Nearing the end of the quarter, unspent budgets start to open up and planning begins for the following quarter. Clients that set out to redesign their website quickly find that their brand expression was designed for another era: the offline era. Therefore, in almost all cases, a website refresh project will inherently blossom into a branding project.
If a brand is comprised of all of the touchpoints a consumer has with that brand, then why do most brand guidelines consist purely of logo, copy and some image instruction? The realization of this fact is the moment when a web refresh project quickly transforms into a full-blown rebranding effort.
Here are some of the gaps in that process:
Brands are not animated personalities
Digital media is about movement and transitions; it’s a story or message told over time. When brands are first conceived, they’re often sketched in paper form and consist of a single cell or still frame, absent from the multidimensional space they will fill in the future. When it comes to a website, a brand personality is expressed through page scrolling, animated hero carousels, embedded videos, buttons and, from time to time, animated logo gifs.
Each example contains an element of time and interaction that must be articulated, and the consistency in these elements further establishes the brand personality. Consider how a brand should respond to the user interactions and move quickly to express playfulness or nudge the user into action through gentle bouncing or unveiling of information to educate. For example, Simply Chocolate, a playful Danish chocolate brand that leverages subtle animations upon rollover states, ambient video in the background and an ever-changing color palette to establish the personality that responds to users’ interactions, which fits in with the fun product names.
A client’s language isn’t the customers’ language
Web designs typically entail a content audit to identify what existing content should remain after the redesign, what should be killed and where any gaps exist within the new design. By scouring through social conversations and search analysis, we’re able to uncover hidden consumer vocabulary driving conversations and traffic to the site or category.
Since language is a living and constantly evolving entity, so too should be the voice and tonality guidelines of a brand. The results of the search and social analysis, which are effectively the voice of the consumer, should inform a refresh of a brand’s content expression, and these should be regularly revisited to keep the brand current.
This is particularly important in two instances. First, if your brand targets small- to mid-size companies where the buyers may not be as sophisticated as typical enterprise buyers. Second is with healthcare companies that are laden with regulatory and industry catchphrases that are not part of the consumer’s language. In both examples, your brand will need to incorporate simpler or plain language into copy to ensure the site and brand content is optimized for the way consumers search and discuss the category.
Brands are too perfect
The emergence of media, specifically UGC-centric platforms such as YouTube and Instagram, have created a culture where imperfection is widely accepted. This enables dynamic, real-time and authentic interactions, often with an element of adlibbing. The role of a brand today is to respond to culture as needed, which means both polished and unpolished content and brand expressions living together side-by-side. With website redesigns, this typically means planning for integrated social content throughout the site and securing a technological solution to help moderate content feeds. It also means considering how your brand should be expressed through partners, specifically social influencers and defining the types of partnerships your brand should institute. The product pages on beauty retailer Sephora are an excellent example of this. They are designed for both structure and flexibility, as they integrate modules for both UGC content, partner content and brand content.
The immediacy and real-time nature of digital media has caused a fundamental shift in what brands face when they embark on a web redesign. According the results of a study from WP Engine, “47 percent of Gen Z believe websites will become more human in experience by exhibiting emotions when they visit and interact with them.”
In essence, the standard approach to branding with static tactical elements is pressure tested with digital media design, in a way that typically forces brands to quickly close dozens of gaps by identifying and creating new visual articulations and flexible content guidelines.
So if you’re starting a web redesign project, prepare your team for a hefty branding refresh, too. In the end, it will be worth it, as your brand will be much more prepared for real-time, omnichannel expressions than before the web redesign.