Today, website creation and design are more accessible than ever. Any independent business owner with enough tenacity and a few hours of time can quickly build a template-based website for his/her business. Sites like WordPress and Squarespace have done the research, they know the tricks, and almost any site you build using a platform like this will be acceptable-meaning fully functional, customizable for whatever content you want to offer, and reasonably aesthetically pleasing.
Is Accessibility a Good Thing?
But this availability of ready-to-go site designs, and the tendency for web designers to copy or mimic trends that are already unfolding, isn’t necessarily the best way to approach your web design. It’s the safe route-one with minimal risk and a reasonable payoff. But in today’s web design landscape, it may be better to take more risks when it comes to your web design.
Motivations for More Risk
Risks can take many forms; you can experiment with a new layout, be bold in your voice and content, or defy conventions to make a point. Whatever you do, you’ll be taking a calculated risk, and there are major benefits to be had when doing it:
- People love mavericks. First, recognize that people love mavericks-the people and organizations who stand out by going against the norm. That’s why people like Tim Sykes, who build up a reputation as a jerk (or in this case a “douche bag”) end up with a startling excess of popularity. This isn’t to say that you should be rude or obnoxious on your site; it’s merely an illustration of how going against the grain can be more appealing to your target audience. They’ll develop a deeper respect for you, and you’ll probably earn a better reputation through word-of-mouth.
- High risk means high reward. This is a general rule, and one that only applies to calculated risks. However, in most cases, taking a risk forces you to confront more lopsided odds. Let’s put this into perspective; creating a template site means you won’t piss anybody off or disturb the waters at all, but it also means you don’t stand to gain much attention. On the other hand, going with a bolder, riskier design means you’ll have a higher likelihood of turning some people away, but a chance at achieving a better reputation than you could possibly get with a straightforward template site.
- Competition is fierce. Keep in mind that the internet is flooded with millions of businesses and individuals who have their own websites, and tens of thousands more are created every day. The internet is a huge place, and there are only so many sites people can spend time on. When users get to a site, they usually make a snap judgment about it, and they’ll be comparing it to other sites they’ve seen in the past. If it looks like a million other sites they’ve already seen, they’re not going to think much of you.
- It’s more fun. This one is a bit subjective, and partially dependent on how much you enjoy the process of web design in the first place. Opting for a riskier, more avant-garde design is a more enjoyable process for most designers, and you’ll feel a sense of pride whenever you pull up your website to show others in the future. This fun isn’t limited to your personal enjoyment, either—if your website is more fun, people will think of your company and your brand as more fun, and you’ll probably attract better employees and a healthier work culture because of it.
- You can always go back. Finally, remember that web design isn’t permanent. Yes, your website will be making first impressions on every individual visitor who passes through, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be stuck with your initial design indefinitely. If you find that you don’t like the risks you took, or if you’re ready to go back to a more normalized version of your brand’s online presence, you can always go back.
These motivations should be enough to convince you to take more risks in your website design. The nature of those risks will be completely up to you, but don’t be afraid to push the envelope. Some of the best and most memorable designs of the past have been ones that challenged the public, and have stood apart from the white noise. You don’t have to be a genius to be a part of this crowd—you just have to be willing to take a risk.