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Back in my youth (many years ago), I remember all the local companies adorning our local high streets. There was a whole raft of different shops, banks, offices and service companies, but they all had one thing in common – the business facade was fairly boring. In fact, all that was required in the late fifties to early sixties was a simple sign over the shop window that carried the name of the business. Some types of business really pushed the boat out by using some form of symbology to give us a clue as to the nature of the business. However, this was little more than something like a cast pig hanging outside the butcher’s shop, or a red and white striped pole outside the hairdresser (or barber shops as they used to be called). Even the banks had little more than their name emblazoned over the storefront. There was very little in the way of design.

Essentially, typography was the main means of communicating company identity, and even that was in fairly basic fonts. Compare that with today’s world of business. Now days, you have to have a well thought out corporate image if you are to succeed in an increasingly competitive environment.John Pantau

Everything today is all about Brand Awareness and invoking human emotions. Branding is now fundamental to commercial success, and with good reason. Branding is basically the promotion of a “Promise” or “Expectation”. Good branding reduces the need to “Sell” because the selling has been done by the Brand image. People instinctively know that a particular brand represents things like quality, service, prestige, or some other desirable attribute. This means that when you browse around the local computer store and you enquire about an Apple or Sony computer, you’re not likely to start your enquiry by questioning the credentials of the company behind the brand. Instead, you get straight into the technical questions. But what would happen if another product caught your eye – maybe with a brand name like “Widget and Frigit Celeron Pro Notebook”? I think the salesman would have a much harder time convincing you to buy that product for the simple reason that the company doesn’t have a brand image. Such is the power of branding, and such is the power of design in promoting brand awareness.

Websites Have Steadily Joined the List of Visual Communications Media

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Good effective design is now an essential part of commercial life. Visual communications has become the lifeblood of the modern business world. Everything from printed advertising material, corporate and product brochures, to TV advertising and point of sale packaging are now carefully crafted works of art designed to stimulate consumers into buying products and services. For several years, web sites have steadily joined the list of visual communications media that are becoming indispensible to the commercial world. But strangely enough, it has only been in recent years that web site designers have begun to realise the uniqueness of web sites as a form of visual communication. Why Unique? Because its one of the few forms of visual communications that encourages consumer interaction with the medium itself. Think about it, you can’t interact with a printed brochure or a product label. You can’t interact with a billboard and you certainly can’t push any buttons on those leaflets that people stuff in your mail box. But web sites are a whole new ball game. Once people visit a site they can interact with it to get product information, see product demonstrations, visit virtual showrooms or even place orders – all from the comfort of their own PC.

There are web sites for automobile manufactures where you can select your preferred model, paint it in any colour, select an interior option, choose an engine size and add any other available options that may be offered. The end result is a nice picture of your configured vehicle and a price already calculated based on your choices. All you then have to do is hit a button to send an order enquiry to your local dealer. The whole thing is a totally interactive process that engages people in the act of buying an automobile. Psychologically, the deal is done – all the consumer needs is the money to buy it. But hey, there’s another site where you give all your personal details and get a credit quote on-line. You see, the whole business environment and the method of selling has completely changed.

Why Sites are Little More Than Electronic Calling Cards

The above examples demonstrate the importance of good web design, because if a website is to work correctly, it must be designed to instil confidence. It must be engaging, clear, to the point and have an objective. If any of those elements are missing or, if the site is confusing, either in terms of message or interactivity, the site is useless as a commercial tool. I’ve seen many sites that simply say things like “this is the home of XYZ builders, this is what we do, these are some of our happy clients, and here are a few pictures of some of the jobs we’ve done”. Such sites are little more than electronic calling cards. The owners of such sites would be better off posting leaflets through the neighbourhood mail boxes. However, it’s not always the site owners that are to blame for the ineffectiveness of their web sites. It can also be due to the fact that the web designers didn’t know what the objective of the site was – how could they when the client probably didn’t know either? Therefore, it’s vitally important that web designers know how to extract sufficient information from their client to enable them to correctly design a site that achieves a specific objective. Having extracted the information, the next step is applying the information to the web design process. This isn’t a technical function – this is a web site design function. No amount of Flash, JavaScript, or even nicely designed HTML is going to compensate for the lack of objectivity.

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