Monday, August 22, 2011

Common Myth: Pretty is Better than Fast

The World Wide Web has made us hyper-aware of design and presentation. Who wants text when they can have graphics? Who wants simple when they can have beautiful?

And it's not just the Web. Graphical word processors and quick graphics programs have made it easy for everyone to create amazing visual effects in seconds.

- "Pretty presentation is more important than a good message."

This isn't really something people say out loud very often. But it dominates a lot of decision making in business. People re-design their web sites again and again. They choose "ooooo" and "aaaaaah" over content and usability.

A few posts back I talked about business cards. Flashy and useless wins the day over practical. But this issue goes way beyond business cards. Awhile back I was listening to a presentation by Michelle Ponto, a local TV news producer in Sacramento. She was talking about how to get the attention of the local media.

One of her key points is that press releases should be simple and well written. Avoid graphics. Avoid fancy fonts. Avoid anything that can't be skimmed FAST for the news team. In other words: If you make their job easier, your chances of getting coverage go up.

Content is king.

Another example is Google. The Google home page is approximately the most elegant and useful page on the Internet. And for all the billions of sites that compete for first place, the simple Google home page is number one.

There's always a fight of form versus function. But when you live in a technical world, remember that function needs a little extra attention. Web pages, press releases, resumes, and job proposals are all read by computers first and people second. In many cases, these communications are read by thousands of computers and very few people!

You don't have to eliminate the look and feel of your communications. But give the computers their due.

This blog has been criticized at times because it doesn't follow any of the norms for success. My posts are long, they're almost all text with few pretty pictures. Theoretically, no one should be reading this. But you are. Thank you.

There are no current plans to add a video a day, a bunch of moving graphics, slide show galleries, or a spoken advertisement when you hit the page.

Pretty is good. But a good message is better.


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  1. Function should always trump form. Unless you're Apple.

  2. Carl - I couldn't agree more with your take on content. It is the same thing that drives SEO and SMM.


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