Websites must Facilitate and Communicate
Websites say something, and potentially allow visitors and owners to do something. In other words, they communicate and facilitiate. Businesses on the Web are communicating better and facilitating more interaction than ever before.
Originally, Websites were a means of communication, and it was mostly one way - from the Website to the visitor. Today, the quality of communication on the Web has improved so much that the Internet has become one of the most effective communication mediums available. Colours and graphics are of particular importance as is branding, but the presentation of quality information means that Websites are now a respected source of information and help. In fact, these days visitors expect quality information and they want it presented well. If they don't find it on one site, chances are there's another one around the corner that will offer them the information they want.
Nowdays, communication through a website is expected to be two-way. Visitors are increasingly willing to contact a business through its website by way of enquiries, bookings etc. This leads to a Website's next primary purpose which is facilitation.
Customers are taking initiative
Interactivity is increasing on the Internet. Interactivity in this sense doesn't refer to sounds and movement but rather to what customers can do on their own to make your job easier. Websites have the ability to facilitate real efficiency. Depending on your requirements, they can (and should) save you time, increase your customer base, and automate some processes that may otherwise be manual. Given the right opportunities, site vistors (customers) are taking on as much responsibilty as they can be given, and given the right framework are willing to participate in much of the business processes - just as long as they get value out of it.
Visitors Want Value
Value could mean: a greater understanding; avoiding queues; the opportunity to asses information and make choices in their own time; the ability to get a wider perspective on products and services. Each Website may have a different set of processes that provide value to its visitors.
To provide better value to visitors, it is important to identify and understand the business objectives, to identify what will benefit the visitors, and also the website owners. Websites can often contain management systems that can centralise business processes, and reduce administraiton.
What 'number' do you want to change?
Ultimately, websites are about changing 'your crucial number'. Your crucial number is what you say it is - and it's not always easy to identify. It maybe the number of smiles you create, or it could be the amount of sales you make.
A website's purpose is to improve that crucial number (or numbers) - whether that number is to go up, or down. To do this, your site has to communciate effectively and facilitate the needs and wants of the customer, efficiently and elegantly.