Okay, that’s a trick question. Obviously both are somewhat important. But I’m here to tell you that function far exceeds design. This is especially true in today’s world of mobile usage.
Let me explain. On Friday, I got a call from an unhappy client. She had approved her website design, and loved the way it looked. But she was infuriated when she realized that the mobile version of her website looked … well … plain, at least in comparison with the design we created for full-screen monitors.
“It’s ugly,” she kept telling me. What I explained in response was that what she saw on her phone was a mobile version of her site. We didn’t create it. The latest technology, called “Responsive Design,” basically took her website, was able to “read” that it was being viewed on a small screen, and took out all the clutter so that all the information and navigation could appear in a format that is easy to use on a mobile device.
But she still didn’t think it was pretty. Apparently, her personal preference about what is “pretty” is far more important than what the general public has been shown to prefer: a site that sacrifices appearance for ease of use. Yes, she’s right and all the experts are wrong.
A Common Mistake
Far too many people view their author website as a piece of art. They want it to be beautiful. They want it to represent them. And it should … up to a point.
What’s most important is that the site be able to accomplish your goals. That may be selling copies of the book. That may be attracting a publisher. That may be getting the media to contact you for a TV interview. Whatever it is, it’s more important that your users do what you want them to do than it is that you personally like the visual appeal of the site.
Think of it this way. Contracting with a company to build your website is like hiring someone to stage your house for sale. This person may do things to your house that you may not love. You may not even want to live in that house any more after all those changes. But that’s not the point. The point is to get it sold. Your personal opinion isn’t really relevant.
Now, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t love how your site looks. In an ideal world, you should. And if you do, great. But remember: you liking it is probably irrelevant in terms of how many books you sell or how many people sign up for your email newsletter.
The sooner an author recognizes that, the better for everyone.