How Much Money Can Design Make Your Business?

Hint: A lot of money

Before I created websites and apps, I thought design was about making pretty things. I pictured a scruffy, thin, good-looking artist painting in a souped-up warehouse much like Adam Galloway in House of Cards. I was wrong.

I design websites and mobile apps for businesses. The goal of my designs is to make businesses money, not to make them attractive. Usually they do look good, but never at the expense of our objectives.

Jarrod Drysdale states the following in Design’s Iron Fist, “When your vision conflicts with functional and practical matters, your vision is wrong.”

Below I’ll outline many of the ways I improve the bottom lines of businesses. Before I do, I should note that all of the techniques I employ are based on research. It is THE most important step. The data I discover is the basis for every pixel I create and every widget I put on the screen. It fuels my decisions and is the key factor in how much money companies make from my designs.

When I do research, I discover customers’ needs, pain points, and desires. I talk to people and figure out why they click on the screen. I note the reasons they visit the site and discover the information they’re looking for. Essentially, I delve into people’s thought and decision-making processes. Discovering the customers’ needs allows me to design sites tailored to fit those needs. Happy customers mean more business and more business means more money.

I hope I’ve convinced you that research is important and skipping it will cost your business thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars. I’m going to move on, but if you want to learn more about research and how I use it to help businesses, check out these articles I’ve written: 12 Tips For Conducting User Interviews and Research Driven Design.

Defining A Goal

If determining your customers’ needs is the most important factor in my designs making money, the second most important must be analyzing your the needs of your business. We need to define a goal. Of course we need to figure out what your website’s call to action will be, but more importantly, where do you see your business in 5 years or even 10 years?

If you don’t know the answers, it’s going to be difficult for me to help you. The designs I make are an investment, not an expense. They’re assets that help your business, but I can only give you the best returns if I know what you want.

After we agree to work together, I’ll conduct a needs analysis. This isn’t as terrible as it sounds. I’m just going to ask you some questions about your company and about how you see your future. Then, I’ll take your answers, the research I’ve done, and modern design principles to create an interface that pays dividends.

Designing Trends (and why they will make you more money)

Trends change and designs must transform to meet people’s needs. Many times what looked good two years ago doesn’t look good today. Visuals can be important. An attractive site lets your customers know you can stay modern and meet their needs. As nice as it is to look good, it’s more important that your site remains usable. The designs that affect the usability of your site’s interface are more important. People don’t stay on sites that they have trouble using for very long.

The greatest need for modernity stems from mobile-first design. Stat Counter released an article that noted 2016 was the first year that people accessed the Internet from their phones and tablets more often than from their computers. As you can see from the graph, mobile and tablet usage has been trending upward for years. Despite more people accessing the web from their phones, many companies’ adoption of responsive websites (those optimized for mobile, tablet, and desktop use) has lagged behind.

I can throw stats at you like research from Adobe showed that nearly 8 out of 10 consumers would stop interacting with a site if it didn’t display well on their device. You already know that, though. How much time do you spend zooming in on your phone? Unless it’s really important, I give up as soon as I see how difficult it’ll be.

Some sites are responsive, but they’re not optimized for mobile use. I may be able to read the text and see the images, but they’re not displayed properly. I tolerate this more, but still not for very long. The statistics say that more than half of the people who access the Internet do so from their phone or tablet. The percentage is only going up. Imagine the impact on your bottom line if your site looked beautiful on mobile devices. More than 100% more people who visit your site would have a positive experience with your brand.

Communicate With Customers Differently

In 1999 Seth Godin wrote a book called Permission Marketing. He argued that business would be more effective in converting customers into sales if they talked to them and discovered their pain points. Up until he wrote this book, most companies would cold-call their prospects and propose a sale right away.

Think about the way you talk to people today. If you’re anything like me, you may use iMessage to talk to your family, Facebook Messenger to connect with your friends, and then you’re on Slack all day talking to your co-workers.

I was going to insert a chart that shows how many people use messaging apps, but it’s not necessary. Go outside and look around. You don’t need a fancy graph to know that everyone communicates via chat.

Last fall Twilio came out with a stat that showed that 9 out of 10 people want to use messaging to talk to businesses. Because we use messaging so much in our personal lives, we expect the businesses that we interact with to be doing the same thing. Despite these findings, most businesses are still relying on phone and email.

MailChimp is an email marketing platform whose customers send out billions of emails every year. They publish great benchmarks around their customer data. Based on the current data, even if you’re awesome at emailing, you can expect to get a 3% click rate. That means if you’re trying to get people to sign up for your webinar and you have 100,000 people on your mailing list, 600 people clicked through to your call to action, and only 240 people signed up for your webinar. Out of 100,000 people, 99,760 people did not do what you wanted them to do.

Messaging works better. For Drift’s messaging app, 23% of people opened the chat box (slightly higher than the 20% of email). Of those people, 63% of them started a conversation (compared with only 3% for emails). That’s a big difference!

Stop emailing. Spend your time with people who are already on your site. These are your best leads. These are the people who are interested in your business.

If you go into Foot Locker, a sales representative who works the floor will come up to you and ask if you need help with anything. That’s exactly what you should do to interact with your prospects online. For years people have talked about the personalization of email, but messaging is more personal than email can ever be. Every time you send a message, your customer sees your smiling face. It’s real-time. Following up with someone hours, days, or weeks later is like ignoring a prospect who comes into your physical store and then sending them a postcard.

You don’t need to delete the contact form on your website. You just need to add a second net to connect with prospects. How many leads are you missing out on by not responding right away?


I’m not talking about Bugs Bunny!

If you’re reading this on Medium, highlight this sentence right now. Did you see the pop-up encouraging you to highlight, chat, or tweet about the sentence? That’s animation.

Elements that move on a screen capture people’s attention. Their eyes are drawn to the motion. It’s instinctive. Ten thousand years ago hunters and gatherers needed to look out for threats like lions and bears. Their lives were at stake. We’ve evolved, but our DNA lags behind. Use this instinct to your advantage. Show people what you want them to see. The hard part is not to be annoying about it!

Open my website and scroll down. I’ve made a lot of the elements animate, but I’ve done so in a subtle way. Nothing flies around the page. I use a small amount of motion to connect elements that belong together.

Refresh the page if you have to and scroll down to the Services section. There’s a picture and a paragraph of text. They start out apart then come together. This connects them. People can glance at a picture and understand its meaning, but they may be confused about where to look for more information. I give them a hint.

If you’re on a computer, scroll down a bit more and hover over the button on the BVG Next case study. The button expands. This is a signifier that it can be clicked. Of course, you can use other signifiers such as changing the color and underlining the text, but using animation draws people’s attention a little more.

With animation, less is more. It’s easy to overdo. Try to avoid having multiple elements whizz in from all angles. Use subtle motion to direct your customers’ eyes to the elements you want them to see. Also, with the exception of animated buttons, once the object has moved, don’t make it move again. Their eyes were already directed to the element. There’s no need to make it move again.

It’s a fun topic to explore. You already have the link to my site. Here are a couple more that make good use of animation: Metalab and Twitter. Check them out!

Never Stop Improving

In Design’s Iron Fist, Jarred Drysdale states that no one pointed to a great website from five years ago and said, “Yeah, that would still do the job today”.

Nothing lasts forever, but digital design is especially short-lived. Most owners of small businesses hire a design agency to build them a website, wait two years (or more), and realize that their sites are already outdated. Both parties contribute to the problem.

Design agencies should know better. It’s their job to understand how quickly industry trends change. We live in an innovative age. New technology is published every day. Agencies need to inform their clients about the transient nature of digital design at the start of their relationship. They should set up meetings with their clients and former clients at least once every couple of months to talk about how changes in the industry affect their designs.

Small business owners (and anyone hiring a designer) should see design as an investment. Most owners feel the opposite. They see building a website as an expense. They’re wrong. A well-designed website can be your primary lead-generating machine. It can serve as your prospect’s main information hub and make past clients recurring clients. It needs to be updated regularly, but the value it provides can pay many times what you put into it.


A while ago Sherice Jacob of Kissmetrics wrote a blog post titled, 9 Awesome Examples of Copywriting Headlines. In the article Jacob shows her example and provides a short analysis of why she liked it. It’s well worth reading, but the best content is at the end in a section titled, “So What Can You Learn From These Headlines?” She lists her advice, but in short she tells people to keep their headlines simple, factual, relevant, personal, and thought-provoking. Her recommendations are obvious, but they’re almost never followed.

Most small business owners, website designers, and website developers don’t believe that copywriting matters. Small business owners think their product is so great that people will flock to their store to buy it. Website designers don’t see it as being a part of their job and most developers hate writing. It’s why they write in code!

They’re wrong. Good copywriting sells. Need proof?

  • Testing different headlines can improve the viewer rates by 500%.(Wired)
  • 80% of viewers read the headline, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.(Moz)
  • Adding social proof will increase your conversion rates. Unbounce found that one of their clients improved subscription to their email list by 20% just by revealing how many people were currently interested.(Unbounce)

If you’re hiring someone to make your site, make sure they can write. It rhymes, but it’s true! It will win you customers.

Call To Action

Most small business owners know they should have a site for their business. When they’re asked why, they give vague answers such as the need for an Internet presence or ranking highly on Google. This means they have no idea.

A site in itself won’t do anything to help your business. Building a site without knowing the call to action you want your visitors to take wastes their time and your money.

Before I build a website for my clients, we sit down and determine what is a successful end result. It differs. Some business owners want to add people to their mailing list, while others want their prospects to download an e-book. The goal of other sites is to get people to buy their online product. The goal of my site is to get people to send me a message detailing their design needs.

Once we have determined what your goal is, we need to figure out how to get the biggest number of people accomplishing it. That’s successful UX design. Nice pictures, colors, and videos are nice, but they’re distractions if they don’t lead people to take the appropriate action. It goes back to what I wrote at the beginning of the article. The sites I design look good, but never at the expense of the core objective.

The details are something you need to talk about with your designer, but a good rule is to have at least one call to action on every page. If you don’t give people at least one way to get to where you want them to go, they’ll never make it there.

Quantifying The Amount

How I quantify the impact my designs can have is usually based on my clients. How much do you value a lead? How much can I increase the number of people you connect with? What percentage of those people can we convert into customers?

These are questions I can’t answer alone. I need my clients’ numbers. I know financial data and information on page views are sensitive, so I’m always willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This protects my clients’ information and allows us to work together and test what works best for their business.

Design is quantifiable. The only thing you need is a base to start from to track which designs are effective. Applying the principles I’ve laid out will make your site better, but as I have mentioned before, lasting design requires constant refinement. Testing is key, but it’s equally important to be able to understand the results of the tests and think of effective solutions.

That’s it. Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, I’d appreciate it if you’d heart it. If you want to read more, check out other posts that I’ve written, follow me on social media, or visit my site. If you’re looking to hire me or if you just want to say hello send me an email at