How To Make a Branded Website
The Questions Your Developers and Designers Will Need to Know
When you imagine your perfect website, you probably think of a homepage with a high-resolution hero image, superimposed with emotive and converting ad copy. You picture a website similar to other industry-leading websites, with their high-tech bells and whistles, except you picture your own company’s name and logo emblazoned across the top of the screen.
It’s the most common mistake marketers make: jumping to what your website is going to look like before even considering what it’s going to do.
Here’s an interesting fact about website style (and internet technology in general) though: they are extremely temporal. As far as marketing techniques go, there’s no quintessentially-branded website. Consumers can equate a certain font to Coca-Cola, or a certain jingle to a brand, but there’s no website style that triggers an immediate synaptic connection between look and brand.
Why? Mostly because of imitation. Businesses can easily imitate Apple’s minimalistic black-and-white color scheme, sleek image carousel, and use the same typography to create a similar look. But Apple’s success as a website is more than just style, it’s the whole experience their website creates.
When creating your website, you cannot neglect interaction design. Interaction design (IxD) creates the digital elements that your user interacts with on your website, such as the web forms and navigation. Interaction design shapes the experience your website offers and is just as much a representation of your brand.
The Shared Question: What Your Web Designers and Developers Both Want to Know
So where do you start, design or interaction design? Trying to choose between starting with a design for your website – that you need developers to enable – or the interactive elements for your website – that you need a designer to create a branded look for – can feel like a circuitous “chicken or the egg” type of problem. But whether you start first with design or functionality doesn’t matter, what matters is that you give both aspects of your website due attention (and of course what really matters is that you start with brand, messaging, and your content strategy).
The design of your website and your website’s functionality determine each other, are dependent on each other. So no matter what point you start at – whether you begin with design or development first – both your designers and your website developers are going to be asking you the same question:
“What do you want your website to do?”
Web Design: What Your Customer Looks At
In many ways, your brand is like a promise that your website should fulfill. Customers familiar with your brand will be expecting a specific kind of look and feel when they visit your website. And for customers who are new to your brand, this is the first impression that they’ll make of you. You’ll want your designer to be able to create a website design for you that aligns perfectly with your brand.
Fortunately, if you’re unfamiliar with the details of web design, you don’t have to come to the table with a list of technical specifics. That’s not to say that you should toss all your ideas out the window, but rest assured that a professional design firm will guide you through the creation process to arrive at a design that fits your brand as well as your website’s functionality.
Here is a map of the conversation you’re likely to have with your designer:
The Pages Your Website Will Need
- What is the business purpose of the website? Generating new leads? Brand representation? eCommerce?
- Is the website solely a marketing tool? Or is your business completely dependent on your website?
- What kind of platform are you building your website on? A CMS (Content Management System) or an eCommerce website?
- What kind of content will you want to feature on your website?
- Will you use your website to create landing pages?
- Are you going to need unique confirmation pages for submitted web forms?
- Will you need a layout for your blog that’s different from the rest of your website?
- Are you going to feature an “About” page on your website?
Explaining your intent for your website and which platform you’ll be building it on (Magento? Drupal?) will help your designers anticipate your needs. They’re considering ways to represent your brand aesthetically, yes, but they’re also thinking about what kind of content you’ll be creating in the future–after they’ve put a freshly minted website into your hands for actual use.
You can get inspiration by looking at other websites, or maybe you have an idea for a type of page that you haven’t seen done before. If you’re not sure exactly what your website needs, you can make that part of the conversation you have with your designer.
Finding the Right Look for Your Branded Website
- What kind of personas make up your target audience?
This is thoroughly a question of style. The designer you choose, like any other artist, will have their own style, of course. But the minute details of your website’s design, details like typography and color, are what your designer is after. They’ll want to research what kinds of expectations people in your target audience will have for your website’s style.
Do You Want Something Similar or Different to What You Currently Have?
- What is your motivation for a website redesign?
- What about your style do you want to change?
Perhaps you like certain elements about the look of your current website – the way the colors match your logo – but you want to modernize the design so that it doesn’t look outdated. Feedback about what you like and dislike about your current website is another touchstone that will give your designer creative direction.
Where Does Your Website Stand in Comparison to Your Competitors?
- Who are the competitors in your industry?
- Do you want something similar or different to their websites?
Perhaps, because you share a common audience, your website will have some necessary overlap with your competitor’s websites. While imitating a certain style can be a profitable move, you don’t need to feel limited to what’s already been done. The internet experience is changing day-to-day, and this is mostly due to the innovativeness of its participants. You don’t have to be a coder to create something new online, you just have to have a new idea.
Interaction Design: How Your Customer Uses Your Website
As developers, the fun part of web building (for us) is taking the static design and bringing it all to life–creating the ability to click a button, throw a modal, submit a form, have images in a carousel, or be viewed on any device. Setting up the moving gears and digital cog work a customer doesn’t see, but interacts with and experiences when using your site.
This can be the pop-up cart on a checkout process, or the integrated digital marketing service that sends your customer a confirmation email after submitting a web form. These functions definitely impact your customer, and all require a web design to bring to life.
Here’s what your developers will want to know, in order to build a website that supports your business needs:
Finding the Right Interaction Points
- Is your website going to be an online store? What kind of check-out will you need?
- Should you offer customer representative chat boxes in the corners of your screen? Or color-boxes with web forms for collecting emails?
There are hundreds of ways you can create interaction points on your website, but the interaction points you choose to build should reflect the kind of brand you are. For example, if you’re a more colorful, energetic, B2C brand, your audience will expect goofy interaction points. If you’re a more traditional B2B website, your audience will probably expect a quieter interaction point.
Knowing the Right Navigation For Your Branded Website
- Should your website’s menu be obvious at all times? Or do you want it to be out of the way of your visual content?
- How will your customer move between pages? What will you title the tabs of your website’s menu?
The navigation your website offers will be determined by your customer’s needs: what does your customer want from your website? To create the right navigational experience, your developer will want to know what your customer wants, and how you want them to get it. This is where the unique details of your marketing strategy or sales funnel come into play. You’ll want to choose a navigational experience, actively engaging or perhaps quietly supportive, that speaks to your audience’s expectations while supporting your own strategy.
How Your Digital Marketing Systems Impact Your Website
- Does your email marketing service provider offer a web form that you want to integrate on your website?
- Do you want to integrate your CRM and your website?
- Do you have an analytics system that you want to use to capture customer behavior on your website?
Your website can and should be the central hub of your online marketing strategy. It’s how customers find you and it’s where many of your conversions will come from. The services you use, maybe your email marketing platform or your CRM, can have an effect on your website as well. Your developers are responsible for enabling the functionality of elements on your website. For example, when your customer clicks the “submit” button, it’s your developers who have configured that button to trigger a confirmation email send, and arrange for that submitted information to be sent to your customer database. Your developers can integrate those additional marketing services that you use with your website, synchronizing your digital marketing network.
Making Your Website Mobile Responsive
- How are people discovering your website?
- Do you need your website to be prepared for mobile users?
What’s important is creating a welcoming experience for your user, and nothing will seem less welcoming to a mobile user than arriving at a website that is unprepared for them.
As screen technology and browsing experiences have become increasing mobile, having a website that can easily adjust to your user’s technology is an important part of your user’s experience. Having a mobile website used to necessitate the creation of an entirely new website, but with recent developments in responsive technology your developers can make adjustments to your core website so that it adjusts itself to your user’s screen.
Mobile responsiveness exists at an interesting crossroads between web design and interaction web design. If you want a mobile responsive website, you’ll need your web designer to create different layouts. Your developer will then use those layouts when enabling your website for responsiveness.
What Makes an Industry-Leading Website?
Let’s revisit the Apple website to see how they’ve arranged their website design and functionality. Here’s their homepage:
The Design Elements:
- The colors of their website reflect their products: dominantly white and gray, with pops of bright color.
- Clean, functional-looking font, the same kind used by their products.
- A subtle, thin menu design that features their logo by using it as a link to their homepage.
The Functional Elements:
- Their tabs don’t have drop-down menus like a lot of websites do, but this works for them because each of their pages focus on their product categories.
- Fast navigation with an image carousel, and some common links featured at the bottom.
- There are icons at the bottom of the page (out of sight in this screen image) linking to their social media accounts.
The Reality of Modern Digital Marketing
How your brand is represented by your website is a crucial piece of marketing. Crafting your brand experience on your website is the key to creating a website that converts, and entices your customers to keep coming back. Consumers want a good experience, and the visual and functional aspects of your website are both contributing halves to creating that perfect experience.
If you have any additional questions about managing website design and functionality, feel free to contact us directly or leave a comment below.