I’m sitting here working on a new website for a brand new client when the thought for this blog post hit me. There is no comparison between the importance of functionality of a website compared to how it looks. It’s not even a close call. If your website doesn’t do it’s job (whatever that is for you) it doesn’t matter how it looks. Conversely, if your website IS doing it’s job, it really doesn’t matter how it looks.

Let’s look at 5 areas functionality beats appearance when it comes to your website:

Slow Loading Pages – SEO

SEO (search engine optimization) must play a key role when you are designing a website. There are basic tasks that need to be done on every page and one of the key assignments is making sure those pages load fast and do well on Google’s PageSpeed Insights test. A designer worried too much about appearance might load the pages up with bulky graphics, images and photos, and video. It might look good but the price you pay might be that the search engines rank your site lower because of the page load speed. Speed is now used for mobile rankings and the search engines have indicated that their algorithms take this into account more and more with each of their updates. There is a balance to strike here – it is definitely doable.

Difficult and Confusing Navigation – Usability

The user counts too. Yea – you know – that person you want to eventually become a customer. That person. They count. People visiting your website really don’t care about the cool graphics you are using for page navigation or the complicated menu that doesn’t tell you which end is up, let alone which page you are on. Usability is a big deal. The user experience trumps anything you can offer up with regards to “creative navigation”. If your analytics show people bouncing off your website in big numbers – take a look at your navigation first – that could very well be the culprit.

Device Compatibility

I will make this short and sweet. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile devices – you don’t have a website. If I land on your site and have to use my fingers to pinch the screen so I can read your tiny text – I’m gone. Make certain that your site looks as good on your phone as it does your tablet, a laptop, or a desktop. Not only does it make for a better user experience – but Google now penalizes sites that are not optimized for mobile devices. Your website should be designed “mobile first” – making the mobile version of your site as functional as possible with appearance being a secondary factor.

Solving the Business Problem – Purpose

Functionality vs Appearance of your Website

Your website must solve a business problem, generate leads for your business, build your brand, or make you the authority on your subject. Those are pretty much the objectives we are trying to achieve. I’m not at all sure how any of these objectives can be achieved by worrying about appearance over the functionality of the site. There may be an exception – maybe for photographers and graphic artists – but for the most part this is where functionality really shines over appearance.

Cost – ROI

Everyone is concerned about return on investment when it comes to the cost of their website. Usually the big, unnecessary expenses come with the appearance of the site and not the way it functions. Let’s get the site working right – THEN – if need be – we can start playing with bells and whistles. As I write that – I’m reminded of the fact that I’ve never seen any of the “bells and whistles” make a big difference in the success or failure of a website. Keep the cost down so we can enjoy some significant ROI on your investment.


I am certainly not arguing that a crappy looking website is acceptable. It’s not. I do however believe it’s clear that the functionality of the website will determine whether or not it is delivering on the expectations versus the look and feel of the site. In a perfect world the appearance AND the functionality will work together to deliver a beautiful, functioning website that both the designer and the developer can brag about. There is no perfect world around here – and it’s never going to be 50/50 appearance / functionality. I’m just being real.

The site has to do it’s job and rarely is the job description to be pretty ~ Dennis Lynn

If your website isn’t living up to your expectations I can guarantee you 100% that it’s because of a lack of functionality versus the appearance. Comment below and let me know what you think…am I off base here?…am I right on target?

Dennis Lynn
Inbound Solutions Group