Design Philosophy of Whole Grain Design
Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.
— Jeffrey Zeldman
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery
It's been said that everything is designed, but few things are designed well. I agree, but to understand why it's important to agree on what design is.
Design is purpose–driven art. Its job is promote your company; serving that purpose is its only reason to be. It should identify you, present the personality you wish to promote, and then, basically, get out of the way. From a customer's standpoint, great design is design that works - if they can come to your web site, find the information they want easily and quickly, and maneuver within your site without getting lost or confused, they will be much more likely to do business with you.
That said, there are a few philosophical "rules" that I try to abide when when designing:
It's not about you: As mentioned before, design needs to service its purpose to be effective. As someone trying to attract customers, your first and only question should be: What do my customers and potential customers want? It's very easy to fall into the trap of designing things for you instead of your customer. Unless there is a well-designed strategy, that's almost always a mistake.
Consistency is paramount: It's important that your company has a personality or "brand". You want people to know it's you when they visit your web site, or see your business card, or receive your invoice, or see your trucks on the street. A hodgepodge approach simply won't work in the long run.
White space is very important: Good design accentuates the important. If everything is jammed together, or if there is too much miscellaneous information, then the important gets lost. The best approach is to distill everything down to the fewest possible points and then emphasize those, both visually and verbally.
Everyone's time is valuable: Another way to say this is get to the point. On a web site, time is everything. People have become accustomed to speed on the internet. If they have to wait for your web page to load, or if there isn't a clean, obvious, quick way to get the information they are looking for they will leave and go to a competitor.
Anything worth doing is worth doing right: There are lots of shortcuts designers can take. For example,it is very easy to make a web site that looks fine but is coded horribly. Looking good is important, but search engines take everything into account. Non-valid coding, inaccessibility to surfers with handicaps, and tricks and hacks used to "patch" a page together will all keep your site from ranking well. That means many potential customers will never find you.