Do you want a Concorde website or a 747 website?

This BBC website article annoyed me when I saw it a while back. Or at least, not the article so much but the examples of “good design” in the accompanying photographs.

So that’s a bunch of ugly, hard, uncomfortable plastic chairs and a stupidly expensive, noisy and uncomfortable plane. Is this really “good design”?

No, of course it isn’t. Design should be about function – how well it does its job. What is the job of a chair? Surely it’s something that is a) comfortable to sit on and b) looks good (in that order). Go into any branch of DFS and you’ll find lots of better-designed chairs than the hard plastic monstrosities in the first photo.

And what of Concorde? Well, yes, it’s a good-looking aircraft in the way that the Boeing 747 isn’t. The two iconic aircraft first flew within a month of each other. The comparison does not serve Concorde well. Ignoring other factors, and letting the market assess which is the “better” design, reveals that just twenty Concordes were ever sold. To date, Boeing has sold 1,448 747s. The 747 is a great design, Concorde isn’t. It might be a good-looking engineering achievement, but it was designed to be the next step in aviation. And even its most devoted supporters have to accept that because it was noisy and above all expensive (flight costs per passenger per mile three times those of the 747 and unit costs, despite government subsidies, of about the same for a plane that could carry only a fifth as many passengers in more cramped conditions), it failed.

Companies commissioning websites face a similar choice to the one that airlines faced in the early 70s. But many more companies choose Concorde websites – websites that look pretty, but aren’t optimised for search engines, are difficult to maintain and keep up to date and don’t make things easy for the potential customer.

At Clare Associates, we won’t sell you a Concorde website. We can do you a 747 website if you want. We can also do you a 747 website that looks as good as a Concorde website (and we’re happy to work with your existing graphic designers if you like, or suggest some very talented artists / graphic designers whom we have worked with in the past). What we will never do is sell you a Concorde website that won’t give you the results your business needs.

By Mark Poles

Chartered Accountant, Google Qualified Advertising Professional, Google Analytics Qualified Individual, creator of "You're Hired!".