Reading Broadcast and the Internet
Try this at home. Turn your TV to a news channel like CNN or MSNBC and mute the sound. Do the visuals communicate without sound? News channels rely heavily on graphics and visuals to tell their stories. The same is exceedingly true for the web. The only exception is that the web is user driven. That means your website visitor must click and navigate around your website to browse its information.
Does your navigation "read" well? Do your photos and graphics communicate quickly and clearly? If not, your site may be getting passed over by disinterested visitors.
Design is all around us. It permeates our lives from the subliminal to the intentional. The keyboard you're typing on and the mouse you're clicking were first developed and conceived by an industrial design team. The chair you're sitting in was developed by an ergonomics design team. The box your chair was shipped in and its printing was developed by an advertising packaging team.
Design is critical to successfully selling your product to the public. Your website is literally your storefront or advertisement to the world. Make sure it's designed to invite, inform and intrigue.
Do Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Concept
People tend to covet what they see. I know this because clients frequently bring me their ideas, hopes and dreams. And many times they're of website concepts they've seen elsewhere. This is good creative fuel for inspiration, but it's best to create a concept from the core of your own business branding.
Innovate, don't regurgitate. Consult a design professional who will collaborate with you in building a website concept that conveys your message. A great concept leaves a memorable impression.
Here's an example. Let's say client "A" sells shoes. Simple enough. Post the logo, web copy and pictures of some great looking shoes. Maybe even some bold, snazzy sales copy like, "Super Sale on Brown Shoes." Client "B" decides to take a different approach. He gets a photo of a businessman in a nice suit with his legs crossed at a meeting, exposing the bottom of one of his shoes. The exposed shoe sole has a hole in it. That's a concept!
Template Website Services
Companies that offer template web services are fine for businesses on a shoestring budget, but be advised, what you see is not necessarily what you get. These are "closed template" systems that do not offer much scalability in terms of customization. That means your website will have a cookie-cutter appearance that does little to help you stand out among your competitors. These websites are a breeding ground for bad design, especially when it comes to typography. Use of type styles by itself is one of the purest forms of design.
Get to the Goal
Get online and look at your competitors. Make a list of goals that you wish to achieve with your new website or your redesigned website. Prioritize your list and invite multiple web design companies to bid for your project. Be sure to ask them about their design process. Ask questions such as: Does your price include multiple design concepts? If so, how many designs and revisions am I allowed? In the end, you want a website that you can talk about enthusiastically and take great pride in. After all, it's your storefront 24/7 on the Internet.