In this edition, we'll be having a look at two websites. These
two sites are what I like to call "Traditional Business"
websites. These businesses are not based on the internet alone
like many e-business sites we do, but are traditional everyday
businesses that have store-fronts and showrooms. With that in
mind, a slightly different approach had to be taken; we weren't
creating the "image" or "identity" of the companies from
scratch, but had to work with the existing and established image
that they have previously laboured to create in the material
When creating any website, a designer must look at the drive of
the site. What does the client want to accomplish with their
website? Do they want to emulate their storefront and be able to
accommodate online sales, or do they simply want to create an
online presence that effectively acts like a brochure...
informing and enticing the viewer, with the goal of bringing the
customer into their stores?
The two sites that we'll cover were created with the aim of
creating an online presence. The two companies are local
businesses that are quite comfortable with doing business in a
traditional fashion. They simply wanted to have an informative
website that could tell potential customers what they had to
offer, as well as make their pitch as to why they were the best
company to deal with... and hopefully as a result, gain that
The two companies are: 1) Gray Office Furnishings -
http://www.grayofficefurnishings.com 2) Place-Crete Systems Ltd.
RESEARCH Before making any design decisions, a bit of research
was needed. We had to find out as much as we could about the
business - what the clients needs were, their audience, their
competition, their budget, and everything in-between. Once we
had this information, it had to be edited down to some key
points. Here are some of the key points about Gray Office
Furnishings and Place-Crete Systems:
a) They were both localized businesses operating in a
traditional fashion, including offices, showrooms, customer
interaction, etc. This was important to consider because it was
something that they knew could not be replaced with a website...
they needed to continue offering the face-to-face customer
service that they were use to providing. As a result, their
websites are used as a tool or aid to assist with their customer
service rather than replace it.
b) They both had physical items to showcase; Gray Office had
different styles of furniture, and Place-Crete had on-location
images of their quality workmanship. Once again, this is
important to consider because it meant that we had more than
text to work with. In other words, we had the framework to
create a captivating, visually pleasing site that is more "image
heavy" than most pure e-business sites. This is something that
most designers really enjoy, and it gives us a chance to flex
more of our creative muscles. It is not appropriate to have an
"image heavy" site when the content is primarily information
based - when speedy download times and maximum efficiency are
required. We felt that with these two sites, however, it would
be more appropriate. These companies should show what they have
to offer, and text alone could not do this. Of course, as
always, we still had to keep the download times within reason.
These two sites, are essentially online brochures. If you have
ever gone into a car dealership for example, and picked up a
brochure for one of their cars, you will find a lot of things in
common. In a car brochure you will find all the vital
statistics, features, and benefits of the car, but the text will
not be long-winded and boring; the information won't go on for
pages and pages and bore the reader to death. It will be clean,
sleek, efficiently organized, and kept to a minimum. In
addition, you will also find that car brochures usually have
beautiful design and imagery that lets the product speak for
itself. Gray Office Furnishings is a good example of this
comparison. Like cars, furniture is very visual... and like
cars, furniture can have "sex appeal." With the sleek curves,
and hard lines, it only made sense to treat furniture in the
same manor. When a prospect see's this site, the idea is to get
them into the showroom to see how great the furniture is in
"Presentation is everything." Yes, I'm sure most of you have
heard this cliche, but think about how true it really is. One
should never present ones product in an ugly manner, this will
detract from what is really important... the product, the
customer, and in turn, the sale. The "form" of the site, must
follow the "function" of the site.
c) We've established the visual basis for these sites, but what
about the information? Of course we need to have text and
information, but what kind and how much? Well, with these sites
(or any for that matter) it is not necessary to bombard the
prospect with information that is not important to them. The
only thing that is important is getting the customer to purchase
your products/services. The customer will come to the site to
see what you have to offer, so give them what they want... but
only give them enough to satisfy them to the point that they
will contact you. Therefore, both the information they seek, and
the means of contact should be prominently placed and easy to
find. Notice how easy it is to find that information on both of
these sites. Makes sense right?
Having minimal text with these sites also allowed us to utilize
layouts/formats that were nice and clean, and that didn't
require much scrolling. This brings us to some of the design
decisions that were made with these 2 case study sites.
VISUAL DESIGN DECISIONS With every decision made so far, there
has been a reason. It's time to discuss some of the reasons
behind the visual design choices that were made. If this stage
goes wrong it can ruin everything. There should be a reason for
everything, ie: layout, color, shape, size, and font choice.
Lets go through some of the design choices that were made with
these two sites.
LAYOUT: - www.grayofficefurnishings.com - www.place-crete.com
For both of these sites, as discussed above, I wanted to go with
a clean, sleek, compact design layout. This would accomplish
consistency, clarity, easy navigation, visual interest, and a
comfort level with the viewer.
SHAPE: Working along with the layout, I wanted to use shapes
that reinforced some of the conceptual ideas found within the
subject matter itself. - www.grayofficefurnishings.com With the
Gray Office Furnishings site, I chose to utilize some of the
basic "language" found in the different types of furniture that
they offered. This includes soft curves, hard edges, straight
lines, repetition, contrast (big & small), grooves/cut pieces
(moving parts), displacement, symmetry/asymmetry,
organic/mechanical, etc. While using this "visual language," I
strived to achieve a balance between all of the above. Just as
furniture is an art form, so was the process of trying to
capture the balance of these contrasting ideas.
- www.place-crete.com With the Place-Crete site, I used the same
"visual language" that I just described above with Gray Office
Furnishings; however, with Place-Crete I had a different message
to convey. Place-Crete deals with concrete, cement, engineering,
construction, and the like. Very industrial sounding stuff. Hard
edges, straight lines, grid based blueprints/schematics, smooth
finishes, hard surfaces, etc. So that became my "visual
language" with their site.
COLOR: - www.grayofficefurnishings.com Just as described above
in the "Shape" section, there is a duality within the
characteristics of different types of furniture. I wanted to
capture the warmth of wood, and the coolness of synthetic
materials - the vibrancy of some colors, and the
conservativeness of others. Once again, I tried to achieve a
balance between these contrasts. There are different styles and
themes of office furniture, and of course different types of
people and offices. With this in mind, I had to create a site
with a broader focus. My aim was to try and appeal to all of
them in a professional, clean, and organized fashion.
- www.place-crete.com With Place-Crete, I wanted to capture the
cool smooth nature of concrete. In addition, I added a bit of
"construction yellow" to counteract the overwhelming coolness of
this site. The goal was to create an image of professionalism,
cleanliness, precision, and craftsmanship. I wanted to leave no
doubt in the viewers mind that this company meant business, and
that they hold themselves to extremely high standards.
IMAGES: - www.grayofficefurnishings.com Just as with the other
design elements described above, I wanted to create contrast and
balance between two opposing concepts. I tried to choose images
that would capture these ideas... including color, shape, size,
- www.place-crete.com I tried to utilize images that wouldn't
necessarily reveal too much of the messy details, but ones that
would generate enough interest, and maintain the design theme
that has been established - cool, engineered, industrial, hard
edge, precise, and clean. I wanted to create a sense of absolute
confidence - a boldness that implied that this company knew
exactly what it was doing, and can be trusted.
FONT CHOICE: - www.grayofficefurnishings.com -
www.place-crete.com For both of these sites, the font choice was
fairly simple. Since both of these sites aim for a clean look, a
simple and sleek sans-serif font such as Arial or Helvetica was
used (sans-serif means that the strokes of the letters don't
have caps or feet at its joints or ends like Times for example).
DOWNLOAD TIME: While both of these sites appear to be fairly
"image heavy," they are not as bad in terms of download time as
you might think. Nobody likes to wait forever to see your
site... especially busy business people. Keeping the audience in
mind, I aimed to create the perfect balance between beautiful
imagery and reasonable download times. On one hand we didn't
want to have a dry and boring site; and on the other we needed
it to download fast enough for our targeted audience.
Hopefully this has given you a better understanding of what goes
into a well designed website. Even though much of the design
process has been revealed, it takes a real professional to bring
it all together. It is, no doubt, an art form. But why sweat it?
Why not let one of our experienced Website Design Experts do it
all for you? Not only are we in our seventh year of putting
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proven marketing concepts time and time again, but we've also
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quickly and gets your point across effectively.
Many "Traditional Businesses" may not see a need for setting up
a website... but it doesn't have to be difficult. With more and
more of these types of businesses setting up shop online
everyday, or even just a presence, it doesn't take long to
realize that a website can be a useful tool in staying
competitive. If you don't have one, your competition eventually
will... if they don't already!
About the author:
Doug Seidl is a member of the Worldprofit Design Team at
www.worldprofit.com Remember, your site must be appealing in
design AND make use of tested successful marketing techniques.
Let our expert design marketers work for you! Contact