Dec 03

What can a colander tell us about web design?

The other day my wife brought home a fancy Michael Graves stainless steel colander she purchased to replace our our old plastic one that had been melted by… ahem, someone while cooking dinner the night before.  I have to admit, the colander looked really cool and definitely made a good first impression.

What can this colander tell us about good web design?

A week or so later, I needed to strain some steamed broccoli for a dish I was making.  After emptying the cooked broccoli into the new colander and letting it sit for a few minutes in the sink, I picked it up and poured the broccoli into a bowl of other ingredients I was mixing together.  The colander had a nice feel to it and the broccoli slid smoothly out — along with about a cup of water!

Upon further inspection I realized that the design of the colander, while definitely sleek and stylish, left an area at the bottom where a good deal of water pools rather than draining.

This is unacceptable.

The main purpose — the only purpose — of a colander is to drain liquid from something solid.  I could have forgiven a colander that was too heavy or one that had handles that were too small. But a colander that failed to do the primary thing it was purchased to do is just unforgivable, no matter how cool it looks.

So what does this have to do with web design?

Simple. Having a cool-looking website is only worthwhile if the site actually succeeds at doing the thing you want it to do, which is to convert your visitors into customers (or fans, subscribers, etc.). If it fails to do that, if the design inhibits that from happening, if all the creative bells and whistles actually interfere with what you want your visitor to do, then the company who created your site has done you a serious disservice.

And since your website is often directly linked to your livelihood, it’s infinitely less forgivable than the worthless “designer” colander sitting in my recycle bin.