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What is the Difference Between Good Web Design and Bad Web Design?
by William Szczepanek

Article 15: August 28, 2008

This question seems to be a popular topic of discussion nowadays.  Why?  Probably because there are so many of both right now – good Web sites and bad Web sites. We can argue the benefits of Cascading Style Sheets over tables, and W3C standards over creative license, but the most significant measure of good Web design over bad Web design is whether or not the design serves the purpose the site was intended to reflect.

Why then do so many people feel compelled to design a Web site for their business with no real knowledge of what they’re doing?  Some have been told that it’s easy by someone who just spent 18 months getting their site up and running and now needs to brag about it.  Others have created websites with templates in a matter of hours and can brag about that.  Get them to make a significant change in the design of their site and you have them backpedaling. Can inexperienced people design good Web sites?  It really depends on the requirements of the site.

What is a good chair?  The answer depends on the situation.  Is it designed for comfort or functionality? A recliner as a resting place in an art museum is not the usual solution, though it may be an excellent solution for someone who is really tired from walking around. The typical plain bench serves the need of the patron, while discouraging loitering, a need of the museum.

What is good Web design?  I contend good Web design is the presentation that achieves optimal results for the most likely visitor and realizes the goal of the Web site owner.  Any site will not be good for all visitors, but needs to be good for the visitors who most need to find what they are searching for.

Determining whether a site measures up requires quantification of the user experience and a determination of how satisfied the users are.  Measurement is not the opinion of designers who scoff at an approach because it doesn’t meet their standards. So, an inexperienced Web designer can design good Web sites, but the question is whether they are able to determine if the site is as effective as they would like it to be. Often this is a challenge for even the most experienced Web designer, but experience goes a long way toward providing the insight to find the right questions to ask and then providing solutions that match the need of the Web owner.

Good design is determined by results, not defined by opinion.