When we talk about "design" we are not just talking about how to make something "good looking". Design includes how to make something "useful". IF you're impressed only with how a website looks, then you have lost sight of the purpose behind even having a web site. Priority number one is the GOAL of your website. What action do you want people to take when they land on your page?
- Are you looking to educate?
- Are you looking to sell?
- Are you looking to get a phone call?
- Are you looking to collect email addresses?
- Are you looking to provide a web experience?
Once your goal (or goals) have been defined it quickly becomes important to prioritize them, and even more important to not lose focus on those goals. Many people begin a web project by defining features. They say, "I want my website to have a chat room, a forum, a place for people to email me", and on and on it goes completely losing focus on what the reason is for having those features. Without a properly defined set of user or customer focused goals its impossible to prioritize, your feature set.
What this lack of focus leads to, is unnecessary project "scope creep", and often the feeling that your project will never be done, because you can't see the end goal when you get little pieces here and there. For instance... you may have an unstated goal of... "Selling Cars". Then you contact a designer and the conversation goes something like this...
"I need a website."
reply - "Can you give me some details about what you want."
"I'd like some pictures, a contact us form, and a way to update my prices and pictures easily."
reply - "Thats no problem at all, we can start right away."
That doesn't sound like a problem, but then two weeks into development you decide that letting users leave comments on your car photos would be a great feature for your website. You've possibly just wasted two weeks of development time, and your photo tool has to be completely be reworked from scratch. What has happened is that focus on the end goal has been lost, and refocused on getting this one "feature" put in. The schedule has been pushed forward, and the "overall" vision is not visible.
The beauty of great a great project and great design is that you focus on the end goal, make a nice shell that is usable. Why?, because you can add "features" anytime you want. But if all you have is photo tool with comments after 2 months, when your actual goal was to have a place for users to get information and contact you about buying a car, then you're not happy, your users are not happy and the person working on your site is thinking they did everything they could to please you. All of the sudden you have a project that broke down, and you're looking for a new designer who can meet your real "GOALS", that were never the focus in the first place.