I was born and raised in an Apple household, back in the 80s and 90s when IBM and Windows dominated the market and Mac owners were few and far between. My dad has always loved Apple products, and he passed that love to his kids, to a fanatic degree. Steve Jobs has always been a hero of mine, and I was very sad when he passed away, after he had spent the last decade leading Apple back to the forefront of computing, mobile phones, and music. His biography by Walter Isaacson is an inspiring and honest look at the life and times of one of the most important businessmen and thinkers of the 20th century, and I highly recommend it to everyone.
While re-reading the book recently, I took care to dig in to the characteristics of design that Jobs loved and applied to everything he worked on. His meticulous attention to detail, and obsession with creating useful and beautiful products have made Apple computers, iPod, iPhones, and iPads some of the most pleasant and powerful devices of the modern age. When I pieced together some of the principles that he applied to his work at Apple, I came to realize how applicable they were to modern web design. Steve Jobs wasn't a developer and isn't known for his work in PHP, but I think he would agree that great principles of design can be applied anywhere. Here are three web design lessons I learned from Steve Jobs.
We all know what empathy means as an emotion, but what does it have to do with web design? Truly useful websites take into consideration the feelings of the visitor: who they are, what they are looking for, how they got there. Understanding their needs, and defining the personas of who is visiting your website, will help you know what needs to be where on your site. Steve Jobs wanted Apple to understand the needs of their customers better than any other company, and he worked to feel that empathy with his potential customers before he even sold any computers! Look at your own site from the perspective of a customer, or a potential lead, or whoever you are trying to reach, and objectively critique each page based on how they would feel. People want great products, they want useful services, and you can direct them to yours by empathizing with how they feel.
Part of the reason Apple struggled after the huge success of the first Macintosh was because of a lack of focus. They spread themselves too thin, making attempts at printers and PDAs when their best work was in computing. There's nothing wrong with trying to capture new markets and offer new things on your website, but remember to focus on what you do best. Everything you have on your web page should be done well, and you have to make tough decisions about what to do, and what not to do. Too many great companies lack the web presence they deserve because their products are buried in web design clutter, or hidden amidst a forest of other products. Put your best work forward and focus on it through your website, and you will reap the benefits.
The word impute means 'to assign characteristics, credit, or blame' to a person or object. In Steve Jobs' mind, he knew that Apple had the best products, but if they were presented in a sloppy way, people would view them as sloppy. Basically, people judge a book by its cover. You may have an amazing business, making great products, or providing amazing services, but if you don't present your company or your product well, online or off, people won't get past the exterior and find out how great you are. Your web design needs to be beautiful and intuitive. With the web tools available today, you can make a great website that doesn't have the clutter and unnecessary complexity of your competition, and help impute the right characteristics to your business and products.
Steve Jobs was a visionary, and you don't have to own an iPhone or have an LCIII computer back home to appreciate everything he and Apple have done for consumer electronics. While Jobs is no longer with us, the principles he used to help design his products live on, and you can learn from his experience and use it to build a better brand for your business. It's easy to think that your website is good enough and worry about things you assume are more important, but "good enough" shouldn't be a part of your vocabulary. Design a beautiful and focused website that understands the needs of your customers, and you'll reap the benefits for a long time.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. Think Different.
(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)