How to Create a Branded Website That Enhances Your Value
Before you can build a website that will make a great impression and get people to engage with your business, you need to think differently. Here's how.
Designing a website isn’t hard. All it takes is a little determination and a lot of patience. There are plenty of tools and platforms to choose from and more how-to blog posts than you’ll ever need.
But creating a branded website? One that is visually engaging and prompts your audience to act?
That’s another story.
Business owners are busy people. Few have time to become proficient designers. But in truth, most of them don’t want to.
If that sounds like you, you’re in the right place. You don’t have to be a professional designer to develop a branded website. And you don’t have to spend countless hours learning how to code mint green style blocks and rotating icons.
But if you want to design a website that makes impact, there are some things you need to know.
What Is a Branded Website?
A brand is more than a logo and colors. It’s how people feel when they come into contact with a business. Like human beings, brands have tangible and intangible characteristics that define them.
When you meet someone, you get a feel for that person almost immediately. Some things are visual, such as their hair and the way they dress. You learn other things about them by the way they talk or expressions they use.
Still, there are those things you sense but can’t quite describe what they are. After a moment, maybe two, you decide whether this person is someone you could get along with. If things go well, you may even consider hanging out with them again.
This is exactly what happens when someone meets your business. Think about it: when you walk into an office or a store, you get an impression. If it makes you feel good to be there, you’ll want to go back. Likewise, if it’s cold and boring, you won’t be able to get out fast enough.
A branded website makes people feel good, improves their life in some way, and invites them back for more.
But you can’t do that without having a brand first. Your brand provides all the ingredients – a persona, core values, purpose, emotion. This is what people connect to.
The focus of the website design itself is on the target audience, not the business. The goal is to communicate the brand messaging in a way that challenges the visitor to action. Now, not later.
Often, your website will be the first impression people get of your business. It should enhance your expertise and the quality of your products and services. Unfortunately, not all business owners design their websites with this in mind.
But you don’t have to be like them.
BRAND: The Secret Formula
Yes, load speed and graphics are important if you want to design a website. But before you upload the first image, post your mission statement, or hire an SEO expert, there is something else you must know.
The secret formula of every branded website, of course.
Brands are known for boldness, to go where the rest have never gone before. They’re industry leaders, innovators, and they didn’t get that reputation by accident.
And you don’t need a billion-dollar marketing budget to be one of them.
As you develop your website, experiment, try new things. Don’t be afraid to stand out and stand up. Let your audience know you’re there to lead them where they want to go. They have problems, you have solutions.
Does your business make the world a better place? How? It’s up to you, the business owner, to let your audience know that what you do can make a difference.
Being relevant means knowing your audience. They need to know you understand what’s keeping them up at night. After all, if you can’t relate to them, you can’t expect them to care about anything you have to say.
The last thing the world needs is more manufactured empathy. People are cynical. They’re looking for the real deal.
Is that you?
When you communicate with your target audience, don’t be afraid to show them who you really are. You may own a business, but the business doesn’t have to be cold and uninviting. Let your brand persona come to life.
Stay true to who you are. Brands have ruined their reputation by compromising the principles that defined their identity. It takes a long time to build the connection with your audience, but it can be destroyed in a day.
Incorporating a sense of novelty into your branded website means making it fresh, new. But design trends change so often it’s difficult to keep up.
In a world of two-second attention spans and 24-hour access, less is more. Rather than trying to dazzle everyone with overwhelming designs, keep it simple. Then, what you choose to use will certainly stand out, which makes it more memorable.
And that’s a good thing.
How many times have you heard that? While it’s great advice, there’s more to it than using slang in blog posts and posting photos of you having coffee.
Take a look at your competitors. (They should be easy to find because you have lots of them.)
What are they doing that you could do better? I use the word ‘better’ not in the sense of who’s the best but rather, what are they doing that you can improve?
This exercise of competitor analysis isn’t about comparison, it’s about finding ideas. Do this and you’ll find it’s much easier to stand out and “be you” than you might have thought.
Let’s Talk Strategy
A good plan will help you avoid many common website design mistakes. Most issues are with messaging, calls to action, and technical oversights.
A lot of business owners launch their sites without thinking about what they want it to do. Some believe if a site “looks great”, it will be successful. They usually end up disappointed.
Thus, the plan.
Your website serves several functions.
They introduce people to your brand.
In many way, your website is like a receptionist. As soon as someone arrives, the site is there to greet them. The first impression people get of your business comes in that moment.
They give the visitor a tour.
Your website shows people around, giving them a taste of what your business is about. It asks them what they’re most interested in or what else they might like to learn.
They foster a relationship.
Since your website is one of the first “touchpoints” for your brand, it often begins the relationship with visitors. It’s important to get off to the right start.
They take people where they want to go.
Your website visitors arrive at your site for a reason. They’re looking for something. What is it? Think about what it might be and make sure they can find it when they get there.
It’s Not About You
Your target audience should be the focus of your website. What are their desires, needs, or knowledge gaps you can address in your website messaging?
What do you want a visitor to do when they land on the site? Do you want them to download a free giveaway? Request a quote? Whatever it is, the home page (or landing page) should prompt the visitor to do it.
When someone lands on your site, you have their attention, but not for long. Your message must be clear, concise, and compel them to take a specific action. This could be an invitation to schedule a free consultation or to simply leave a comment on a blog post.
The action should also take them one step closer to becoming a customer. Even a small step can make a big difference. Otherwise, they will leave and when they do, it’s unlikely they will ever come back
Roughly 88% of consumers visit a company’s website to research them before they buy. Most of your site’s visitors are there to get a feel for your business, not to make a purchase. This is why creating a customer journey is so important to your website’s success.
To illustrate, let’s assume you’re a land surveyor. A website visitor finds your site after searching for “land survey”. That person may have come to your site because they want to learn what a survey is or why they need one. But this doesn’t mean they’re ready to hire you.
This is the beginning of the customer journey but it doesn’t have to be the end. To lead them to the next step, we could create a video called “How a Land Survey Can Help You Avoid Lawsuits”. Placing it on the home page might get some visitors to watch. At the end of the video, you could ask the viewer to subscribe to your email list or request a quote.
With one video, you have accomplished many things:
- Kept the visitor on the page longer
- Educated them, thereby enhancing your expertise
- Generated more value for your service
- Invited them to stay engaged with you (sign up for emails)
- Last, but not least, provided the option of requesting a quote
This video also accommodates different types of visitors. It’s useful for people who want to know more about land surveys in general, and those who are looking to get one.
Brand Values, Purpose, and Promise
Most companies have a mission and vision statement on their website. But is the brand identity and promise clear?
It’s nice to know why you’re in business but it’s important to share what your customers can expect from you. This is your Value Proposition. It’s 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. You can send the message in a variety of ways. Be creative, but most of all, be clear.
Who are you? Anyone who lands on your site should be able to answer that question. If you don’t know, you can’t possibly expect them to know.
Before you design your site, write out three to five words that describe your brand. These words communicate your brand values — what you believe and attitudes.
Why is this important? Because your website should evoke feelings that are relevant to your brand identity. The website of an upscale fashion retailer will look much different than that of a technology company.
Do you have a logo? Colors? Do you have certain images that you want people to think of 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.
Some Tips on Design
Most scientists agree 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 there is much more to it than that. 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.
Inconsistency is one of the most common issues with design. Even professionals struggle with this at times. That’s because it isn’t easy to maintain consistency throughout a site.
But brand consistency across all platforms can increase revenue by as much as 23%.
Why is this?
Because consistency reinforces the perception of stability. People are attracted to stability. It’s a sign they can trust the person or business.
So, how do you maintain consistency in website design?
- Avoid using too many fonts – one, 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) match your brand colors.
- Don’t change 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.
Need a style guide? CLICK HERE.
For reference, the structure I’m referring to relates to use of the site and not link structure. While link structure is important (and part of a good SEO strategy), making your site easy to use is essential.
Organization is critical. Creating a site that is easy for visitors to use will encourage people to engage and come back again. So, how do you structure a website?
Navigation should be simple. If someone has to think too much about using your site, they’re not focusing on the page. Also make sure the most vital information is no more than one or two clicks away.
Have you ever seen a website that hurt your eyes? It may have been the brash color scheme or fonts that were hard to read. Or maybe everything was packed so tight you couldn’t tell where one section ended and another began.
White space is exactly that. It’s the space, usually white, between website elements and sections. This space gives everything room to breathe, to accomplish its intended purpose. And it often separates the good designs from the bad – and the ugly.
Keep ample white space between images, text, and content. This makes 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 interest in your business. It’s usually one of the first impressions prospective customers get of your business.
Design the site with your target audience in mind. Make them the priority, not your business.
Start with a plan. Use a clear, compelling message to prompt visitors to take action. This connection with your audience leads them to the next steps in 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.
Website design is a skill. Be patient and experiment. Dare to be bold, to try new things.
A lot of businesses have websites. But how many are memorable?
Until next time,
P.S. Looking for more technical tips? READ THIS.
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