Website Analysis and design > What actions do we want our users to take? e.g. buy something - send an email - download - call - generate a lead?
Website Design Concepts
As for website design, here is a little secret: Start with existing sites and find the ones you like and the ones that are similar to the site you are planning. Marketer and author Seth Godin even recommends this approach; in fact, most sites are designed this way. I have examples of hundreds of the best website designs that I share with my customers. The website design examples cut across industries and organization types (business, non-profits, schools, and governments). The bookmark list is on my delicious.com account.
Not a site to rip-off, but an inspiration. Fonts and colors and layout. The line spacing. The interactions. Why not? Your car isn't unique, and your house might not be either. If you've got a site that sells 42 kinds of wrapping paper, why not start by finding a successful site that sells... I don't know, shoes or yo-yo's... something that both appeals to your target audience and has been tested and tweaked and works. No, don't pick a competitor. That will get you busted. Pick a reasonably small but successful site in a totally different line of work. Say to your designer: "That's our starting point. Don't change any important design element without asking me first. Now, pull in our products, our logo and our company color scheme and let's take a look at it.
"Do you want the people visiting this site to notice it?"
It's a subtle but essential question.
For artists, musicians and web 2.0 companies, the answer is probably yes. Yes we want people to see the interface or remark on our skills or cleverness.
For everyone else, it's no. The purpose of the site is to tell a story or to generate some sort of action. And if the user notices the site, not the story, you've lost.
Amazingly, this means that not only can't the site be too cutting edge, clever or slick, it also can't be too horrible, garish or amateurish. It's sort of like the clothes you want the person giving a eulogy to wear. No Armani, no cutoff jeans."