The #1 Secret to Design Success

There is only one key ingredient in any design that will hold it together, make it rise and make it deliver what it is supposed to. Whether the design is for the web, a book cover or a simple business card, there is one piece to the puzzle that must be present for the design to be successful. What is it you ask?

When reading through the many design blogs and books out there today, you’ll find showcases of beautiful designs, tutorials on how to make or use a specific design program, what certain colors mean and where they should be used and many more things. But no matter how much you learn, there is still only one element that truly matters.

Designers must ask themselves one question: Is the design appropriate for the target customer?

The website or brochure may be designed with the most stunning colors, stylish fonts, and newest trends. But this doesn’t mean it’s great design or appropriate for your viewers. There are certain trends that are age, industry and location appropriate. Simply because you are utilizing them doesn’t mean the design will be successful.

What to Consider When Designing for a Specific Target Market

How will the product or service improve the customer’s life? Whether you’re selling food, a new tie or a trip to Europe you have to showcase the reasons to why the customer would want any of these items. You’re not going to reach the customer by relying on a slick navigation, pretty pictures and an easy to use shopping cart. There needs to be a clear reason why they need or will benefit from the product or service. Design is a great way to guide the customer through the reasons why, in a particular order or way.

Product Example


Poloroid Groom Tie

Photo by Aaron Alexander

Say for example your selling a new tie. Why would someone want to purchase that specific tie over another? Maybe you’re showing imagery of a man wearing the tie on his wedding day. So what? That man looks great in that tie, but so does every other man that happens to be photographed with a fancy tie. What makes this tie any better? Maybe the tie is made of special material that is meant to feel comfortable and breathable during high-stress occasions like a wedding.

A good way to connect with the customer through the design knowing this detail is by increasing the size of the text and overlay it onto the photograph. Not only will the “pretty” photograph pull your customer’s attention into the page, but the large text with the tie’s fabric benefits will give the customer a reason to buy that tie over another. Highlighting specific details can really improve a designs overall success rate. And yes, it can be as simple as pulling out a product detail that already exists.

The key with products are to avoid leaving beneficial details to waste. Bring out the little details, especially when you’re selling something as common as a tie. Once your able to focus in on the benefits, use colors and other design elements to bring the viewers eye even more towards these little details.

Service Example


Photo by Alberto P Veiga

In this example, let’s say a travel company’s website is selling a trip to Europe. The client wants to push the ultimate travel package versus the basic travel package. How will the design help sell more ultimate packages for this client? A solution for this scenario could be to compare each package side-by-side without price involved, graphically. Highlight the ultimate package and the details that would make that choice better than the others. Show a video/written testimonial of a customer who has chosen this package in the past and why they liked it. Customer reviews are proven to be more beneficial and trusted by viewers than company recommendations alone.

Customer Review Focus

Customer reviews are becoming more and more common to online businesses. As a business owner, you should be aware of Google’s SideWiki. It allows customers to write their own reviews on any website and publish it. When another customer visits the website with a SideWiki, they can then see those reviews made by other visitors on the SideWiki. The power is in the customer’s hands. This technology may not be utilized by very many customers today, but it is important to be on the lookout for similar releases & technologies that will give customers the upper-hand on your websites. The last thing you want is a customer complaint shown to all your potential customers.

Google's SideWiki

Checkout this useful article reviewing the SideWiki:

Google’s SideWiki Shifts Power To Consumers –Away From Corporate Websites The target market in this travel example is likely a customer that has a mid to high income level and could afford a premium travel package. If the targeted customer was of a lower income bracket, the design would be entirely different. Maybe the company would be trying to sell travel packages during a non-peak season to Europe. You might highlight the discounted price with a sale burst or a bolded tag-line saying

“Now you can visit Europe too, for half the price.” Instead of comparing special vacation packages, you are emphasizing with the design the urgency of traveling now and the benefit of saving money and being able to afford a trip.

The key is to pull out the details that are most important to highlight within the design. This takes both efforts of the designer and the business owner/project manager.

Tip for Designers: Most clients aren’t going to offer up all the details you need to know to target their specific market. Chances are you’re going to have to dig deep and ask! Your clients are the experts of their market. Is the business a start-up? Maybe you can do some research as well to help your client pull out essential details they might be missing. Show them you want the design to help improve their business.

Tip for Business Owners: To end up with a successful design for whatever you happen to be selling or showcasing, it is important to open up communication as much as possible with your designer. Make sure they know your end goals and your target market. Also make sure to give them the details you want to highlight or what is most important about your promoted products and/or services. Not sure what else to prepare? Read ” What to Prepare Before Hiring a Web Designer“.

Share your Expertise…

Designers: In what ways have you used design to successfully target a specific market?

Business Owners: How has design help to improve your business? What reports or analysis have you put in place to track the success of the design on your website? (if applicable)

Sarah Shuda
Sarah Shuda
Designer. Mom. Wife. Loves Gilmore Girls, healthy living, and long walks in the country.