Technology is driving society at a pace unparalleled in history creating new attitudes, interrelationships, and global awareness. A new consumer is emerging. This consumer is not easily persuaded by clever graphics or manipulated by fads in design. The new consumer is educated as to his options, and will not settle for less than he feels his money is worth. In the past, a consumer was limited to geographical boarders as he developed purchasing decisions. Products and prices offered by merchants within a few mile radius of his home was the extent of his knowledge. Today a consumer can get information with the click of a mouse, and the buzz of a modem. He shops with a frame of reference formed by vendors across the street, and around the world.
In order to create a web site which is an effective tool for marketing information, product, or service, a person or business must first be aware of the trends in the marketplace. Secondly, a web site must give the visitor something of value. A web site which offers information, membership in a community, or the opportunity to purchase items will be visited repeatedly, whereas a site with limited informational content, which is little more than an online brochure, will be visited once, and then forgotten. Finally, as the web site evolves, a site owner must include in his web design a mechanism to update the system with new information and new technology as they evolve. (infotoday.com)
In order to integrate all aspects of a presentation on a web-site, the designer must move beyond form, color and type and embrace the comprehensive impact of design, such as:
Enhanced awareness of the world;
deeper, broader thinking about problems and opportunities;
respect for the historical roots of and formal conventions of design;
planning and diligent study are required to create interesting global web-site designs.
As the site designer approaches the task of site design, the first priority to identify is the purpose of the site. For the purpose of this paper, a website designed for marketing, and e-commerce will be the focus. Designing the site is a funneling process, in which the designer started with a large, undefined goal, and via the process of determining target market, available resources, and available technology, the site owner distills the large, unrefined idea of "wanting a web site" down into the specific content which markets his company, and helps drive company sales.
Marketing- Driven Web Building Priorities.
Before building a web site, the site owner must determine the purpose of the site. Will it be a contact center for customers, or friend? Will it be a central focus of the company, or a personal, virtual scrap book for the family? Will the web site be interactive, inviting the participation of the visitor, or a static, electronic brochure? The first generations of web sites were predominantly the latter, static electronic version of printed materials. The visitors could discover information, and route email through the web site to company staff. Second generation websites added interactivity to the content. The visitors could request information, and have it immediately delivered. Web sites included purchase options for basic products. Visitors could sign up for email subscriptions, and participate in discussions with other visitors.
Today, a third generation web site contains the previous content, and minor interactivity, but also includes full interaction with the company, staff and products. Today's web site is integrated with supply chain management, customer relationship management, and sales and accounting department functions. All aspects of a companies business can be accessed and managed through the web site, or the company's intranet. Many companies are no longer printing and mailing literature. Full catalogues, and policy manuals are printed only once, and the end user accessed the information via their own internet equipment.
According to Howard Rosenbaum, Indiana University electronic commerce professor, E-commerce through the Internet includes "the marketing and planning strategies, consumer behavior and legal and regulatory policies relating to the commercial development of the Internet." (www.slis.indiana.edu).
The border-less landscape and potential of the Internet, has fed the e-commerce craze to the state that it is now in. By including the opportunities found on the Internet in its strategy, businesses can benefit from costs being reduced and an increase in accessibility to customers, among other benefits. Consumers benefit through more control being placed in their hands through middlemen being reduced, which lowers prices and through the availability of more choices and information only a click of the mouse away.
According to a study done by the United States Government, using the internet, it only costs about 1 cent to conduct a banking transaction. If handled by a teller at a bank, the cost is more than one dollar. (www.ecommerce.gov) Businesses large and small have the ability to create a worldwide presence by creating a web page and providing product information, or the ability to purchase products online. There are many estimates of the "Internet Universe" which is the number of people with access to the Internet. Current estimates range from approximately 119 million (NetResults,1/00) to 304.36 million people with online capabilities worldwide. (Nua Internet Survey) (www.nua.ie/surveys) With the potential to reach such a large amount of consumers, it is not surprising to find that 60% of U.S. companies are currently using e-commerce in some way, and 4 of 5 firms claim that they intend to utilize e-commerce in the future. (NABE Survey) With such interest, Internet commerce is sure to have a huge impact on the way business will be done into the future.
Although most Internet users are only familiar to e-commerce on the web as directed towards the everyday consumer, the opportunities do not end there. There are actually 3 sectors of e-commerce on the Internet;
Business-to-Consumer, (such as amazon.com)
Business-to-Business (such as ibm.com, or sba.gov)
Consumer-to-Consumer. (Such as eBay.com)
When designing this website, the focus is to design a business to consumer site that offers the consumer information, interaction with the company, input on the company operation, and development of new products, as well as a fully enabled ecommerce application which allows the consumer to purchase company products. As the design specifications were developed, the following guidelines were collected from a variety of sources.
Rules of web site design.
Don't confuse the viewer. Keep the site consistently designed. For different pages and sections the navigation tools and graphics need to look the same throughout. Make sure the viewer knows they are on the same site when surfing your web pages. (infotoday.com)
Be organized within the navigation structure. Make sure buttons and navigational directions are simple and clear. Be consistent in these from page to page.
Don't make oversize pages. Research shows that 50% of all computers used for the internet use 15" monitors, designers often use 17" - 21" monitors, Design screens should be limited to content within 640x 800 pixels.
Don't design pages that require scrolling. This makes it painful and impossible to read in a hurry. Many site visitors will never scroll, they are more likely to press a button and keep going. Shorter pages break up content to bite size pieces this is more appealing to the viewer.
Don't use big, slow graphics. No one wants to wait a minute for art or seven minutes for a video; the only acceptable delay when it comes to the web is no delay.
Go monochromatic. Monochromatic pages frankly look better and run faster. Web clutter is typified by free wheeling use of color. Use of one or two colors makes the site more appealing, and easier to navigate.
Don't overdo text. Web browsers skim and surf, if you don't give them something quickly they absorb nothing.
Don't use tiny type. It is very hard to read small type on a computer, make everything bigger than you would print. If you want to get noticed on the web, make the site easy and clear to read.
Large web sites should have internal search engine in order to assist visitors to find the information whey are looking for.
Web Site Evaluation
The two websites evaluated for this project are sites which serve businesses and consumers with web hosting services. Companies which provide web site hosting services are something like the corner grocery store in the digital economy. Most companies do not have the server and internal IT professionals which are required to operate and manage a web site in house. When a company or individual wants to host a web site, they normally purchase hosting space from a 'server farm.' I have chosen to evaluate these web sites because, as a person looking to host a site, the server farm's site should be a perfect representation of the guidelines for effective web development.
SBC is one of the nation's largest communications companies. Composed of many of the regional Bell telephone companies, SBC provides data and communication services of some kind to almost 60% of the nation. This company web site is dedicated…