When most people think of a “branded” website, they envision its visual elements such as a logo, color, and typography. But a true branded website communicates the brand in totality. So, we do not limit the design to visual elements but incorporates the brand’s purpose, voice, unique benefit claims, and target market.
In this post, you will learn the advantages of a branded website, specifically:
- the fundamental building blocks of successful brands
- the relationship between design quality and credibility
- how to build a branded website that converts more leads and sales
The Building Blocks of a Successful Brand
A brand is more than a logo and colors. It is an identity—an essence—that builds a connection between your business and target audience. Like human beings, brands also have tangible and intangible characteristics that define them.
A brand is difficult to explain but easily experienced.
When you meet someone, you get an impression of who that person is almost immediately. Some qualities are visual, such as their hair color and the way they dress. You learn other things about them by the way they talk or the expressions they use.
The same process used to form impressions in human-to-human interaction is the same for human-to-business encounters.
Think about it: when you walk into an office or a store, you get a feel for it. If you like the place, you will probably stay awhile. Likewise, if it’s dull and uninviting, you will leave and never go back.
You can’t build a branded website without having a brand first. Your brand provides all the necessary ingredients—persona, purpose, and emotion—your website needs to connect with your audience.
Here are the five fundamental building blocks of every successful brand:
The best brands are bold. They are industry leaders and innovators, but didn’t get that reputation by accident. And you don’t need a million-dollar marketing budget to be one of them.
Experiment and try new things as you develop your website. Don’t be afraid to stand up and stand out by sharing your views and philosophy. Think of yourself as a guide that will lead customers to the desired result with your product or service.
Many businesses are afraid to be bold because they don’t want to alienate or offend anyone. But if you aren’t speaking to someone specifically, you aren’t talking to anyone. And messages that don’t resonate with anyone will not generate leads or sales.
It’s up to you, the business owner, to let your audience know that what you do makes a difference.
Stay relevant by staying in touch with your audience and with trends in your industry. After all, if you can’t relate to your prospective customers, you can’t expect them to care about anything you have to say.
People don’t want manufactured empathy—they are looking for the real deal.
Don’t copy others. What works for someone else may not work as well for you.
When you communicate with your target audience—verbally or visually—inject your brand’s personality. You may own a business, but the company doesn’t have to be cold and uninviting.
Whatever you do, stay true to who you are. Unfortunately, many once-popular brands ruined their reputation by compromising the principles that made them great. It takes a long time to build a connection with your audience, but only moments to tear it down.
Incorporating a sense of novelty into your branded website means making it interesting. But it isn’t easy to keep up with ever-changing design trends or know what will capture attention.
It’s best to simplify the design process. Less is more in a world of two-second attention spans and 24-hour access.
So rather than trying to dazzle everyone with overwhelming designs, use a minimalist approach, and look for ways to generate more engagement when users land on your site.
While this is excellent advice, being authentic means more than using slang in blog posts and posting photos of you having coffee.
Look at your competitors. (They should be easy to find because you have lots of them.) How can you improve what they are doing?
I use the word ‘better’ not in the sense of who is the best, but rather, how can you improve what competitors are doing?
The competitor analysis exercise will help you discover ideas. Do this often, and you will find it’s much easier to stand out than you thought.
The Relationship Between Design Quality and Credibility
Some say that you should never judge a book by its cover. However, reality tells a different story. In fact, research shows that brand image significantly influences consumer confidence.
Appearance matters for your brand, too, whether you sell physical products or are a service provider.
Your website’s appearance—its design—is a critical piece of your brand image. Design quality increases or reduces its ability to generate engagement and convert. A polished, professional website enhances the value of your product or service and builds credibility.
How to Define Quality Website Design
Quality is often subjective, which makes it difficult to describe. But to create a branded website, one must understand how to deliver a result that meets (and hopefully exceeds) the target audience’s expectations of a quality design.
To gauge design quality, you must first establish standards by which to measure it. With quality standards in place, you can then execute the design process with a high confidence level. Analyzing successful competitors and understanding design best practices will enable you to create quality standards.
Of course, solid design skills help too.
Here are some indicators of design quality:
Site navigation is one of the most important—and overlooked—website design features. Users must be able to locate the information they want without exerting much effort. This ease-of-use extends to pages, categories, site links, and calls-to-action.
Visuals are perhaps the most obvious quality indicators. But use your logo, colors, typography, and other brand imagery tactfully. All website visuals should support the brand messaging but never overwhelm or distract.
Reliable content also helps define the quality of a website. All references, data, and claims should contain accurate, current, and relevant information. Ensuring that your website is a reliable source your audience can depend on is vital for establishing credibility.
Branded Website Strategy
A good plan will help you avoid many typical website design mistakes. Most issues are with messaging, calls to action, and technical oversights.
Many business owners launch their sites without thinking about what they want them to do. Some believe that if a site “looks great”, it will be successful. Unfortunately, they usually end up disappointed.
Your website serves several functions:
It introduces people to your brand.
Your website is like a tour guide. As soon as someone arrives, the site is there to welcome them and show them around. So, the first impression must be your best.
It fosters a relationship.
Your website is one of the first “touchpoints” for your brand. As a result, the relationship with visitors often begins with a website visit.
It gives them what they want.
Your website visitors usually arrive at your site because they are looking for something—make sure they can find it when they get there.
It focuses on the visitor.
Prioritize your target audience.
What are the desires, needs, or knowledge gaps you can address in your website messaging? What do you want someone to do when they land on the site?
Whatever it is, the home page (or landing page) should prompt the visitor to do it. Remember, you only have a user’s attention for a few seconds. Therefore, your message must be clear, concise, and compel them to take a specific action.
Invitations or calls-to-action should lead site visitors one step closer to becoming a customer. Even a tiny step in the right direction can make a big difference. But if they don’t have the incentive to act, they will leave and never come back.
A Branded Website and The Customer Journey
Roughly 88% of consumers visit a company’s website to research them before they buy. Most of your site’s visitors want to get a feel for your business first, which is why creating a customer journey is so valuable.
The customer journey aims to meet users where they are in the buying process and lead them to the ultimate destination—a purchase.
Here’s a summary of the customer journey, as illustrated:
Each stage of the customer journey (shown in the image as awareness, engagement, and conversion) represents a “frame-of-mind” prospective customers are in during the buying process.
Leads in the awareness category are the least likely to buy because they are unfamiliar with your brand. So, you must establish credibility and communicate your product or service’s unique value. If you are successful in this first stage of the customer journey, some people in this group will move to the second stage: engagement.
The engagement phase consists of leads who want to stay connected to your brand. In this stage, the goal is to stay top-of-mind while reinforcing the value of your offer and differentiation. Then, some will transition to stage three: consideration.
The consideration segment of your target audience has moved beyond brand awareness and engagement and is seriously considering a purchase. In this stage, they make comparisons and evaluate their buying options. The brands that perform best in stages one and two will have the most success converting these people into paying customers.
A branded website accounts for all three stages of the customer journey and connects with users in each segment. Educational content, low-commitment offers, and trial memberships are among the most popular ways to build connections.
Brand Values, Purpose, and Promise
A branded website must also incorporate elements of an organization’s values, purpose, and promise.
Most companies have a mission and vision statement on their website. But is the brand purpose and promise clear?
It’s nice to know why you’re in business, but it’s important to share your Value Proposition. Your value proposition is not the same as a Brand Positioning Statement, which tells people why you’re in business.
You don’t have to repeat the brand promise using the same sentence over and over. Instead, you can send the message in a variety of ways. Be creative, but be clear.
Who are you? Anyone who lands on your site should be able to answer that question. Before you design your site, write out three to five words that describe your brand. These words communicate your brand values—the essenceof what you believe.
For example, are you a family-friendly brand or elegant and sophisticated?
Identifying your brand values is essential because they will help you create a design that accurately represents the identity you want to have. For example, the website of an upscale fashion retailer will look much different than a technology company site.
Do you have a logo? Colors? What specific images do you want people to envision when your brand comes to mind?
Work these into your website design tactfully. Overdoing your brand images distract the visitor from the messaging and engagement. A subtle approach works best.
Do People Care About an Experience?
This study shows a direct correlation between the quality of a company’s in-store experience and customer perception.
Many business owners question whether the effort spent to create a customer experience is worth the effort. But people care about the brand experience—even if they don’t consciously acknowledge it.
Use the customer journey model from the section above to create a brand experience for website visitors. To simplify this complex process, ask yourself what you would like to see or the information you might need when landing on a website.
Branded Website Design Tips
Scientists have found that human beings assess images within 13 milliseconds. That’s literally within the blink of an eye.
It’s a common belief that eye-popping images are the key to successful website design. But the site’s layout is just as important as content and images.
Cluttered sections, blurry images, and text that is hard to read kill engagement. Inconsistency from page to page sends mixed signals and confuses website visitors. But brand consistency across all platforms has the opposite effect and can increase revenue by as much as 33%.
Brand consistency reinforces the perception of stability, and people are attracted to strength. It’s a sign that they can trust the person or business.
So, how do you maintain consistency in website design?
- Avoid using too many fonts—one or no more than two.
- Use a primary and secondary color, with an accent color for calls-to-action only.
- Make sure images (photos and graphics) align with your brand’s identity.
- Don’t keep changing directions. Changing designs too often works against you.
- Use a mood board to come up with concepts before you design anything.
- Create a style guide that includes your color scheme, fonts, and other brand images.
For reference, the structure I’m referring to here relates to the use of the site and not the link structure. While link structure is important (and part of a good SEO strategy), making your site easy to use is essential.
Navigation should be simple. Don’t ask users to overthink while using your site. Instead, position vital information only one or two clicks away.
Have you ever seen a website that hurt your eyes? It may have been the harsh color scheme or fonts that were difficult to read. Or maybe everything was packed so tightly you couldn’t tell where one section ended and another began.
White space is the space (usually white) between website elements and sections. This space gives everything room to breathe and accomplish its intended purpose. It often separates the excellent designs from the bad—and the ugly.
Keep ample white space between images, text, and content, making it easy for visitors to transition from one section to another. Cramming elements together causes them to work against each other.
A branded website can help you stand out and generate more leads and sales. It’s one of the first impressions prospective customers get of your business.
Design the site with your target audience in mind. Start with a plan. Use a clear, compelling message to prompt visitors to take action and lead your audience throughout the customer journey.
Your branded website should reflect your level of professionalism, quality, and expertise. It should communicate your promise to customers in a tone that aligns with your brand values.
A website design that aligns with your brand is an extensive project. We’re here if you need us. Please email your questions to me personally at email@example.com.
Until next time,
More Branding Insights
By Chris Fulmer |
Learn more about brand strategy.
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