Your website, since it is in many cases the first place people see you, is a central part of your brand. Your website needs to convey your brand accurately and well. In fact, one of the common reasons companies choose to have a website redesign is that their company has evolved past their current website, or that they’re planning to rebrand.
You need to communicate your brand clearly enough to your web pros that your redesigned website looks like your company or your brand.
Part of that is letting them get to know you and your brand well enough to fully understand you. When I write a website, I want to tell the owner’s story — to show how they’re great. I’m currently writing web content for a renewable energy company and a county; in each case, their are myriad ways to approach the story, so I have to understand the brand thoroughly enough to tell their story, not a story about a generic county or a generic company.
The designer, too, should grasp how your company wants to look. Especially if you’re having a custom website built, there’s no reason for the site to say, “A Medical Practice” when it could say, “Dr. Chaney’s family dental practice.”
There are two obstacles to your getting a well-branded website: you don’t know what communicates your brand and you don’t convey it clearly.
I mentioned a list from Deloitte yesterday (the book is Designing B2B Brands: Lessons from Deloitte and 195,000 Brand Managers, if you’d like to see the whole thing):
- Name: what’s the name of your company? Do you use different names on different occasions? Do you use an acronym some of the time? Are there regional variations?
- Tagline: do you have a tagline, a phrase that follows the name of your company? This may be a promise to your consumers or a marketing catch phrase or an explanation of what you do.
- Tone of voice: are you serious, playful, cocky, modest, traditional? Do you have one tone of voice for your website’s main content and a different tone for your blog?
- Logo: this can be a graphic logo or a wordmark, and you might have a variation or two, such as a vertical and a horizontal look or one for dark and one for light backgrounds.
- Color: the color(s) of your logo are a common starting point for web design, and your company may have an official company color pallet. Does your industry have colors associated with it in the minds of your consumers? Are there color-related cultural issues for your target population? Are there colors you want to avoid?
- Typography: while your logo, your tagline, and your chosen tone of voice may all affect your decisions here, you should share any strong feelings on the subject with your designer.
- Imagery: do you want to use stock images or will you supply photos of your building, products, and staff? Do you have a particular style of image in mind, or company style guides that affect the decision?
- Composition: where should pictures and text go, how much white space do you want, and what kinds of margins and borders do you prefer? While this is probably best left to your designer, if you have preferences on these issues, it’s best to share them at the beginning.
- Iconography: websites use lots of icons, small pictures showing where to click to go to your social media profiles or to download the blog feed, etc. Do you want particular colors, styles, or shapes?
- Information graphics: will you want to use infographics in special ways at your website, perhaps in banners or to explain processes?
- Sound: if you will be using videos or podcasts, having a consistent sound is important. That might include the “stinger” — the brief passage of music or other sound you’ll use in the introduction — as well as the voices.
If you can sit down with that list and describe each one for your brand, you have a great starting point. To clarify this, let’s try it for Coca-Cola, a brand with which we’re probably all familar:
- Name: Coca-Cola is also Coke
- Tagline: Coke has used several taglines in the past, from “the pause that refreshes” to “it’s the real thing.” At the moment, it seems to be, “live positively.”
- Tone of voice: Coke is fun and happy.
- Logo: The Coca-Cola logo is one of the most recognizable logos in the world.They also use the distinctive bottle shape and a special “mycoke” logo.
- Color: Coca-Cola red is a basic for all Coke visuals.
We could go on, but it’s probably clear by now.
Gather this information and get it to your web professionals. If that means you have to make some decisions — do it.