How My Income Taxes Relate To Your Web Design


Talking taxes - probably not the best idea to attract readers, right? You probably think taxes are boring, but I hope this story gets you thinking about your web design specifically and your marketing/design strategy in general.

Last year was the first time I didn't do my own taxes. I went to the Other Place (OP) and it wasn't a great experience. They did my taxes just fine, but I felt like I needed a shower after I left. The place was dirty - yellowed walls, torn up carpet, windows you could barely see through. It reeked of burnt coffee and old cigarettes.

The folks at OP did the job - my tax forms were submitted to the IRS no problem. But the issue wasn't their capability - it was their environment. I found myself second-guessing their work. Did I want to trust my taxes with people who worked in such filth?

Making The Switch

This year, I went to H&R Block. I was greeted the moment I stepped in the door and I looked around the office. It was brightly lit. Desks were relatively clean (more so than at my office, to be sure). Papers were stacked neatly, shelves were labeled, associates were listening to customers - it looked like a place I could trust with my taxes.

And that impression got me thinking about the message our website design sends. When people visit your homepage, it's similar to when they step into your office. How are they greeted? Is the experience warm and inviting or is it chaotic and disarming?

I'm not a designer and I won't try to speak to these specifics. My definition of good design is similar to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's definition of pornography: I know it when I see it.

Design-Trust Connection

PJ Macklin, a former co-worker of mine and a bright designer, sketched out the connections between design and trust on the SirenSong blog. I encourage you to read his post, especially if you're in the healthcare field. Though he speaks to the pharmaceutical industry, his message is clear for any type of company:

"[B]y standing out, [companies that care about design] manage to say that they care enough to go the extra mile, and by association, will exert the same effort and attention towards their patients and consumer community."

PJ explains the unique challenges of web design for healthcare, but his message can certainly be expanded. If you put care into your design, that conveys a message that you will put care into your work. People are drawn to that. If you have shoddy website design, that likely says something about the quality of your work too.

What About You?

Readers of this blog might understand that idea intuitively. You might think "So what?"

The thing is: your clients might not understand this and it's up to you to educate them. Why did OP have such disregard for the office's appearance? There was a disconnect somewhere. Don't let those occur in your online spaces either.

What are some websites that you intuitively trust due to their good design? Or conversely, which decent businesses have lost your trust because of their disregard for their appearance - online or offline?

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(Image courtesy of Howdy, I'm H. Michael Karshis via Flickr)

NOTE: I have no association with H&R Block. I just liked their office.