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Good Design: How Much is it Worth?

A small glass container filled with coins and has a small plant growing in it
brand strategy involves deciding how much to invest in your website

Hashim Warren, of sent me a great question recently. Hashim is setting up his new site, and is wondering about the return on his design investment.

“I’m starting a new project and I don’t know how much time, focus, and money to spend on design right out of the gate.”

There’s no single answer that will work for everyone, but I can give Hashim (and you) some guidelines that will help your decision process.

Are they just not into it?

The first place to start is with your target market. How important are aesthetics for the group you’re trying to reach?

Because let’s be honest here: not everyone is going to register great graphics the same way. If your target market is only looking for great content, you should focus on getting that right first. Create a blog, site, newsletter or magazine with compelling writing, and worry about design later.

If it’s important to your target market, it should be important to you

Many target markets are very responsive to design.

If your service or product is targeting people who have high standards for how things look, or who are used to dealing with companies who invest in good design, you should spend time on this aspect of your business so that you will be seen as a viable competitor.

Design gives new businesses an edge

Coming out of the gate with a brand-new company that has a polished brand presence can give you the upper hand.

Marketing materials that appear professional and coordinated give the impression that your company is larger than it might be, and more established. It’s a great to way to not appear like you’ve only been in business a short time.

Of course, you can’t just throw money at a designer and hope their work does the trick. Ask good questions and you’ll get a better outcome.

Design can help clarify and unclear message

When I acquire a new client, we have a meeting to get to know one another. I ask a lot of questions: about their market; their long-term plans; their products or services.

Oftentimes these meetings help my new client to clarify their thinking about what they’re offering, and who they are offering it to. This is design thinking in action. Design thinking is a process that can shed new light on your business because of the way it approaches the problems to be solved.

Design thinking involves:

  • Defining your problem
  • Researching and gathering information
  • Generating a variety of solutions
  • Choosing and testing solutions

This process can clarify your business, and sometimes I think it’s the most valuable part of what I offer. It’s more than a pretty logo or a nice brochure. The process of examining your issues, researching them and thinking about them from all angles often uncovers unique solutions that go way beyond aesthetics.

Now you’re wondering:

“Hashim asked how much time, focus and money to spend on design. Are you going to answer his question?”

Well, the answer is going to be different for each of you. Understanding your responses to the points above will help you know how much time and focus to spend on design.

How much money to spend on it will depend on your budget, obviously. Costs vary widely, and thankfully there are ways to keep them down if you do some of the work yourself. (That’s why you’re here, right? You want to understand it better so you can do some of it yourself?)

Weigh the information above, and if you discover your target market responds to good design, you want to appear established and you think the design process will help you clarify your thinking, invest the time, focus and money on good design.

Thanks for your question, Hashim. Are you a small business person with a question about design or marketing? Let me know in the comments, or contact me, and I’ll answer your question here.

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson is the Chief Marketing Officer at DCS. She’s the creator of the Offer Accelerator Program. Learn more about Pamela’s content marketing books, and read reviews of the tools used to run this site.
Pamela Wilson coaches people in midlife to build profitable online businesses
I’m Pamela Wilson

In 2010, at the age of 45, I started this site and grew it into a business that offers freedom, flexibility — and consistent revenue.

8 thoughts on “Good Design: How Much is it Worth?”

  1. I can personally vouch for Pamela’s “Design Thinking” process.

    When Pamela designed my new website header (and chose fonts, colours, etc.) that initial meeting was key. It pushed me to define and focus my target market and my goals for my website as well as my business. Too often we “just” design and make things pretty without considering the hard questions, and they were hard, especially at the transition stage I was at back then.

    Getting a new “real” design pushed me to the next level in my business. It was an image I had to live up to! Made me feel like a million bucks actually, and made me proud of my business and my work. So for that I have to thank you Pamela!

    Excellent post Pamela – as usual!

    • Marlene, it’s funny how the design thinking process takes people by surprise. When people take the time to think through their answers to those tough questions, it informs everything they do.

      I’m putting together the Big Brand System course right now, and the very first lesson is about how to put design thinking to work in your business. I can’t wait to show people how it works so they understand the process and can implement it to come up with new ideas.

  2. I agree that the design thinking is perhaps the most valuable part. Often it’s a big part of what makes a well-fitting design look or feel so *right*.

    One thing I’d expand on is, in web design, the need for good information design. A good web design will not only include styling your site for fonts, colors and imagery, but planning the structure of the content. For instance I am working on a WordPress redesign right now. The client started out with a barebones theme himself, and unfortunately he didn’t understand the implications of posts vs. pages. He’s got content that he adds to daily going into a page instead of a post. So, he’s had a tougher time managing content and making it easy for his customers to find than if he’d structured the content in the most useful way.

    I’d say that even if you can’t afford full design services, you should consider spending money on the design thinking for your business & site planning for your website. A little consultation can go a long way towards more successful do-it-yourself and save you trouble down the road.

    • This is a great point, Tzaddi. If you want your marketing efforts to succeed, you need to start by thinking about the end user, and how they’ll interact with your business. Structure before beauty, right?

  3. It’s always a crippling question, isn’t it? I spent 4 hours tweaking a landing page for a client and I still wasn’t happy with it. But you are right, if the audience will see a crappy design and run, then you have to get it right..

  4. Thanks for this great answer!

    Yes, my market (entertainment industry professionals) appreciates and reponds to great design.

    Nope, they don’t care if I’m established. But I do think design thinking can help me refine my approach to my market.

    Thanks. This was helpful

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