The design of a website represents its aesthetic appeal. Be it through clever programming, art work, or an engaging layout, design creates values for a website through its ability to produce higher quality returns from the user base. By establishing a brand of quality, and a sense of sophistication, users are more likely to engage the asset through value-creating transactions.
However, as with many aspects of a web-page, the subjective nature of design means that it can be difficult to evaluate just what kind of benefit the aesthetics of a page are creating for the bottom line. As such, the best way to evaluate design is through the opportunity cost of its creation, the end-user benefit that is created through the enhanced interface, and the traffic benefit that is generated from the sheer appeal of the aesthetics.
The opportunity cost of designing an engaging website can be evaluated similarly to the way in which we did when we examined functionality. The trick is to then be able to understand the costs and benefits of using less-expensive talent against high-quality workers. Upon determining the price point at which we would need to meet in order to procure a similar design, we can evaluate the worth of the interface based on the ensuing make-or-buy decision.
The costs of hiring in talent to complete a basic design project can be estimated as follows:
|Skill Level||Capabilities||Cost/Hr||Project Timing||Project Costs|
|Basement Artist||Basic Drawings, Color Panelling, and Cartoons.||$15||3 hours||$45|
|Graphic Designer||Photoshopping, Layout Planning, and Font-setting.||$20||3 hours||$60|
|Animation Designer||Flash Animations and Basic User Responsiveness.||$30||6 hours||$180|
|Interface Designer||Full Interface Functionality and Interactive Media.||$60||10 hours||$600|
|3D Designer||3D Modelling and Animation.||$120||20 hours||$2,400|
The first thing to notice about this table is its similarities to the costs of building in functionality to a web asset. While these numbers are surprisingly convenient for planning purpose, it is important to remember that there is more room for error in these prices because of the way in which there is no artistic best practice in place that will assure you of getting a consistent output from a contractor. Some designers will have different creative visions for a project than others, and many will produce a different kind of outcome based on their own capabilities and tools.
Because of this flexibility, we need to be sure that we are able to effectively break down the cost of the job in accordance the amount of time which it will take to procure. If we are dealing with a basement artist, the project might require more time than it would take a professional Graphics Designer because the Basement Artist might not be as productive without an office. That being said, a simple logo or cartoon can be done in any environment with ease, meaning that the price variance will not be much.
As always, the trick when evaluating a make-or-buy decision is to understand the value which the design of the page if it were purchased outright as a full asset, or if it were to be built independently by hand. From there, we can begin to make the more sophisticated evaluation of how the design itself is contributing to the page’s worth from the end-user’s perspective.
End User Benefit
From a valuation perspective, the end user benefit of an innovative design is extremely important in the way that it establishes the brand of the page itself. By implementing a memorable design, the asset is securing its place in the user’s mind. While this might seem to be an intangible benefit, it is important to recognize the traffic implications of a strong brand.
Through an engaging design, an asset is able to forego both organic search and paid traffic, because the user base begins directly visiting the page through the address bar. This means that the site’s purchased traffic portfolio becomes more representative of new users visiting the site. From there, the quality of the page’s design can be evaluated as a function of the direct visits to the page, against the organic or paid traffic.
As a function, the ratio of indirect traffic (ie. search or paid) that is converted to direct traffic from the address bar represents the ability of the page’s design create a strong brand. By having a brand that establishes itself in the user’s mind in such a way that they are wanted to revisit the page directly, we are creating tangible value through the saved costs of traffic procurement.
While this might not be worst much during the starting stages of the page, it becomes invaluable later on as the page beings to scale, and rely on high-volume traffic venues. Whereas a page without a brand may rely on paid traffic to bring in visitors initially, and then provide those visitors with a venue to return to the page, a page with brand is able to procure cost effective traffic that saves a great deal of money on the bottom line.
The easiest way to calculate the ratio of indirect traffic that is converted to a direct user base is to use a dedicated tracking program on the page. From there, we can look at the referring source of the page, and compare it against the visitor’s IP address. If the IP is unique we can assume that it is a unique visitor. From there, we want to compare that visitor’s referring history, and search for a trend.
Specifically, if the latest visit is through a direct link, we can assume that they have been converted, and attribute the cost of traffic for that user to the design benefit. Alternatively, if that individual continues to return through an expensive paid link, and yet does not create any incremental revenue for the page itself, we can assume that the design of the page is not enough to establish a brand, to the point at which it is actually costing the asset additional funds.
From there, we need to determine if there is an opportunity to build up the design of the page in a way that will improve the ratio of direct:indirect traffic, and therefore unlock hidden value in the asset, or if the page itself inherently requires expensive traffic to sustain itself.