It is creating a website that is an expression of your company’s image and brand
A recent article in Fast Company magazine by Ben Fullerton talked about turning a website’s design into a brand experience for users. The article was written primarily for larger companies, however the information presented still applies to every business, especially smaller businesses that need to distinguish themselves. Here is a summary of the important points in that article.
Create a website that is an extension of what you are all about. What feeling do you want users to have when they visit your website or even think of your company? Every company stands for something and has a set of values. That is your image or brand. That image needs to be “built into” the design of your website. The branding of a company like Southwest Airlines creates the image of providing low prices while being fun and informal. An accounting firm would not benefit from that type of image. They would instead attempt to build their brand around professionalism, confidence and trust.
Consistency is important and so is Coherency. Nothing confuses a user more than a website that isn’t consistent. Consistency means the site has common design elements and functionality throughout. Coherency goes beyond consistency. It makes sure that your company’s image or brand is also part of your website’s design. If your company’s colors are red and yellow, it is easy to incorporate them into the site’s design. If your company’s image is great service, make sure your website incorporates that into the design as well. Incorporating an image may be harder to do, but it is the thing that distinguishes who you are.
For years I’ve been a fan of a sporting goods store in the Midwest called Moosejaw, www.moosejaw.com. They compete very well against national retailers like LL Bean, Dick’s Sporting Goods and REI. They do it with website content that is informal, personal and funny. For instance, when a chat window opens there is a photo of a little boy and this text: “Chat with the smartest person at Moosejaw. I’m ready to help and your hair looks stunning”. You get the impression that you are dealing with a friendly, quirky little shop even though they are selling their products nationally. That is Moosejaw’s brand or image and it distinguishes them from their larger competitors.
Design a website for interaction. Your website should not be an online brochure about your company. It is no longer enough to just broadcast what you do. You need to interact and “have a conversation” with your customers. Web sites need to be designed for a world in which interactions between a company and its customers are commonplace. Ben Fullerton says in his article, “It is how all of these are perceived together that creates the voice, tone, and personality of a brand, and that helps to create meaning.”
A website’s design, graphics and written content need to be part of the narrative that identifies your company’s brand and how people respond to it. Even on the most basic level your voice needs to be expressed in the site’s design.
The simple conclusion is that you only get one shot at a first impression. Website design isn’t just about choosing colors or pictures; it is expressing the identity you want to present to the world.