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In the ever-evolving web design landscape, companies constantly grapple with the dual forces of aesthetic and functional design. Site overhauls risk tilting too heavily toward one end of the spectrum, potentially alienating audiences and hindering conversion rates. 

Learning from today’s most successful companies, incorporating experimentation into your strategy is essential for finding the optimal balance and unlocking the next phase of growth.

The Dangers of Extremes

In February 2014, Basecamp launched a website redesign that cost the company millions. The redesign, undertaken as part of a broader rebranding effort, included a dramatic aesthetic change. In that process, their signup form was removed from the homepage. The result? Conversion rate plummeted, leading to a prolonged sign up decline.

Initially, the decline was attributed to increased traffic and normal seasonality. However, as the slump persisted into the first half of 2015, it became evident that something greater was at play. 

A year after launch, an A/B test was finally conducted, reintroducing the signup form. The result? A 16% increase in signups. 

Pushing too far on aesthetic design without testing had cost the company millions in revenue. Basecamp learned their lesson and committed to building a culture of continuous improvement and experimentation.

Experimentation Reveals the Perfect Balance 

Aesthetic design serves as the visual voice of a brand, aiming to evoke emotions and appeal to the senses. It establishes a firm identity for a company, leaving a lasting impression on consumers. The visual interest it creates is instrumental in helping a brand stand out from the crowd and carve its niche in the market.

On the other hand, functional design revolves around usability and accessibility. As Steve Jobs aptly puts it, “Good design is about how well something works, not about how it looks or feels.” The focus is on making it easy for users to visit, navigate, and convert, ensuring a seamless and frustration-free experience. 

Achieving the synergy between aesthetic and functional design involves a strategic experimentation approach. Prioritizing functional design with UX best practices, accessible themes, and proven tactics forms the foundation. This framework can then be adorned with the brand’s personality through elements such as color, texture, motion (animation), voice, and image style. The key is not to sacrifice one for the other but to intertwine them in a harmonious dance and test into what your specific audience needs to feel supported in their online decisions.

This iterative process not only safeguards against potential pitfalls but also facilitates continuous improvement. Through ongoing experimentation, designers can identify and rectify issues in real-time, creating a dynamic feedback loop that hones in on the optimal balance between aesthetic appeal and functional efficiency. The result is a website that not only captivates visually but also offers a seamless and user-friendly experience, reducing the inherent risks associated with bold design changes and fostering a website that achieves your business goals.

Want to balance beauty with functionality on your next web design? Let’s start a conversation.