The argument has been presented to me that the World Wide Web has room for all kinds of experiences. Some can be very usable and utilitarian while others can be freer to examine different things. Particularly, the argument is that a Web site that is shown to have more design and less information has its place too. The Web is a big place, but I just can’t agree with that line of thinking.
If a site like that is actually produced then it won’t stay up for long because users will not stay or return. This isn’t creatively breaking the rules in a good way. It’s pretending there aren’t any. It’s like designing a car with square wheels because anything round doesn’t match your design style. The very act of something being functional imposes real limits. Usability is half of the problem, content is the other half.
Content is king. So the content on a Web site should receive the most attention. Taking time to see that content is easy to scan, easy to consume, and easy to find are how we make content functional. In order of importance it works like this. Content is first, usability comes second and visual design last. I am not just talking about business based Web sites either. Sites that are completely entertainment focused still do this if they want to attract an audience.
The more expressive sites are typically brand destinations where design and interaction become part of the content people expect to see. Still, all Web sites need to be usable. The same basic rules apply. There are many brand destination sites that are visually engaging, fun to use, and above all informative. I think the Mini site does an excellent job at balancing all of it: http://www.miniusa.com/#/MINIUSA.COM-m.
It seems that people are easily confused when they see a pretty design that is not a functioning Web site. In truth if it were functional, they’d see how worthless a site like that is. Portfolio sites can be very deceiving this way. A Web site is to be used, not just looked at.
The Web will continue to change and grow. But we have come across things that have proven themselves a million times over. People scan Web sites for interesting content. People want things that are easy to use. Why would anyone ignore these things? Present a range of information and make it easy to scan. Once you get that right, weave in the branding and the atmosphere. That’s how great experiences are made.