According to Dr. Gary Witt of the Marketing Psychology Group, "Owning a website is like owning a tractor -- If you don’t know why you need one, you shouldn't get one in the first place."
That type of thought-clarity is rampant in Dr. Witt's excellent "101 Ways to Improve Your Business Website," which is based on the notion that because the buying process happens in the mind of your customer, that's where the astute marketer's focus should be. Originally published in 2000 (but updated since), this 46-page Adobe file is broken into 15 sections, including Navigation, Look, Image, and Content. I have read a ton of this type of material, and this is one of the best free resources out there. The basics of web design and usability haven't changed a wit.
Action item: Make sure that your firm's Webmaster and VP of Marketing get a copy of Dr. Witt’s paper. And if you’d like to see academic support for Dr. Witt’s ideas, scan the results of Stanford University’s study entitled "How Do People Evaluate a Website's Credibility?" The study examined users' assessment of web credibility in multiple categories, including finance, health, news, and non-profit. For the sake of brevity, Stanford has compiled 10 guidelines for building the credibility of a website. These guidelines are based on three years of research that included over 4,500 people.
Although the material is a little dated, it's relevance has not diminished. About the only platforms that are not included in these documents are video and mobile devices. But the meat-and-potatoes of web design are covered in their entirety.
NOTE: For marketers who need to hire (or interview) for online marketing jobs, this guide is a great way to bone up on the basic issues surrounding B2B internet marketing.