The website is the thing Web design works with. Here we will speak of its characteristics so that you can understand it better. Our concerns are: interaction (a distinctive characteristic of this element of design), presence, and reference point. In formal terms, the three of them are equally important. Nevertheless, this varies according to each particular purpose.
Interaction: this is what distinguishes a website from all the other elements of design, which just transmit a message from a company to the public. The website’s cycle, however, does not end at that point, as the message transmitted by the company can be answered by the public. In time, the company will answer again, and so on. Thus, both the dialogue and the interrelation between the two parts are encouraged. What a company obtains from this experience is very valuable in view of a future advertising campaign –all the questions, comments, or suggestions made by the visitors to the website will be useful information for the professional in charge of the campaign, since he will know a lot about the target public. But there are more benefits, and there is more interaction. Now then, we can call the aforesaid interaction “user-company”, as the user interacts with someone at the company responsible for the website. In a similar way, we can call the following “user-website”, as the user interacts directly with the website. This is how it works: not all the information in a website is visible to the user at one time; instead, he himself should go over those sections that he is interested in (it would be quite strange that a person is interested in all that a company offers, anyway). By means of this interaction, a company provides the public with the required information, and saves them being annoyed with useless advertising. Ordinary advertising obliges the recipients to pay attention to something which might not be of their interest. As a result, they eventually get annoyed with the company producing this kind of advertising. However, if it is the clients themselves that are looking for information, they will be very much pleased if this information is ordered and clear.
Presence: being on the Internet is being in the market, and vice versa. Every day more and more people choose the Internet when they want to make a purchase, hire a service, or simply contact a company. Therefore, there is no single company that would not suffer the absence of a website. Besides, where once –just a few years ago– the Internet was only for big corporations, things now are quite different. These days, the Internet is for every company (that wants to keep alive). In fact, most of the clients of Web design agencies are small companies. Being on the Web, then, is quite equal to climbing up the commercial ladder, increasing the sales levels and profits, etc. That is to say the benefit is for real. Not being on the Web, on the other hand, means that a company is completely out of reach and therefore it will lose many real and potential clients, not to mention the fact that it will look old-fashioned, weak and tiny.
Reference Point: before the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the opening of the world trade markets, and globalization, each community had its own factory or company. Everyone in the community knew exactly what the central office was like, its location, the people who worked in it, and even the owners of that factory or company operating in their zone. So a company’s central office was quite a reference point. But the development of the international market, together with capitalism, eventually destroyed those commercial ties of contiguity, and transformed companies into an abstraction only existing in people’s minds. Consumers do not know where a company’s central office is located any more –even if it is in the same city as them–, and it is only when they need a firm that they learn of its existence. What design does is give people concrete elements for them to get acquainted with a certain company. In this context, the website has become the reference point for consumers, the “place” where they can go if they have some doubt, or want to make a suggestion or complain about something –in a way, it is like some virtual customer service office. This is extremely beneficial for companies, as the construction of a luxurious (real) customer service office would cost them thousands of dollars, whereas just 1 % of that sum will do for a luxurious website.