I recently read an enlightening article – Tests Indicate Ogilvy’s Old-School Layout Still a Winner – where Jeff Sexton discusses some of the beliefs held by advertising mogul David Ogilvy. Ogilvy believed that in advertising:
“…messaging and relevance had to have highest priority. Everything else – creativity, design, layout – should be subordinated to the end goal of conveying a salient message in as persuasive a manner as possible”.
There are times when working on web projects that I see clients focusing prematurely on design and layout. That’s understandable – they’re excited about having a new site and the design and layout are the first tangibles they see for their efforts. Now Ogilvy isn’t saying that design and layout are not important. We know these are key elements for any website as a study at Carleton University in Canada highlighted. In her 2006 study Dr. Gitte Lindgaard discovered that a visitor to a website will make a judgement on that site within 50 milliseconds (one twentieth of a second). And this judgement is based on the visual appeal of the website. So yes, design and layout are critical.
But Ogilvy’s statement reminds us that each site needs to have a goal (or goals) – and that this goal should be identified at the outset of any web development project. All other considerations – creativity, design, and layout – can only be considered and developed in relation to this identified goal.
And so why have I used a fish and a lighter to illustrate this piece? Well in his article Jeff uses this image to highlight Ogilvy’s belief that a good photo and heading are critical to entice people into reading the main body of text and accompanying call-to-action within an advertisement. And that’s why I’ve used it here! By the way the advertisement recounted the story of a Zippo lighter which was recovered from the stomach of a pike… and it still worked!