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No Fancy Cake: Avoiding Cruft in Design

Does cake really need three layers of filling, thick spreads of icing, and be adorned with all those bits of colorful candy? Does anyone want snazzy cake?

No, of course not. Well maybe a three year old, but most cake lovers want to appreciate the ingredients, savor its delicate simplicity, and taste the quality of each bite. If you mix up your cake with too much jazz, you can’t taste the chocolate sponginess anymore or appreciate it’s cocoa richness.

When entrepreneurs design their websites, or have them designed, it’s all to easy to fall into a seductive trap. There are so many widgets you can plug into your WordPress installation, colors to tap for your shiny new buttons, and splashy graphics to add, but design is not the pursuit of fanciness.

In fact, decorating your site without a clear focus on message—your actual words—is a sure-fire way to loose time, money, and the most precious commodity, your audience’s attention.

Words Before Design

Before you even think about your look and feel, your site design, your business cards, or any other showy bit of branding, first focus on defining your core message. How will you connect with your audience and deliver your unique message in an authentic way?

The most important element of your site design is the effectiveness of it. What is your purpose? What are you teaching, selling, or distributing? How you connect with your audience and direct them to your message is core to your business. There should be no fluff involved, absolutely no layer cake.

Before you start designing, you must write. Write to your audience. Grab their heartstrings, pull on their ambitions, fears, and goals. Build a message that resonates with them. Test it, get feedback, then refine and simplify. Go through this process, again and again, until your words vibrate in the mind’s of your audience.

Once you have a clear definition of your audience, a tagline, a well thought out about page, a message that connects your audience with the thing that you sell, now it’s time to design.

Design as Amplifier

Design can’t fix poor quality thinking. It can’t make a message that isn’t well-targeted sing. It can’t push business success alone, in a vacuum.

Design is one tool in your toolbox, and what it does is amplify communication.

Design is a multiplier, it enhances and focuses a message. The right font brings legibility and professionalism to your message. A well chosen color scheme will help distinguish you from your competitors. Using the principle of hierarchy well on your page will direct your audience through your marketing message and toward your call to action.

Think of design as a way to amplify emotion and focus attention. It helps connect your message with your audience and direct them toward action.

Let Design Serve Your Message

Don’t get caught up in flamboyancy, or design for the sake of design, or technology for its own sake either. Only add a design element, or widgets, if it makes your message resonate better with your audience, your target objective for visitors more clear, or bottom-line, your site more effective.

Pursue your business with purpose, build your audience relationships with value, genuinely connect with them, drive your message with clarity, and let the design and technology serve your objectives.