In April of 2010, Google announced on their webmaster blog that they will now be taking site speed into account in their search engine algorithms and page rank. This has been talked about for quite a while, and with more devices becoming mobile, a faster site is more user friendly and uses less bandwidth.
The question is, how far do you go to create a site that downloads quickly. While doing some research for a client in the financial sector, we decided to check out what the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. website looked like. Surprising, we found it to be devoid of any imagery at all – only text and links.
Is Berkshire Hathaway so big that they don’t need to rely on branding on their site? Quite possibly, but I would say that they are one of the exceptions to the rule.
Most brands need personality. They need an image and a voice. What would Harley Davidson be with only a website full of links and text? Currently, they have a pretty heavy image based website. Harley will always be up high in page ranks because they are so well known, but what if they weren’t. A visitor may find them quickly, but if their site was nothing but page links and text to read, would they stay? Would it sell the brand or message? They may have gotten to their site quickly and found them faster in the search ranks, but unless a visitor makes the decision that the site they are visiting is right for them, they may look somewhere else.
People respond to captivating visuals. They like the car that looks cool, even though it may not run cool, they select the product with the best packaging, even if the product may be inferior, and if you’re shallow enough, you might even select a mate based solely on looks, verses what’s inside.
My point is, in a highly visual society, how far will stripping down visuals go when people have been dependent on them (for good or bad) for so many thousands of years.
I am for a formula of usability, form and function, and with the way technology changes so rapidly, time will shortly tell us.
Form and Function can be: Great Branding + Usability with Speed