The four basic elements of a web presence

design | an underlying framework or scheme governing function and/or intelligibility

Good design can make or break the basic experience of visiting a website.  Design should be striking but clear.  Design should never overpower the content or distract from the message.  It serves the message.  Good web design makes navigating the website obvious and supports the ultimate purpose of the site.

“Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”
J. Zeldman

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
Steve Jobs

mes·sage | written, spoken or signaled communication; an ultimate idea or theme

Message is the story, substance and personality of your website.  Show off your character!  Connect with people!  Demonstrate your expertise!  Business people often undervalue or ignore copywriting or, worse, they write in a robotic, lifeless tone.  A helpful, personal voice in your web presence will extend your brand and can even make advertising unnecessary.

“If you could taste words, most [business writing] would remind you of stale, soggy rice cakes: nearly calorie free, devoid of nutrition, and completely unsatisfying.”
J. Fried

util·i·ty | fitness for a purpose or value to a goal

Why should somebody visit your website?  Really, why?  Your website has to be more than a brochure.  Take advantage of this incredible medium!  Go beyond broadcasting your marketing message.  Be helpful, useful and informative — or people will go elsewhere.  So what can your site do to help someone?

I'm still looking for some good quotes about utility.  It's amazing how much time people spend talking about web design and how little they spend talking about focusing on what your website actually does.

vis·i·bil·i·ty | degree of clarity; the capibility of being promptly noticed

The web is incredibly noisy.  How does your voice carry through the clutter?  Strategies like search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click ads (PPC) can help get the ball rolling.  Once people find your site, break through the pixels on the screen with your message.  Turn casual visitors into a dedicated fans.  Stay visible by giving them a reason to come back.  Connect on Facebook and Twitter.

“All companies have customers.  Lucky companies have fans.  But the most fortunate companies have audiences.”37signals