How important is ‘the pretty factor’ for a regular business website? I’m talking about websites for basic businesses, like accounting, plumbing, coaching services, that sort of thing. Not lifestyle products that already have great visuals built in.
Let’s assume you’re selling something that is not glamorous, but is incredibly useful. Like, accounting software.
Your average user—a small business owner— wants to spend as little time as possible dealing with accounting matters. They are up to their ears in inventory issues, social media and just keeping the lights on. So you would think that online accounting services would be bending over backwards to simplify their interface design and make it as friendly and non-intimidating as possible. In most cases, you would be dead wrong.
Most of them still use jargon that only a certified accountant can understand. They use plain colors, lots of boxes of info, and snore-inducing clip art photography. They assume their users share their love of spreadsheets. <insert crossed eyes> But one company is doing it right: Freshbooks.com. I’ve been using them for many years, and despite slow periods when I cut back on many services, I have never cut this one. Why?
The Friendly Factor
I like the interface. Beyond being simple and easy, it looks friendly and non-intimidating. The first impression you get is, this looks easy, I can do this. It almost looks like fun… It’s the reason I chose it, and the reason I stay with it. Well, not the *only*reason. But it’s in the top three.
How do they do it?
It’s not one element, it’s an ingenious combination that adds up to a great user experience. It goes beyond the usual streamlining of tasks and removal of any obstacles or friction. For me, much of the appeal lies in the design. Let’s break it down.
The colours are bright and fun, full of life, almost tropical. Definitely not pale or neutral. This helps to counter my slumpy attitude when beginning this task. Call it a shot of colour therapy.
There’s also lots of white space. i.e. plenty of breathing space around each button or paragraph. That makes it easier to digest at a glance. That’s key to not overwhelming the visitor.
The graphics are pared down, stripped of all background clutter. This creates interesting shapes that help to break up the boxy angular look. Some are tilted at a fun angle. This holds my attention longer. The home page image, with its seemingly-random choice of superhero figurines and comic books further promotes the impression that this is a fun process.
Instead of overwhelming me with dense paragraphs of text (which nobody reads), I am shown menu and button choices on a need-to-know basis. e.g. If I’m in the Invoices section, I don’t have to wade through irrelevant (at that moment) info like Customer Profiles. This is the opposite feeling to what I experience on sites like Amazon or ebay. Instead of 85 million choices, I see only the ones pertinent to my immediate task. Hallelujah. It feels easier because there’s less decision-making needed on my part. I zip through my weekly bookkeeping in what feels like less than 5 minutes.
Is it worth it?
Listen, if I have to spend time dealing with bookkeeping, it can at least feel like a more pleasant experience. Now that I’m spoiled by Freshbooks.com, I don’t ever want to go back to the boring sites. They’ve earned my longterm loyalty.
So if you run a service based businesses, don’t make the mistake of thinking that it needs to be staid and über-dignified. That’s out-dated thinking. Stop worrying about how you look and start thinking about how you can design a site that puts your audience in a receptive mood. Think about injecting some delight into the experience. It will pay you back tenfold.
** Disclaimer: I participate in affiliate marketing for the items I review, including Freshbooks.com, but I ONLY recommend them if I have used them and thoroughly approve of them. Because who needs bad karma?