TMCnet Feature
November 10, 2015

Why a Good Visual Designer Can Make or Break Your Website

Let’s start with a quick question: how much time do you think you spend on the Internet each day? Be honest here, because let’s be real, if you’re like most people, you’re constantly hovering over your email, or your Facebook (News - Alert) page, or your Instagram account. And you know what? That’s okay. You’re not alone there. Don’t believe me? Maybe you’ll believe this infographic, which reveals that your Facebook status update is one of 172 million each day. Pretty mind-blowing, right? So let’s stop being embarrassed about how often we’re on the Internet. The world revolves around the Internet, to the tune of $1.2 million in e-commerce every thirty seconds.

Now, let’s say you’re a business owner, or maybe you’re trying to promote your own personal brand. Based on the information we just went over, you’re probably (hopefully) thinking to yourself, “Wow, I really need to focus on getting more traffic to my website!” That’s a good thing to be thinking. It means you recognize the importance of first impressions. In this day and age, it’s often the case that the first encounter people have with you or your business is through the Internet, whether that’s a LinkedIn (News - Alert) page, your personal website, or even a dating profile. What this means is that now, more than ever, you have to make sure your website or app stands out from all other competitors.

At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, “Oh boy. That’s a lot of pressure. I don’t know the first thing about web design! How am I going to make my site stand out?”

Well, luckily for you, there are professionals for that kind of thing. They’re called digital designers, and the freelance marketplace for their skillset is, as you would expect, currently blowing up. There are tons of sites out there to find freelance digital designers, and even more big movers in the tech industry are seeing the potential of this growing market.

Now, the world of digital design is pretty complex, as there are many steps in the design process, including User Experience (UX), User Interface (UI), Visual, and Interaction. Each step of the process is crucial to solid digital design and comes with its own set of skills. Think of it like building a house: the architect is different from the builders, who are different from the decorators, and you need all of them to make sure the house is built to completion. You need to cover all your bases in the design process in order to ensure your app or website has both the look and functionality to separate itself from the rest of the crowd.

One part of the design process you definitely don’t want to skimp on is the visual design. If we’re continuing this analogy of building a house, visual design is the equivalent of decorating the house, making it look really good both inside and out. In terms of design, this means making sure visuals of your site are both eye-catching and nice to look at, a harder combination to achieve than you’d think. A good visual designer will also make sure that the aesthetic of the website is perfectly in line with the brand of the company or individual whose site it is, and in this line of work, no detail is too small. This means paying attention to such things as lighting, text, and even the foundational code upon which the website is built.

At this point, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Okay. Whoa. I didn’t know so much went into this whole process. I didn’t even know websites had lighting. I need to hire a visual designer.”

That’s good thinking on your part. In a world where really good web design is praised and really bad web design is lambasted, you really can’t afford to take any shortcuts when it comes to designing and building your website. This is true for all steps of the process, but especially for visual, as it’s the step responsible for making sure your site catches the attention of any and all possible passersby.

There are tons of factors you want to consider when hiring visual designers. Obviously artistic skill is the first thing that comes to mind, but that large categorization can include everything from typography, iconography, color psychology, and spatial and textural awareness, among other things, so make sure you know what exactly you’re looking for. Because Visual designers have a hand both in how the website is built and how it looks to outward consumers, the ideal candidate would have an understanding of the UI and UX processes and have the analytical skills necessary to identify what does and doesn’t work in terms of branding and visual identity. Therefore, when you’re interviewing candidates, you want to make sure they are able to fully explain their creative processes and their rationale behind each creative decision, from concept to execution. Obviously, this also means that the ideal candidate will be a top notch communicator, for it should go without being said that you and your designer should always be on the same page creatively in terms of the vision for the project. Ambition is key, as well, for your website needs to stick out from the run-of-the-mill. This means your visual designer should be able to think outside the box and push creative limits.

Among the many interview questions you’ll ask your visual design candidates, a few key ones to keep in mind are those that highlight the field, industry, or medium they prefer working in as well as the nuts and bolts of their creative process, including what software they prefer to use and their research process. It might also be a good idea to find some websites whose design you like and ask the candidates’ opinion on that site. It’s a good way to tell whether you and your designer will be able to find a common aesthetic. Of course, you’ll also want to evaluate their portfolio (most designers publish their portfolio online for free) and ask them about their processes on certain projects that catch your eye.

The world of digital design is huge and only getting bigger. It’s better to take the initiative now and make sure you do your homework before you dive right into this very complex and fast-paced world. And remember, design in all its steps is a crucial investment for the image of your company or brand, so don’t be afraid to really dream big and establish your image by whatever means necessary. In the long run, you certainly won’t regret it.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere
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