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Design as Narrative: Telling a Story with Your Website

People want surprise. People also want predictability. The pulp writer Raymond Chandler once said of mystery writing that “the solution once revealed, must seem to have been inevitable.” People want something that looks fresh and new but they also want something that they can instantly utilize and interact with. The best web-design reveals and explains itself in a way that’s direct and familiar.


Like a book, the best web design has a story. It has a beginning, middle and end. Many businesses fail to put enough thought into what the aim of their website really is. It becomes a muddle without form or function.

Means, Motive, Opportunity

The key to any website is the conversion goal. The goal of a site should be to carry out one primary outcome. Don’t try to do many things. Try to do one thing really well. If you’re running an e-commerce business then your conversion goal is a purchase. A completed transaction will qualify as a conversion. The best web-design will make the process as simple as possible. Searching for the item… Placing the item in the basket… Proceeding to the checkout… Entering payment details… Everything should be swift, intuitive and secure. The user won’t want surprises. Only results.

Judging a Book by its Cover

Design shouldn’t be gaudy. It should be intuitive. The best web-design will embody the personality of your business. It may be warm and cluttered or cool and sleek. Try for a good balance of form and content. Provide information but don’t overload the pages with paragraph after paragraph. You should be able to describe your service briefly.

Above all, you want the user to trust your site. Display a prominent logo. Remember, this is the face of your company. If you don’t place your trust in it, nobody else will. People are not forgiving of cheap or dated or ugly looking websites. You have fifteen or twenty seconds to impress them. That’s it. If you have a high-bounce rate, you may want to take another look at your design. Think of your site as a series of sign-posts. At every moment, with every page or pop-up you’re facilitating the user towards a goal. Be clean. Be clear. Be concise. Employ strong headings and useful menus. Organize information from the top down.

In theory, people may like surprise and mystery. In practice they want reliability, functionality and efficiency. They want a site to look amazing but not alien, innovative but not irritating, challenging but not a challenge. They want a site that’s smart but not a site that makes them feel stupid. The best web-design is a finely crafted piece of storytelling.

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