We Apply Sun Tzu’s Principles on Warfare Into The Art of Web Design

The Art of War is a 5th century BC treatise written by the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu. The Art of War details the principles of war strategy for military leaders on how and when to fight and to ultimately defeat the enemy. The Art of War is arguably the most important manuscript ever written on the subject of war strategy, but it has transcended its original intent to influence many different aspects of life, including business strategy, legal tactics and even dating. In today’s post, we apply Sun Tzu’s principles on warfare into the Art of Web Design.

The Art of Web Design Principles


The Art of Web Design Principle. Laying Plans

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The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.

– Sun Tzu

As in warfare, the art of web design begins with laying plans. The engagement process begins with a Discovery Workshop held between key stakeholders. The main focus for the workshop is to determine the project’s goals, technical, platform, budgetary and timeline requirements to their most accurate specifications in a collaborative and engaging environment.

The Art of Web Design Principle. Waging War

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In the operations of war, where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots, as many heavy chariots, and a hundred thousand mail-clad soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them a thousand LI, the expenditure at home and at the front, including entertainment of guests, small items such as glue and paint, and sums spent on chariots and armor, will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver per day. Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 men.

– Sun Tzu

Whether you are a business, non profit organization, government agency or education institution, eventually the time comes when you will need to upgrade your website presence. Determining the cost of a website that is right for you is not an easy task. If you contact 5 different web design agencies you will receive a proposal with 5 different price tags. The disparity in quotes can be quite significant. After you have done a little soul searching and perhaps received a little help from a web design consultant, you feel confident that you have established your new website’s goals, functional requirements and success metrics. Now, you can factor in costs to your website equation.

Check out our article How Much Does a Website Cost?

The Art of Web Design Principle. Attack by Stratagem

art of war

In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good.

– Sun Tzu

In the art of web design, strategy is imperative. When it comes to website redesign, most companies and organizations fall short of taking the steps necessary to create a truly engaging and effective website experience. This may not be their fault, as they seek the expertise and guidance of their website designer who, unfortunately, may be looking for the quickest way to get your project out the door and get paid. In fact, most website redesigns basically entail taking an existing website and without much thought putting on a fresh can of paint over a rotting structure, resulting in a website redesign that inherits the same fundamental issues as the old website.

The Art of Web Design Principle. Tactical Dispositions

sun tzu

To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.

– Sun Tzu

When designing a new website, a competitor assessment is a wise strategy. But ultimately, the burden is on you to create an effective web presence. Before you begin your website redesign, it is important that you take the time to establish some goals. Ask yourself these questions: Why are you choosing a website redesign at this time? What are you trying to accomplish with your website redesign? What does the website redesign need to do to achieve your goals? What are the key metrics that will determine the success of your website redesign?

The Art of Web Design Principle. Energy

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In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.

– Sun Tzu

Consider your website as the central hub in your online marketing strategy. We all know the importance of having an effective online strategy, but do not make the mistake of assuming that your website is sufficient. Find other ways to connect with your audience. Of course, social media is the logical channel. With Facebook and Twitter, among others, you have access to potential customers that spend hours each day on social media platforms. Also, Google My Business is growing in importance every single day. Spread your energy to include multiple marketing channels.

The Art of Web Design Principle. Weak Points and Strong

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Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.

– Sun Tzu

Your website should not be passive; rather, it should be proactive. Take action to ensure that your website remains fresh and relevant to your target audience. Keep your services and products up-to-date. Maintain current staff and office locations. But most importantly, stay active with your blog. Blogging is THE best way to feed fresh content to Google and increase your organic search rankings.

The Art of Web Design Principle. Maneuvering

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It is a military axiom not to advance uphill against the enemy, nor to oppose him when he comes downhill.

– Sun Tzu

Maneuvering is the critical first step in defining your narrative and setting up effective storytelling. Know your audience. Who are you trying to connect with? What are their demographics and psychographics? What are their needs? How can you provide a solution for their needs? How can you drive them to take action? If your business provides IT services you will need to convey technical expertise. If you are a college, you need to connect not only with students and prospective students, but to their parents, faculty, media, etc. If you own a winery, you need to paint the beauty of the vineyards and the joy of a fine wine tasting experience.

Knowing your audience is an important aspect when setting the tone of your story, and creating a great web design.

The Art of Web Design Principle. Variation in Tactics

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The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.

– Sun Tzu

Be prepared for your customers. Your website should make it easy and intuitive for them to learn about who you are, the solutions you offer, what makes you different and how to contact you. Online chat support and AI customer service bots continue to grow in popularity and could make an effective addition to your website experience.

The Art of Web Design Principle. The Army on the March

website speed

Do not move up-stream to meet the enemy.

– Sun Tzu

The speed of your website is an often overlooked but painfully undervalued quality of a great web design. How important is website speed to the overall success of your online presence? Pretty damn important. Consider that for every one-second delay in load time your website’s bounce rate – the rate at which someone visits your website and leaves after viewing just one page – increases by 15%. As a matter of statistics, if your website takes longer than 4 seconds to load you will lose half your visitors before they even finish downloading your home page! Consider also that more and more people use mobile devices as their preferred choice for exploring the web. With mobile web traffic we must factor in latency and bandwidth issues on mobile networks. By increasing you website speed by just one second you are creating a better user experience, higher engagement and increased customer satisfaction.

Website speed is important for all aspects of your website. Browsing multiple pages, making purchases, downloading documents – all of these add up to increased load time. Faster website speed leads to faster online experiences and quicker transactions, leading to higher conversions and happy customers that will tell their friends about you.

To learn more about the factors involved in website speed check out our article How To Increase Website Speed For WordPress.

The Art of Web Design Principle. Terrain

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If you are situated at a great distance from the enemy, and the strength of the two armies is equal, it is not easy to provoke a battle, and fighting will be to your disadvantage.

– Sun Tzu

In 2020, more people use their smartphones to access websites than their desktop computers. The need for a strong customer experience on mobile devices has never been more relevant. A clean, consistent user experience on desktop, tablet and smartphone is a requirement in today’s great web design. The solution is called Responsive Web Design.

A responsive website is an approach to web design that places User Experience (UX) at the forefront of importance. A responsive website will adapt to the screen size, device and orientation of each user, creating an optimal UX for desktops, tablets and smartphones. A responsive website does not represent a new technology, rather it represents a new approach to existing technologies. A responsive website is built using a responsive framework, such as Bootstrap and Foundation.

To learn more Responsive Web Design check out our article What Is A Responsive Website?

The Nine Situations

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The art of war recognizes nine varieties of ground: (1) Dispersive ground; (2) facile ground; (3) contentious ground; (4) open ground; (5) ground of intersecting highways; (6) serious ground; (7) difficult ground; (8) hemmed-in ground; (9) desperate ground.

– Sun Tzu

What is the point of having a great web design if no one knows it exists? Recognize your ground so that customers can find you. This brings up the subject of visibility as a principle of great web design. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is aimed at increasing your website’s visibility. SEO requires patience and expertise to be successful and the marketplace is flooded with so called Black Hat charlatans that can actually do more harm than good. Every successful SEO campaign begins with a technical review of your website to identify problems that will need to be corrected before your SEO campaign can truly begin. All the SEO strategies in existence will not be successful until you have a website that is properly search engine-friendly. Without proper SEO you will not have a great web design.

Check out our article Looking To Hire A SEO Expert? What You Need To Know.

The Attack by Fire

ada compliance

Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical. 

– Sun Tzu

If you’re running a business today, having a website for your company is absolutely essential. Regardless of your industry or sector, having a well-designed online presence is one of the best ways to extend your reach and to increase your customer base. However, even though websites are a necessity these days, they aren’t as easy to set up as you might think. In fact, they raise a number of ways in which you and your business can fall foul of regulations. For example, have you heard of ADA Title III compliance? If not, it’s time to find out more about the importance of having an ADA-Compliant website now and to learn how you can take the necessary steps to protect yourself so that you can avoid a potential lawsuit.

The issue of compliance has become a major discussion in 2020. The world wide web has evolved to the point that it must meet or exceed many of the laws and regulations we experience in the real world. This includes accessibility. To learn more ADA-compliance check out our article ADA-Compliant Website: Why Is It Important?

The Use of Spies

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Spies cannot be usefully employed without a certain intuitive sagacity.

– Sun Tzu

Finally, focus on developing good information sources. Be aware of what is going on with your website at all times using analytics. Google Analytics provides critical analysis and understanding of website data that allows web marketers to make necessary changes to optimize the performance of a website. Our Google Analytics services provide the right tools for organizations to better understand their position in the marketplace and to assess and approve the effectiveness of their web presence and marketing strategies.

D E E P B L U E Knows the Market

Top California Digital Marketing Agency

D E E P B L U E is a Bay Area web design company that delivers measurable results. Learn more about our web design services and contact us to schedule a complimentary needs-assessment consultation.

When it comes to these hot new trends, the team here at D E E P B L U E is ready and willing to use them when designing your site. In fact, many of the new trends follow the work we have completed, making us proud web design trendsetters. If you want to get your hands on a site that is innovative and designed beautifully then give us a call, we’d love to work with you.

Frank Farris

Frank Farris is Founder and CEO of DEEPBLUE. He has been an active thought leader in the practical application of emerging web technologies and web standards since 1998.

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