The process has taught me many things, largely that design does matter, and to get it done professionally.
And then there were hurdles in finding the right individual who I would want to collaborate with, and who I could afford to pay on a tight budget. But I did find the right designer / developer team. Together they’ve created / implemented what I consider a successful effort.
Not only am I personally happy with the result, but more importantly, the feedback from the many people I’ve showed the design to is very positive.
In my experience so far, without good design, you don’t stand a serious chance. There could always be exceptions, of course, but by and large, people won’t even want to look unless the design is good, or at the very least, acceptable.
It’s as though it needs to please at a subconscious level, but then get out of the way so as to allow the end user to focus on the message, and not, of course, on itself.
But, if the design is so good that it blows people away (as Apple has consistently been able to achieve), then that is definitely a strong advantage.
Please understand that I have no formal schooling in Web or Industrial Design, and I don’t claim any expertise on the subject. The above is obvious anyway, and it constitutes empirical knowledge.
Below are before-and-after screenshots of the PreAcquaint design: