How To Put An Everyday Business Online

Author: Doug Seidl

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 world.

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 customers business.

The two companies are: 1) Gray Office Furnishings – 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 person.

“Presentation is everything.” Yes, I’m sure most of you have heard this cliché, 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.


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. – 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.

– 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: – 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.

– 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: – 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, etc.

– 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: – – 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 people’s businesses online, and not only have we been applying proven marketing concepts time and time again, but we’ve also got the technical know-how to do exactly what it takes to make a website achieve what you want it to. When you order from us, you won’t just be getting a site that looks pretty and applies our years of marketing experience, you’ll be getting one that loads 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 Remember, your site must be appealing in design AND make use of tested successful marketing techniques. Let our expert design marketers work for you!

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