What is this madness?
As a general rule, business-oriented websites are driven by a profit motive. Corporations do not exist solely to pay their employees well, but to derive profit from the goods and/or services they provide. Likewise, business sites should reflect this profit motive and should not exist merely to provide web presence or "aesthetic appeal." Consider a business site as a natural extension of trade literature — catalogs and brochures that inform other businesses (or consumers) not only about the company's products, but also about the company itself. A cursory glance at a trade catalog or a business web site should yield three important facts:
- Name and contact information of the company
- What the company does
- Specifications on the products and/or services it provides
Some businesses make the mistake of failing to describe what they do. This leaves potential customers searching for this information, or assuming as such. Business sites should contain this essential information, whether it is in the form of a short, prominent paragraph or a separate page with in-depth information.
The user experience
Good web developers strike a balance between aesthetics and legibility, while erring on the side of legibility. Medium gray text on a white background is more esthetically appealing than black text, but is harder to read. Backgrounds with deep, saturated colors may be attractive to most surfers, but may be illegible to older people, some of whom have trouble distinguishing subtle contrasts. Smaller text looks better and is more authoritative, but is a hindrance for some readers. Very large text is easier on the eyes, but loses its authority and may even appear amateurish, especially in paragraphs.
Many businesses have gained valuable experience field-testing site designs and features. Certain aspects of web pages tend to be unattractive to potential customers; gratuitous use of animation, scrolling or blinking text, pop-up windows, and welcome pages are just a few features generally regarded as nuisances. Web developers for business and scholarly sites have learned that web surfers will regard dark text on a clear, white background as most authoritative, and light text on a black background as artsy and less authoritative. Businesses (legit and not-so-legit) have also learned that customers are more likely to volunteer credit card information on web pages with white or light-colored backgrounds.
Best practices that businesses and industries find essential should be taken into consideration (if not implemented) when designing and developing sites. If you are unsure of a design technique or approach, ask, "what would amazon.com or facebook.com do? Would they use this design?" Look around at web sites with high volumes of both traffic and sales. The designs they use should not be imitated, but should steer you in the right direction.