If you look around on the web these days, you’ll find countless web sites, many of which likely claim to do exactly what you do. Setting yourself apart from the competition involves many things, and in the case of a web site may be as simple as a better design.

Over the years, the web has changed dramatically, and design concepts have changed with it. With the advent, for example of “Web 2.0” (social networking and interactive sites), web sites have moved in the direction of graphic-intensive designs that rely heavily on visual signposts rather than lots of wording. Studies over the years reveal certain patterns in human responses to visual stimuli, and page design has changed accordingly. One of the most amazing examples is how very graphics-oriented we have become. We’d rather see a picture than read a word, giving entirely new meaning to the phrase “a picture worth a thousand words”.

As bandwidth has increased and display technology has improved, we have seen a surge in animations — and a resulting pendulum swing in the opposite direction. Where a decade ago we thought animated widgets were cool, we see fewer and fewer of them now, having learned that they can actually detract from your message if overused. Too much is, after all, too much!

The broad availability of ready-made templates makes web publishing much easier for personal sites or small businesses that do not have the resources for a full-scale custom site. The hazard there is, of course, that you sacrifice a great deal of individuality and flexibility with an off-the-rack template; at the same time, it offers a great way to step up to the web using the proverbial “baby steps” — a great solution for many people!

Stretching your budget just a tiny bit can, on the other hand, make the difference between a cookie-cutter web site and one that makes you and/or your company look the way you really want to present yourself to the world. We learned years ago that if a company has a gross annual revenue of, say, $200,000 but wanted to look as though it were more like $2 million, a great web site was an excellent place to start. You’ve seen them, too: the sites that make you say “Oh, cool!” out loud, or that just seem to intuitively know what you need and where you want to go.

We strive for that every day.

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