We’ve heard it a thousand times.

“Content is king.”

This is false—and there are studies that prove it.

If anything, content is more like a group of trusted advisors to the King. It informs his actions, and acts through him. The advisors’ views, opinions, and messages are filtered through the King before they reach the public.

In short, content is necessary, but not sufficient.

So who is the real King, then? Is it promotion? No, not really. Promotion is like the King’s army; conquering new ground and defending the integrity of the Crown. Also necessary, but not by any means sufficient. (Paid promotion, then, I guess, can be likened to a group of mercenaries.)

The real King

The real King, believe it or not, is design.

Design, like the King, is what keeps the realm together. Without it, things would crumble and fall apart. If it is noble and good, it inspires trust and good faith. If it is ugly and bad, people are far less forgiving of sub-perfect content, and promotion is not nearly as effective.

At the bare minimum, the design of your website needs to not trigger immediate distrust.

Researchers at two British universities conducted a study where they observed fifteen women faced with a risky health decision as they searched the Internet for information and advice about their situations.

You would expect content to be of supreme importance in such a serious situation, right?

You’d be wrong.

The study found that when someone mistrusted a website, design-related issues was far more important than content-related issues.

How much more important? 94% of the comments were about design, 6% about content.

So what are the design pitfalls that cause visitors to distrust you?

  • Inappropriate site name
  • Complex, busy layout
  • Lack of navigation aids (here’s a great article about visual hierarchy in web design)
  • Boring web design
  • Use of colours
  • Pop-up advertisements
  • Small print (bigger is almost always better, never make people squint or strain their eyes to read your content)
  • Too much text (big blocks of text are intimidating, it’s always best to break them up as much as possible)
  • “Corporate” look and feel

The Internet is not all that different from real life

You can be super smart and have lots of important things to say, but if you have a bad posture, greasy hair and your clothes are too sizes too large for you, very few are going to take you seriously—and they’re certainly not going to want to hang out with you on the weekends.

Great aesthetics will grab people’s attention faster than words, and bad design will repel them just as fast. The human brain has evolved to process visual information faster than anything else (it takes 17 milliseconds for people to decide if they like your website or not!) because the ability to do so used to be a matter of life and death.

Free design audit

Does your website have any of these red flags? I will identify any problem areas and give you actionable advice on how you can fix them and tweak your website design. Zero strings attached.