When it comes to web design for your business website, what picture do you conjure up in your mind? Talented artistic people working hard to create a visual masterpiece, using sophisticated graphic design software? Well, you're not entirely wrong, only about 99% off.
Most people think of "web design" as almost a synonym for "graphic design". This is really a very unfortunate association, mainly because it lowers your expectations, and grossly understates what you should expect from your business website. Now consider the expression "structural design". Conjures up a completely different perspective, doesn't it? The fact of the matter is that you need a structural designer for your online business presence far more than you need a pretty face for it, in the same way that you need an architect and structural engineer to design your business office, and a business manager to build your business, far more than you need a painter to make it look good, or an advertising business to help create a positive public perception.
Every aspect of your business is important in some way or other, it's just that some aspects are more important. The problem of course is that you would never build your business premises from cardboard and then just paint it nicely so that it looks great from the front. Of course, the first customer that walked in would balk at the lack of depth of your business, and walk very quickly back out again.
It is exactly the same when building your online business presence. Absolutely, your business website should look great. After all, if it is not attractive and professional, people are going to be just as wary of dealing with you. That said, your website needs robust and solid structural design if you want potential customers to come in, look around, pick up and test your merchandise, have a cup of coffee, chat to your salesman, and make an informed and satisfactory purchase.
The days of an online brochure with a nice contact form and slick design doing the job for you are long gone. For someone to buy your business, they want to query your product database for the perfect product option. They want to search your store for relevant advice and product information, chat to other people in the market and interact with you as the business proprietor. If opening the door makes your business premises fall down, that's as far as anybody will get.
So what does that mean when selecting a "web designer"? Simply, it means don't look at how pretty their work is as 100% of your decision criteria -- you are not looking for a graphic designer. These are some of the things a "web structural designer" should be able to bring to an effective online business:
- A solid foundation -- your business website should at a minimum include an easy-to-use content management systemi and database.
- User registration and management facilities -- if you don't know who your customers are, you cannot communicate regularly with them
- Product database -- this is your storeroom, without which you simply have nice pictures on a cardboard cutout as your product display.
- E-commercei capabilities -- your customers should be able to buy from you online as easily as they can offline, otherwise they may as well visit a store close to them.
- Customer communication tools -- newsletter functionality, online surveys and feedback forms are all effective and important ways of making the one-way internet medium into a two-way communication environment.
- Automated online promotion capabilities -- this is a newer feature that most probably would not think of. The tasks associated with submitting your pages to search engines, optimizing your urls to be search-engine friendly, and many other SEOi tweaks are increasingly time-consuming aspects of keeping business websites up to date. Many of these tasks, such as Google Sitemaps submission, url creation based on the title and content of the page, and relevant meta tagi generation, to name a few, can all be automated into the design of your website's core programming. Including them up front will save you countless hours and money trying to accomplish these tasks manually.
At the end of the day, your business website should look good. Much more importantly, it should be the most structurally sound and efficient aspect of your business if you make full use of it's potential. Make sure your designer is coming from a systems engineering and programming design perspective, not just a graphic design paradigm, and you'll have a business website that not only looks good, but also works tirelessly as hard as you do.