One of the most important refrains for branding agencies is, “the logo is not your brand.” Without going down the semiotics rabbit hole, websites tend to fall into the same category as the logo. It’s not your brand. But, as this challenging year has made clear, your website is the most important extension of your brand. You don’t, “just need a website.” You need to approach the work of designing, refreshing, or entirely rebuilding your website with the same attention and thoughtfulness as designing your brand’s mission, voice, and values.
The best website design is the best brand design.
Back to the “just need a website” idea. We hear this a lot. The brand identity is complete, the mission identified, voice clarified, and values brought front and center. Now to put the bow on the project, to bring the brand out into the world: “I just need a website.”
I’ll admit, it’s deflating every time. Aligning your website with your brand is one of the most important factors for driving traffic and conversions. There isn’t room for “just.” Not if the website design and experience are to be any good, anyway. All of your brand components now need to exist digitally — the logo, the headlines, the photography, and the content need to work with the functional areas of user experience like buttons, forms, menus, and checkout. These are the digital touchpoints that communicate your brand to the world. Your website should be an interactive expression of your brand. And worthy of thoughtful development.
This is why brand guidelines are crucial. Crafting a website requires a strong understanding of a brand’s visual and rhetorical standards. And it’s more than picking the right blue. Are your values being communicated with language and design? Is the hierarchy clear for both content and visual elements? Is the user flow optimized for your customers’ goals? It’s the difference between designing your website according to a Top Web Design Trends for 2021 Google search — as impersonal and impermanent as a Far Side tear-away desk calendars — and a website designed specifically to communicate your brand’s mission and values.
Understanding your brand and bringing it to life on a website is like a game of telephone. You know the game. One person starts with a phrase or sentence and whispers it to the next person in line. On it goes down the chain until some new phrase is born from communication breakdowns. Working to bring your brand to life is a similar process: there exists a pure vision of the brand and its mission, but communication is fallible. Executing that vision introduces moments of confusion that strain project teams and budgets.
Working with a brand agency for website design is like shortening the chain in the game of telephone. You’ve already done the hard work of discovering your brand’s core tenets. You’ve been through the emotionally draining process of drafting and revising values, and you’ve aligned them with Sustainable Development Goals. The elevator pitch can’t get any leaner. You’ve seen every shade of green there is to see. You may have even flipped a coin or two. And your brand agency was there every step of the way. With that same understanding and trust, you now have an opportunity to maintain momentum — reducing errors and working with a team that completely understands your brand.
And the website design will be better for it.
Nothing lasts forever. And websites are big, intimidating projects. So there’s a temptation to let that old website overstay its welcome. It still works, right? Maybe. Maybe not. But there will be a time when there is an update to be made or a brand refresh to do. And when that time comes, remembering that your brand isn’t the paint on the walls will go a lot farther than keeping up with the Joneses or design fads. Using a branding agency for website redesigns and updates means committing to your brand’s mission and values. It means aligning your company’s growth to those ideas.
We don’t like the word “just.” I think we hate it so much, and have banned it from our office, because it’s vampiric. It drains every project it sneaks its way into. It ignores expertise and avoids intention. And it’s especially tempting for website projects because of the internet’s breakneck pace. But aligning website design, maintenance, and updates to your brand — and working with a team that deeply understands it — supports your brand’s pure vision, mission, and values. And it goes far beyond “just.”