In the current climate, there is no substitute for a website that serves as an engaging representation of who you are, why you exist, what sets you apart, and the value you provide.
More so than ever before, your website is the most prominent representation of your brand. It’s the first place that your audience goes to learn about your business, and it’s the primary venue for ongoing engagement.
Let’s look at a few branding and website design stats that drive home the pivotal importance of a positive, brand-aligned web experience:
- 94% of people say bad design is the main reason why they don’t trust certain websites.
- 83% of people say a seamless experience across all devices is very important.
- 75% of people base the credibility of a business on their website alone.
- 77% of marketing leaders say a strong brand is critical to their growth plans.
Clearly, there’s a lot riding on successful web experiences these days, but if findings such as these spark a small panic or a sense that your organization is not keeping up, you are not alone. Only 60% of marketers think their brand is well aligned with their long-term goals.
We’re engaged in conversations with marketing directors every day, and this statistic is very much in keeping with what we hear. It’s not uncommon that we speak with a marketing director who has updated brand and messaging guidelines that haven’t yet found their way onto their website.
Beyond Accurate: Aspirational
For marketing directors who are at the point of considering how to fix their brand alignment and what else is possible, our advice is to think big. Getting your website to the place that it is an accurate representation of your brand might seem like a leap at this point, but instead of aiming for simply “accurate,” we advocate for “aspirational.”
That is to say, set your sights on a website that you can grow into and imagine the advantage of an online presence that reflects your organizational vision and where your company (and target customer base) is headed.
Far too often, we see outdated websites that are playing catch up to the organization or the market. The opposite should be the case, Your website needs to lead.
The anticipated uphill climb that’s required to get a website to where it needs to be might feel overwhelming, but there is a wide array of excellent resources and agencies to help guide you through the process. Another important factor to consider is the immense value that inevitably arises throughout every exercise and conversation among stakeholders throughout the branding and web redesign process.
During a recent webinar, entitled Designing the Right Website for Your Brand, we explored issues surrounding the process of getting websites and brands into alignment. We pointed out that when most people think of “web design” they think of just visual aesthetics, but the fact is, there’s so much more to a successful and engaging site.
It begins with a brand strategy and the development of documentation surrounding brand identity. This prep work, which also needs to incorporate knowledge of your audience and the positioning of the solutions that you offer in a way that resonates with their needs, can significantly serve to fast track your work with an agency on the design of a brand-aligned website that sparks new levels of engagement and growth opportunities.
There’s a lot of talk about branding these days, and before conversations begin, it’s helpful to review definitions to ensure that we are moving forward from a shared context.
A brand is the gut feeling and emotional response people have based on their experience with your business. Even though your brand ultimately lives in the minds of your customers, it can, and should, be a direct result of your strategy, identity, and branding efforts, all of which are 100 percent within your control.
It’s important to distinguish among the key components of your brand.
- Your brand strategy is a long term blueprint and articulation of who you are, why you exist, and how you engage with your customers and prospects.
- Your brand identity consists of visual elements such as your logo, color palette, fonts, graphic treatments, and all guidelines concerning aesthetics.
- Branding refers to the entire process, application, and management of your brand strategy and brand identity. It’s the output or the actions you take to apply your personality and visuals.
The documentation of your brand strategy and identity is extremely helpful both for your organization and the partners with whom you work. It not only helps your team to convey key aspects about your brand using the same verbal and visual language, but as I noted earlier solid branding documentation can save a good chunk of time when translating this essential information into a website redesign.
Know Your Audience
It’s music to a web designer’s ears when a client reveals an in-depth knowledge of their audience. Insight into the audience for whom the web experience is being created is the foundation for a great user experience.
Of course, few organizations have just one audience, so audiences need to be prioritized. Determine whose opinion matters the most and rank them.
Here are some of the tools and exercises that we’ve used to learn more about our clients’ audiences:
- Personas provide a quick snapshot of audience demographics, needs, wants, desires, problems, and triggers.
- Surveys and interviews offer direct insights beyond hypothetical personas and up-to-date feedback concerning the brand.
- Customer journey mapping is a big part of our process, helping us to understand pain points and opportunities as visitors navigate within a website.
Depending on the project, there could be a number of different artifacts or visuals that help us showcase the overall strategy and design direction. We always start with a strategy, and then create a sitemap, wireframes, and styleboard. It is within the styleboard that we aim to capture the visual language and experience that will be conveyed as an accurate — and ideally aspirational — representation of a client’s brand.
Monitor, Measure, Refine
Despite the excitement and new beginnings that the launch of a new site unleashes, we’ve found that the most essential component of a successful website is the realization that website design is never really done.
Continuous measurement that draws upon analytic tracking, surveys, heat mapping, live chat integration, and probably most importantly conversion monitoring, based upon your goals and KPIs, will inform opportunities for revisions and improvements.
Objective: A Purposeful Website
Your website needs to represent your organization and your culture at its very best. Technologies, best practices, and user preferences are constantly evolving. Keeping up and staying in alignment calls for a purposeful, ongoing determination.
There are, of course, lots of sites out there that look really cool, and let there be no doubt, we at Solid Digital love cool sites. We design lots of them, but cool is not the objective.
The objective is to fit your website to your brand and to make sure that it resonates with your audience. The result from doing so will significantly help in growing your brand along with every other aspect of your marketing.