Guest Post: Why Even Pretty Websites Can Fail

Editor’s Note: Everyone possesses a unique perspective on how to make a good website. I’m only one person, so I’m delighted to publish this blog’s first-ever guest post! Hopefully in the future, I can find other guest posters to share their unique perspectives.

I am not a copy writer or content strategist. Lauren Appa, of AppaInk Copywriting, is. Take it away, Lauren!


In February I attended the AIGA event, “Desperately Seeking Synergy,” a group therapy session between developers and graphic designers. The purpose was to help bring about understanding between these two warring factions and reassure both sides that everyone wants the same thing: to create websites that are great-looking, functional and achieve the client’s goals.

Designers feel developers often obstruct the process, misinterpreting instructions or shooting down creative ideas with a flippant, “It can’t be done.” In the developer’s view, designers don’t understand code and so don’t realize when they’re asking for the impossible.

As I sat listening, I noticed two missing words: audience and content. In this epic battle, the content and the audience who reads it seemed lost, forgotten or – worse – never considered in the first place. What, I thought, is so great about functionality and design if the content is crap?

Beyond UX: Giving readers what they want

Don’t get me wrong – I love stuff that looks great, works well and that’s easy to use. But I also expect more than just a great user experience when I visit a site. I want great content. Actually, the better a site looks, the more I expect solid content – after all, it’s why I’m there.

I don’t go to a site to be impressed by fancy features and graphics. I’m busy. I want to find facts and get answers so I can make decisions and go on with my day. If the content isn’t designed to do that, if it’s an afterthought, then the site fails. Period.

Finding common ground: Building the site around the audience

A computer says "Hello there, Reader."Perhaps the common ground we all seek starts with the idea that we’re all ultimately here to sell, inform, position ourselves (or the client) as thought leaders and build relationships with readers.

With this in mind, what if all decisions about a site (design, content, functionality, videos, images, etc.) were subject to a Does It Clearly Communicate with the Reader test? If it does, do it. If not, ditch it (no matter how cool it might look). The rule applies as much to the content as any other element. Too much or outdated content is as harmful to a site’s credibility as a broken link or cumbersome navigation.

Of course, the test is much more effective if, from Day One, the team works to build the site around the reader, rather than around technology or aesthetics. Start by asking your customers what they want, pull together a focus group, send out a survey, make up personas – do whatever you need to do to understand your audience and tailor the site to them.

Sure, you’ll still need to work together on the mechanics, look and feel – those are extremely important – but since you’re looking at the site from the reader’s perspective, you’ll be much more likely to hit upon solutions that support the site’s goals and gives readers what they came for and a reason to come back for more. No spilled blood required.

About the Author: Lauren Appa

Lauren Appa is a freelance content creator and owner of AppaInk Copywriting. Drawing from her background in marketing and journalism, she is adept at asking the right questions to glean information from subject matter experts and tailoring it for the target audience. Lauren specializes in creating engaging, information-rich content that builds trust, adds value, and positions her clients as industry thought leaders. For more information visit www.appaink.com.

AppaInk Copywriting and MRW Web Design worked together to lead the project that resulted in AWC Seattle’s new website.

2 thoughts on “Guest Post: Why Even Pretty Websites Can Fail”

  1.  Great article. Like always we can never be reminded enough about basics. A nice relationship between a writer, designer, photographer and the developer (team) really can make a huge difference in every project.

    1. Great point. I find those relationships gain even greater importance on small projects where there may not be budget for a devoted project manager. I like that this article provides an incredibly simple question that everyone on a web team can use to guide their work.

      Thanks for the comment!

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