Business Web Page Design: The Key Issues
It is usually good to work with a professional web design company to create a search engine-friendly business website with good sales copy.
Few businesspersons are likely to possess the varied skill set required to create effective business websites.
The skillset involves HTML know-how, aptitude for tasteful design, graphic software skills, search engine optimisation know-how, and more.
Even if it uses web page design templates or software, a DIY business website can fail to produce results and lead to frustration. Obtaining professional web design services will be a better business decision in most cases.
World Wide Web Terminology
Before beginning, it’s essential to understand some basic terminology. Some introductory words you need to know are:
Server – is the computer that will host the website.
Website – is the collection of web pages, pictures, images, and videos that a visitor can access to the virtual online business.
Domain name – in simple terms, a pointer to a resource, an addressing mechanism.
Webpage – simplistically, is a one-screen image that contains text, images, links to other pages called hypertext links, and navigational control (e.g. forward and back buttons)
HTML – This stands for HyperText markup language, which is the predominant language for creating a web page. One need not be a computer expert, nor can program in HTML to create a web page. Several WYSIWYG(what you see is what you get) packages allow a user to construct web pages and site in a visual way, basically laying out colour, background, images, and text.
ASP – Active Server Page. This is a scripting language developed by Microsoft that allows for dynamic page generation.
AVI – Audio/Video Interleaved. This is a compression technique used for Internet video with sound.
Bandwidth – The speed that information can travel. It’s measured in kilobytes per second.
BMP – BitMaP. A file extension for saving bitmap images. A bitmap image is made up of lots of rows of dots.
Browser – The program used to view web pages, such as Internet Explorer, Netscape, or Mozilla Firefox.
CGI – Common Gateway Interface. This is one way of making pages dynamic. CGI is used for creating interactive websites, such as forms or guestbooks.
CSS – Cascading Style Sheets. A way to gain better control over the way the page is going to look.
FTP – File Transfer Protocol. This is used to transfer pages to another computer or server. An FTP is what is needed to upload page files online.
GIF – Graphics Interchange Format. The most popular form of a graphic image, developed by CompuServe.
JPEG – Joint Photographic Experts Group. Another common form of a graphic image. This type is best suited for photographs.
URL – Uniform Resource Locator. The address of a web page, such as http://www.yahoo.com.
WWW – World Wide Web. The vast archive of web pages that are connected in a network called the Internet.
The Internet is evolving, and so are the programs and scripts used to display the various web pages. There are software programs available to make the webmaster’s job easier. All sites must conform to the W3C rules.
This is where the content for the site will appear. Anything appearing between the body tags is what visitors will see in their browsers.
Search engine – basically, the computer programming mechanism used to search for information on the Web. Examples of search engines would be websites like yahoo.com, google.com, and ask.com. A search engine returns results for a user query on a particular subject. A business owner would like to have a pointer returned to their site when the user types in keywords pertinent to the type of service they provide.
These few terms, a keyword search and reading the related articles should help the reader “flesh out” a reasonable web vocabulary.
Additionally, several resources are available on the Web, and “self-help” guides are available in print.
Designing a Web Site
For example, a plumbing supply company’s home page may have basic information about the company, such as contact information and a list of categories such as pipes, sinks, faucets, etc.
This is too much information to maintain on one page, so the “faucet” text or icon (picture), when clicked, would bring the user to the faucet page.
Navigation strategy defines how a user traverses the site. You can use forward and backward buttons or hypertext links to move between pages.
Options in Web Site Development
With these preliminary decisions being made, several options are possible.
One would be to write HTML, a tedious process and best left to professionals; obtain a WYSIWYG package which allows the user to design a web site without consideration of the underlying computer language, the HTML; or utilise the resources of a professional web designer or third party which can provide the user with predefined basic templates which you can then customise.
Option 1: Using a WYSIWYG
For the adventurous, obtaining a WYSIWYG can provide the business owner additional insight into the needs of the business in terms of web presence.
Several packages are available with free trial downloads, which you can use to experiment with various web options.
They are generally well designed without much of a learning curve, and the investment is one of time and not money. Two such examples are Dreamweaver and Microsoft Expression Web.
Option 2: Professional Web Page Design
Another option would be to employ the services of a professional web designer, which would give a customised look to the site, but such an implementation can be expensive.
Option 3: Third-Party Customisable Templates
A third option would be to use a third-party company that generally provides a host of pre-formatted web pages, which are then customised with the company’s specific text, images, etc.
A disadvantage to this approach is that the available options are often geared to a specific market. For example, “the look and feel” of a web page design which may seem reasonable for a mass marketer, may not meet the needs of an artist or custom home builder.
Several factors make Option 3 very attractive, however.
Pre-formatted templates mean to the only thing that the business owner needs to consider is the business content, not the page layout.
As noted above, there will be less of a custom feel to the end product website.
When getting started to get from concept to at least having a prototype or beta website ready to launch, there are the fundamental issues.
Other issues such as web hosting, advertising, maintenance, and refinement are challenges that come next.
What is a Business Website?
A business website need not always be a sales website that sells over the Internet. You can make money from websites that:
- Sell Products and Services: E-commerce and other websites that sell products and services are the most prominent examples of money-making websites. These can be simple websites with a PayPal link to elaborate on a product catalogue, shopping cart, and payment gateway pages.
- Build a Brand: Getting a business known and creating a favourable impression about the business is essential even for local businesses, not to mention multinational corporations. Brand building websites present the company and its products to create a good impression and tell the visitor how to contact them.
- Provide Customer Support: A product knowledge base that helps customers use the product without problem (and in the best possible manner), an FAQ with answers to the questions that customers (or prospects) ask most, user manuals for current and earlier versions, and contact facilities such as live chat are typical features of a support website.
- Sell Advertisements: A portal site that has become a highly used resource by a particular group can be an excellent advertisement vehicle. The webmaster can make money selling such advertisements.
- Promote Affiliate Products: Webmasters can become affiliates of merchants who sell products or services relevant to the theme of the website and display advertisements or even pages to promote the merchants’ products and earn a commission on every sale.
A Look at the Web Design Scenario
Developing an effective business website involves several things. Some of the major issues are outlined below:
- Identifying the goals: A website designed to sell products internationally will be very different from one intended to provide customer support. Note that both are business websites, as customer support is a crucial success factor for businesses.
- Developing a Design that Tackles Different Issues: Professional web page design will attend to such issues as creating an impressive layout that does not take too long to download, adopting a navigation scheme that makes it easy for visitors to find just what they want, and developing landing pages that will get the sale.
- Developing Search Engine-Friendly Content: More and more people are using search engines to look for products and services. Unless your website appears among the top few websites, it is unlikely to be seen by these ever-increasing numbers of likely prospects. And appearing at the top of search results requires search engine optimisation (SEO) know-how.
- Helping Customers to Contact You: Just putting your email address on the website is not likely to work. At the minimum, you will need a Contact Us form that is highly visible, and these days Live chat, and other options are used in interactive web design that enables visitors to interact with you. And these options require some programming skills.
- Usability Testing: Those who design websites might have become familiar with so many “obvious” things that might not be all that obvious to an actual user. The only way to identify likely problems that such a user might face is to observe some actual users and note down their problems while navigating the site.
Website Design Principles
The layout and design of your website can determine whether a visitor stays to read more or hits the back button immediately. First impressions are even more critical on the Web.
Good web page design is not achieved by loading the page with flashing graphics and providing a multicolour experience. These can detract from its business effectiveness.
A clean layout with plenty of white space and tasteful selection and placement of text and graphics, and clear communication of what you offer can be far more effective.
Graphic files are typically large and increase download times, and the typical visitor will not wait more than a few seconds for a Web page to download.
Navigation is another essential design issue. Users typically arrive at a website looking for something specific.
Good navigation will enable them to find what they want quickly.
Creating such user-friendly navigation is not as easy as it might sound. Instead, it will require looking at what users are likely to do on your site and determining how their tasks can be made easy and intuitive.
Promoting the Website
Websites do not reach prospective customers by themselves. There are billions of sites on the Web, and your site will remain invisible unless you take some deliberate steps to promote the website. Promotional actions include:
- Search Engine Optimisation: Identifying the search terms prospective customers use to search for your product or service and developing web pages optimised for those terms (the more, the better).
- Getting Links to the Website: You can publish articles on the Web with a live link to the author’s website in the author’s bio attached to the article. You can also submit the website to relevant directories, e.g. you can submit a travel site to travel directories.
- Advertising the Site: Advertising through Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, or at Web portals popular among your prospects, can produce immediate results, unlike SEO and Link Building above.
Business web page design requires attention to several issues such as deciding on the website’s objective, creating a layout that makes visitors stay, and providing navigation that makes it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for and have content gets the sale.
Author Bio: Erica R. Gibson is a tech writer at writemyessaycheap. She is highly interested in keeping up with advancing technologies. In this case, she spends her spare time reading various blogs to obtain new knowledge and improve her professional skills.