Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Business Website Design - What You Get

(Part Two of a four part series. And I will be posting two of these each day.)

by Dustin Schwerman

As with everything that improves your business, your website is an investment. Chances are, you are putting quite a bit of money and probably no small amount of time into your business website design. This to say nothing for the hosting, marketing, and other expenses that will be required to make your site a success. It's the sort of endeavor that should be taken seriously - both by you and by your designer. As such, you should expect quite a bit from the person or people you hire to get your company on-line.

Accept no templates! Maybe you want a visually elaborate layout where all the content is precisely positioned into an attractive graphic, augmented by a banner and logo to create instant brand recognition. Maybe you favor a plainer but cleaner look with a focus on functionality and interface. Perhaps you want entertaining audio and video presentations in the vein of the "Web 2.0" movement. Or perhaps you want all of the above with a bit of Flash and fanfare for spice. Whatever the case, the last thing you want is for your site to be filed away in the visitor's mind as just another of the mass-produced botch-it-yourself template sites cluttering the nether-regions of Google. A professional web designer is going to be charging a professional rate, and had better be presenting a professional product designed with your specific business in mind.

Don't skimp on functionality. I've said it before and I can't repeat it often enough: a website is a program. It is a tool, a potentially incredibly powerful piece of technology. Even as I write this article I have in arm's reach an 1100 or so page book dedicated solely to Javascript - that's before counting the thirty-some bonus chapters. What amuses me is, I've seen a book of about equal size dedicated to AJAX, which is simply a method of using Javascript. Web-based programming can not only create shopping carts, but also payroll and invoicing programs, interactive games, applications for creating whatever custom product you may offer. Don't ignore these useful aspects of your site; they can be used to both improve a customer's experience and simplify the tasks of running a business.

Above all, you want input and information. You know your business best, but your designer has a handle on web standards, site functionality, possibly even SEO. You want any content you provide to be properly keyword optimized. You should know in advance if your images would work best resized, and how much they might slow the site down. The impact that different browsers and screen sizes might have on your plans is also a critical consideration. Have you ever visited a website that has its text and forms overlapping its images, pushed around in strange directions, and otherwise simply scattered about? Ever wonder where they got such an incompetent web designer? Chances are, they didn't; they just built the site for a different browser than yours. Since you never know what sort of system any given visitor might have, it behooves you to make sure your designer prepares for as many of them as it can.

A business website design is in and of itself a significant investment, and the various costs for making it a success can be quite significant as well. And even with everything done right, there are numerous factors that can determine a website's success or failure. Don't hinder yourself right from the start by accepting anything less than the highly professional, technologically advanced product that you paid for. If you purchased a highly customized, skillfully optimized website, then that should be exactly what you get.

About the Author

Dustin Schwerman is the head web designer for Truly Unique - Small Business Website Design. Truly Unique works on websites for businesses of all varieties, from office supplies to air conditioning filters.