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Understanding the Web- Part III: Design
Often the design phase of a website's construction is the part to which clients can most relate. It is easier to contemplate how a website will look rather than how it will work. With design comes the face of the website-- its visual expression and what is sometimes referred to as its 'feel'. This is the impression the site gives the visitor when he/she first views it. Professional or amateur. Fun or serious. Simple or complex. All of these factors build the personality of the website and appeal to different users in different ways.
Ultimately, one group and one group only matter when a website is designed. That group is the users, defined as those who are going to invest time and possibly money into your business. The design is the first visual cue to your users as to what kind of business or organization you are. Site designs that do not accurately send that cue tend to drive away users and act counterproductively against the website's purpose.
Effective design takes your needs into account, (including your logo, preferred colors, and imagery,) but the design drives toward your audience. A designer may research the industry to see how others with similar businesses or groups present themselves. He/she may consider designs that appeal to the mood your product or service should suggest. For example, a website that sells bouncy castles may be fun and light, with bright colors and whimsical pictures of children having fun. Every factor from a company’s history to its best selling service may work its way into the design. Design is representation, and often, reputation.
Design is often the key to the door of your identity as a business or organization. Users determine whether that key is worth turning, depending on whether the site appears reputable, professional, and trustworthy. In this age of fraud and identity theft, users are more cautious about using websites with suspicious intent, as they should be. A proper design can be the first step to alleviating those doubts.