Imagine that you build trucks for a living and you’re approached by a family of giants who wish to hire you. They really don’t know much about trucks since they spend most of their time swatting dragons and harvesting golden eggs from their flock of magic chickens. But they recognize the value in having a truck to transport their golden eggs to more distant markets, so you’re on the job!

Unless your design is based on relevant information, such as exactly how big the giants are, how far they need to drive and how many golden eggs they need to transport, the truck you build may not be ideal for their needs: It doesn’t really matter that you give the truck a turbo-charged engine and paint it the giants’ favorite shade of green if they can’t fit inside with all their golden eggs.

In the same way, it makes little sense to design a website without first understanding a client’s business, its challenges, goals and unique advantages. A website that is conceptually integrated with the business and its brand is far more powerful than one that’s based on outdated concepts of web design. Choosing colors and fonts may make a client feel good, but it won’t answer the more critical needs of their business.

A website is the most valuable tool most small businesses have for generating new customers–those searching for their services and products online–so to treat it like a newspaper ad with a cute message and nice graphic treatment is a terrible waste. Since most small businesses and startups don’t have an Internet expert on hand to sift through the many options and approaches one can take, it makes sense that they would turn to their web developer to do so.

Smart web design begins with an understanding of the client’s business. Take the time to do that and you’ll have your own golden-egg laying chicken.

(Editorial Note: This post was published originally on the old aim-biz.com website. We’ve migrated it to our new home because we think it makes sense and we don’t want to upset the giants.)