Online Branding-Expectations and Experiences
"A Web site has to live your, brand just as much as any other media
What is really different about the market now, is that the diffuse Web
audience has strong expectations about its online experience. 'If you're
not ready to respond within a day,' Forrester report says, 'it's time
to pick up your ball and go home.'This is basically true. What we have
to do is build brand experiences on the Web. We have to build an experience
that translates to a I real space' not a 'pretend space'. An online audience
requires as much stimuli as a mass audience receiving advertising messages,
or the individual customer wandering into a high street store, but it
often draws the short straw.
Brand experiences are about creating spaces - whether they are physical,
visual, aural or cognitive. In much the same way as we build a retail
space in a store environment, we build a spatial and temporal cognitive
experience through media advertising, or we build leisure space in a theme
restaurant. We now have to be able to build a brand online and to make
the offline experience of the online brand equally as valid. Think about
the number of web sites you visited, left an e-mail inquiry, and never
heard a titter or even an acknowledgment. What happens is that you give
up and go elsewhere.
Most of the sites just gave information and little chance to interact.
It is crucial to ask how your site helps to establish some of the central
tenets of your brand and corporate reputation. If it fails to load, or
any part of it does not work, you have a problem. If a customer, cannot
find it through a search engine, a portal or a hyperlink referral list
you have got a problem. If they get through to the site then ask questions
via e-mail and you do not reply you have got a problem. A web site has
to live your brand just as much as any other media you use. if it does
not, then most people will not come back, If a site lives the brand name,
people will repeat to buy. just take a look at your web static for evidence.
Branding is about more than visual design. Sure, branding is important
but perception of brand quality is determined by the customer experience
not the visual look of the site. And customer experience is better engineered
with good information design than a multitude of colors and controls.
Branding and usability
The word amongst web designers at the moment is "branding".
If you quiz them on what they mean about this, it usually comes down to
interior decoration: choosing the right colors and the right fonts and
designing the logo to generate appropriate emotions in the customer. Some
of those thinking more deeply might include "fulfillment": getting
the goods out of the warehouse and to your door in a reasonable time.
But you don't need to be a design guru to know that a company's brand
is only partially determined by its public face. For example, your attitude
to your favoured supermarket chain is primarily determined by the customer
service that you receive when you are in the store. Sure, "look"
has some effect: you probably wouldn't go inside if, instead of the smell
of freshly baked bread, you were presented with a view of peeling plaster.
But "feel" is what brings you back.
Translated to the web, what companies need to aim for is great customer
service. This doesn't simply mean delivering the goods on time, but with
fast loading pages, and a simple and clear navigation structure. These
are minimum requirements. It means the customer experience of the website
itself. And this can be achieved only with a clear focus on what customers
want to do: experience scenarios.
No longer can a designer take a Photoshop image CD and make a small operation
look like a Fortune 500 company - people aren't that stupid. In fact,
a seasoned surfer can spot a Photoshop image a mile away! Use some originality
if you are going to use images - use photos of "real" humans; the staff
in your business, tasteful shots of yourself etc. (with clothes on).
Also avoid changing link colors to neon city just for the sake of branding.
Just think what a chaos it it will be if you drive into a new city where
all the traffic signals have multicolor instead of standard colors as
a part of beautification.
A good branding on the web should equally know what not to do as good
as what to do.
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