I'm about to do a small research study but before I did (which I'll come back here with what I found out), I thought I might jump in and ask a few enlightened souls in case something has already been covered on the topic.
For the purposes of this discussion I'd like to talk about "usability" and "design" as two separate elements of website creation process, even if there will be some that say design and usability are the same thing. The more I spend looking through websites and analyzing the data I can't help avoid a conclusion about people that go online: People don't really care about design so long as they know what they are getting. As you might know my specialization is travel and tourism and I'm therefore really focused on this sector when looking through data.
Here is what I think:
If you have a hotel with a nice website, that is usable, responsive, quick and is converting customers and you need to build another one for a hotel, is it actually worth putting another 20K on website design rather than just cloning an existing website and putting a new design wrapper on it. We're assuming a build on an open-source platform (wordpress et al).
My feeling is that for hotels the vast majority of the punters looking at their websites don't really care so much about a breathtaking design (which could in fact isolate people based on their own cultural interpretation of the design - because websites are global instantly and can't be controlled like a print leaflet or newspaper ad) but do care that everything is easy to use, but they do want to know what they are getting (most hotel websites fail massively in this capacity).
When you look at websites like Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Expedia and Amazon, you do have to question just how much people give a sh** about design. I'm not saying here that I don't appreciate the value of design but I wonder whether, specifically in the web-context it has as much value to people as we might be led to believe by the web-agencies.
I bet that just about everyone has been to a hotel website in the past months, and how many of those read just like a print catalogue? I'm starting to feel that as long as a website works well from a usability point of view (IE it's clear and tells people what they are doing, where they are and what comes next), and is easily viewed on whatever screen the person is looking at, that it loads fast (Google happy), that the overall impact that a "designed" website is going to bring is going to factor pretty low down the scale in terms of getting people to convert.
What do you think?