It occurred to me, as I contemplated my tea (as in dinner, not the cup variety) that maybe we could get across the importance of visual design on the web if we explained that web sites were like food.
Food, at the most basic level, is fuel. We eat it so that we can turn it into a substance that can be burnt in our muscles. It provides us with the energy and chemicals we need to live, grow, everything. It serves a function is all, sort of like a web site. A web site is there, at the most basic level, to share or provide information.
We don’t just eat slop though. Take the scene in the Matrix where Neo makes it into the real world and is confronted with the substance they eat. To paraphrase:
It provides everything the body needs. Yet it looks like snot. It’s uniquely unappealing.
Just look at how important the visuals are in food. Humans naturally avoid food that looks bad. We avoid food that has fungus on it (unless it is a fungus of course) or looks, for want of a better phrase, dodgy. Think about how much time is dedicated to preparation and appearance by the top chefs. Look how much food companies dedicate to showing us beautiful visuals of their products.
So when you’re designing a web site, remember that it doesn’t matter how good you’re burger (content) is if you wrap it in a maggot-infested bun (design). Food for thought.