Small Business Owner: Is Your Website a Tool or Just a Fancy Brochure?

POSTED BY Jason Kristufek - 08.24.12 - Website design, Digital marketing

Greetings! My name is Luke and I’m a User Interface/User Experience (UI/UX) Designer here at Fusionfarm. My job isn’t as scary as my title sounds: Simply put, a UI/UX Designer is a fancy term for developers who look at a website from the end-user’s perspective, ensuring that a site has a cohesive, predictable and user-friendly design. The ultimate goal of any website is to make the user's interactions and experience as simple and painless as possible. (And believe me, that can be challenging! I have a lot of experience trying to hit moving targets...)

Over the last ten years I have worn many hats, starting out as a freelancer and then a member of a growing startup -- and most recently joining the interesting collection of minds and talents that is Fusionfarm.

In my career I have had my hands in nearly all things frontend, from print and video to web applications and B2B websites. For my first post here on, I thought I’d try to make myself useful by talking about business web design and, in particular, how the right approach can be leveraged as an opportunity.

There are countless ways a small or medium sized local business can benefit from having a website, but those new to web development aren’t always trained to understand how to use this amazing medium as a business tool. Since our first instinct is usually to focus on how things look and how they make us feel, it’s easy to forget that a business website is a tool with a job to do and how well it does that job can be evaluated independent of how visually appealing the site is.

A small business website should perform specific tasks which may include:

  • Publishing the business’ physical address, phone number, email address and business hours in an easy-to-find location

  • Publishing website-only promotional offers and coupons

  • Capturing online inquiries and saving them in a customer database so you can contact and follow up with those potential clients later

What a business website does and how it does it should reflect the target audience and anticipate their behavior. Who do you expect to visit your site? What actions are your potential customers likely to take once they’re on your site? What actions should they take? Approaching web design at this level makes it easier to devise a website design strategy that identifies and directs users to take actions in a way that can be tested – and modified if necessary.

Handling process design independent of graphic design also makes it easier to manage project expectations and achieve website progress milestones. If you focus on your website as a business tool, you can more tenably relate your efforts to bottom-line impact, and may feel less pressure to be directly invested in the arguably more challenging artistic process of designing the site’s look and feel. With that project component entrusted to the visual branding experts, it is easier to score a winning design and move one step closer to a successful site launch.

For a small or medium sized business owner, planning and developing a useful website demands an honest and thorough examination of the business model and stakeholder expectations. Separating website form from function provides business owners an opportunity to temporarily step away from how they think about their business internally and focus instead on the people who will (hopefully) visit their website.
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