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Does web design matter?

Posted by Graeme in Internet at 10:31 am on Monday, 30 October 2023

I recently visited the website of a amateur theatre company, and any web designer would say it is awful. Anyone with the slightest aesthetic sense will say it is ugly. As a user of the site, it is perfectly good and better than most sites a designer would like.

Here is the site. Just in case it disappears or changes here is a screenshot of it as it is.

As you can see it looks like a particularly bad Geocities site from the 1990s. I am sure many people will mock it. Here is why I think it is a good site.

1. The most important piece of information, the details of the next production, are right there on the home page. No hunting around.
2. Everything else I wanted to know is on a link to the about page.
3. Because the site is so simple it works perfectly on mobile without anyone having to do extra work.
4. It is accessible (for the blind_ as far as I can tell. The image correctly has an empty alt tag (as the information in it is repeated as text). Most websites get this wrong.

It has some faults. The background makes the link text hard to read. There are some broken links and “under construction” pages and out of date content. That is also true of lots of great looking sites, and is to be expected on a site maintained by a volunteer with limited time. The readability issue is easily fixed by deleting the background image (I tried blocking it and the site looked much better).

It is also far more useful to someone who wants to go to a performance than their Facebook page, the “more modern” way of doing it in many eyes. Of course, their Facebook page is likely to have other roles: to share what you are doing with friends and family, or to give people who may be interested in joining a taste of what is going on.

Of course a bigger and more commercial organisation such as the better known theatre company in town (The Royal Shakespeare Company) could not get away with having a site like this. They need to look good, keep sponsors happy and so on. In short, if the PR aspect of a nice design is important, then you need to prioritise it. If you want to put your users first, then stuff it.

Incidentally, the tiny theatre where they usually perform (the Bear Pit) has a nicer bar than the RSC too.

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