I am writing a new website. The functionality works fine but the user-interface is decent but nothing catchy (as my design and css skills are poor)
It is quite clear than even an average web designer will get better results than me. But is it really worth it to outsource this? Is a decent web design good enough or is a visually appealing site a much bigger advantage?
There's this word that I love to throw around: "impute." Your users will impute the value of your platform before they even use it on the basis of the experience they have during their first contact. If your platform is clunky and the interface isn't slick and intuitive, that experience imputes (bad) attributes of the platform to the user.
Also, now more than ever, there isn't really such a thing as "form & function." Form is function. If you aren't providing an entirely new use case to the market, one which has never been seen before, then the pleasure which comes from using your platform, and the ease-of-use it provides, is what makes you different. That extends to "superficial" design aspects, too. I really believe that when something is easy to look at, when using something feels good, that thing is truly more useful.
Am I saying you need to invest in some outside CSS work? Well, I don't know what you're building, so I wouldn't presume to say whether you should or shouldn't. Just keep in mind that great design makes users:
Whatever you decide, I wish you the very best of luck! When you launch your product, be sure to send me a link. :)
Yes, it is as important and expanding my answer would be "A good user interface with a good user Experience would serve a good possibility of success to your website.
A good website would keep all the things which would engage your visitor, and translate and communicate your thoughts to your visitors, thereby increasing chances of success.
Ask yourself.. if you went to a restaurant and the food looked bad, would you order it? Most people would not.
I would say that you should make a list of a bunch of the issues, decide (or talk to customers) to figure out the worst 3-4 or four and solve those. Then repeat regularly. You might find out that although there are lots of things to fix, some are bigger blockers than others for your potential sales.
Yes I believe it is important. If you can afford to outsource go for it. My design skills are not very good either (and I can't afford to outsource it) so my strategy has been to keep the design VERY simple. This means I might not end up with a beautiful website but I do create a functional website that is simple to use.
I'm going to disagree with everyone else, and say that in some circumstances the look and feel isn't as important as everyone seems to think.
Case in point - Google. Go take a look at the google home page. It is far from the best looking site on the net, and instead is extremely basic. But it is functional, and serves the needs of its users perfectly, and as a result it won out over all the other search engines, exactly because of its simplicity.
The look of the site is not as important as many seem to think. The site needs to be functional and intuitive, and it needs to flow well, but the actual look is not all that important.
I am currently developing an SaaS solution, and like yourself I am not the best when it comes to design. My intention is to launch with a basic, functional interface, and I believe this will be enough to attract customers, as my solution serves a need that no-one else is filling at present. Once the solution is established, then I will look at hiring a professional designer to tidy it up and improve it, however for initial launch I do not believe it to be a priority.