Websites Are Cars, Not Paintings


A painting has two responsibilities in life; hang on a wall and look pretty. It’s under no obligation to be functional or interactive. Trust me, the guards at the Louvre get real snooty when you try to interact with the Mona Lisa. French stereotypes aside, far too many people make the mistake of thinking of a website like a painting when, in reality, websites are more akin to cars.

Unlike a painting, a car must pass an eyeball test and an interactive test. Sure, lots of work goes into the shape, lines, and appearance of the car, but even more work goes into building an engine that runs smoothly, a suspension that can handle corners, and seats that are comfortable. The same under-the-hood care needs to be put into a website.

Just like a car that someone drives every day, a website will have someone click around and use it every day. You’ll never print a copy of your site, hang it on a wall, and say, “look at that header photo.” Websites aren’t meant to hang on walls, they’re meant to be taken for a drive.

With this in mind, sites have to be designed for functionality first and aesthetics second. This is what will separate a decent-looking DIY Squarespace site from a great site that can perform. In some ways, the difference between the two are subtle and won’t be seen at first glance, but in other ways the difference is painfully obvious when you know where to look. Mocking up a website that looks good as a static image isn’t anything to write home about, but creating a site that’s equal parts beauty and function is worth a sizeable investment.

web design

Websites aren’t meant to hang on walls

website development

One of the most common ways bad sites sacrifice function for form is disregarding legibility. Far too often, large photos are dragged and dropped into prominent locations on a homepage, only to have lines of copy, IN ALL CAPS NO LESS, slapped over them with no consideration given to the legibility of the copy. This problem is exacerbated when the site is made to be mobile responsive, forcing the copy to shift and possibly stack.

The Right Way to Design

To keep our priorities straight, we first create buyer personas and rattle off as many reasons why they might visit the site as possible. By first considering the problems our target demographic needs the site to solve, we can wireframe a site that will function well and meet their needs. We also give consideration to how the site will perform on different browsers and screen sizes. This ensures peak performance for every visitor no matter how they access the site.

When it comes down to it, a properly designed website requires much more time spent in thought and strategy than most would guess. Colors, shapes, and photography should never be viewed as anything less than vital, but you’ll end up with a painting that can’t drive anyone anywhere if that’s all you focus on. The key is finding a way to make your aesthetic design enhance the usability. When you do that, your site will look and drive like it was meant to.

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