.
That’s not to say that your website should look like junk. Your website needs to look clean, professional and modern (so that it doesn’t look like some kind of scam). And you can make it cool with lots of slick features, but when your features start interfering with your user’s search for information or eliminate a portion of your audience, it’s time to reconsider.
The question I always recommend that clients ask is, if I do this cool animation, have an intro video, or whatever, will I make that much more in sales? If I spend an extra $2,000 to have my website use all kinds of animation, will I make an additional $2,000 in profit over the next year? Occasionally the answer is yes, but most of the time, the answer is no.
I shouldn’t tell you this, because I just talked myself out of $2,000 of work. But the truth is that your customers aren’t fooled by a flashy website. Your website needs to be clean, modern and professional so that customers can easily navigate it and trust that you’re a current company on the level. But beyond that, in most cases, the animations and the effects and the blah blah blah are going to do more for your ego than they’re going to do for your sales.
Look at the most popular and profitable websites in the world. Google.com. Amazon.com. NBCnews.com. Facebook.com. Craigslist.org. Design-wise, they’re all pretty plain. But they all make the products and information you’re looking for super easy to find, and they’re accessible and look right from any computer, even if it’s ten years old. And that’s why the stay on top.
There are certainly exceptions. But when in doubt, save your money and focus on getting the best information and the best prices to your customers in a professional manner. You’ll be better served to spend that extra money on search engine optimization and promoting your website.