A Design-Led Website Approach: The Path to Happier Customers and ROI

Drew Eastmead
VP Web Strategy

Can a website have empathy? It should.

Your business website, much like a person, has one chance to make a first impression. If the design or layout of your site is deemed unattractive, 38% of visitors will quickly leave, according to an Adobe study.

What is a “design-led” approach in terms of a website? It means that your team has empathy for your customers. You consistently put yourself in the user’s shoes, imagining the common paths and actions they might take on your site, but also accounting for the uncommon paths. You focus on the user’s needs above your executives’ mandates.

More than anything, you design your site in a way that improves how things work during every possible part of the digital experience:

  • Navigating your website
  • Finding specific information
  • Logging into an account
  • Filling out a form
  • Making a purchase
  • Receiving emails


"Design-led" doesn’t imply that we ignore other critical website elements, such as search engine optimization (SEO), security, and unique content. Design, however, is the first thing people notice when they arrive on your site, and the greatest SEO in the world cannot overcome poor design.

You want everything on your website to look good — but more importantly, you want everything to work well.

Let’s explore three reasons why your company might want to commit to a website that has superior design.


1. Good design = good business

Organizations that invest in user-centric design experience business benefits. Research from the Design Management Institute shows that U.S. design-led companies outperformed the S&P 500 index by 219% from 2004-2014. These include major players like Amazon and Apple.

But good design can help a company of any size. A modern, clean look and feel immediately establishes trust with online users. And that means users will stay longer on your website.

We’ve all been to websites that are cluttered, look dated, or display low-quality images or graphics. Do you trust those sites?


Good design is similar to a referee in a basketball game. You only really notice when it’s bad. A poor user experience intrudes on the visitor’s experience; a poor referee disrupts the flow of the game — usually by calling too many meaningless fouls 35 feet away from the basket. I digress.


Users immediately notice poor web design and make conclusions about your organization. On the other hand, good web design is seamless. Visitors simply proceed to the task at hand because nothing is obstructing them.


2. Your customers will appreciate your attention to design detail

In the digital world, consumers are driven by convenience, speed, and personalization. Does your website provide all of those things currently?

As much as it (sort of) pains me to spend 89% of my disposable income on Amazon, I do so because it is ridiculously convenient: Order history. One-click checkout. Free, fast shipping. Great customer service.


You too can provide a superior online customer experience, with a design-led approach. Remember we’re not just looking to improve how everything looks — we want to improve how everything works. And we’re doing it through the lens of your users.

Your potential website visitors should serve as your team’s compass when making business decisions about your new site. Imagine how streamlined your website would be if all departments (leadership, finance, business development, marketing, custom service, finance) tried to anticipate user pain points and then better serve them.


3. You can quickly outpace your competitors

In a study conducted by Forrester, design-led companies reported 41% higher market share. For small and medium-sized businesses, the effect can be the same: An investment in a design-led website is an investment in your business.

Design-led companies report 41% higher market share.

Business owners are often concerned about differentiating their company from their competitors. Investing in advertising, marketing, or product development can certainly make sense in many cases. However, think about where we are today: About 90% of people use a search engine prior to making a purchase.

That means your website, for all intents and purposes, is the front door of your business. If you can make your “lobby” more attractive, simpler, and more inviting than your competitor’s site — you will win.

Differentiation on your site can be achieved through:

  • Educational content (especially video)
  • Original photos (rather than stock)
  • A unique look and feel for your industry
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • White space
  • Simplicity

And the list goes on. But these are some of the qualities that users gravitate to today. And in a design-led approach, we focus on giving users what they want and how they want it.

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