Let’s face it, there are small businesses that have a great local following and have less than stellar websites (“less than stellar” = pretty terrible). We all have a favorite pizza shop in our hometown who has a website from 1999, and somehow they are still super popular.
Does that mean a well built website isn’t vital to a company’s success? Not at all.
As a creative agency that specializes in brand and web strategy, we come across well-meaning companies with stale websites all the time. The reason is understandable: quick success gets in the way of intentional branding, and intentional branding is what makes a website great. While the quality of the food or service may garner enough local attention to keep the doors open, an ignored website can be the reason a great local restaurant doesn’t become a great national restaurant.
That being said, building a strategic online presence takes more than sending your niece or nephew who “knows computers” some text, photos, and your logo to throw online.
Yes, I said throw.
Without a brand guide to guide your website build, a lot can be left undecided, and therefore create opportunities for inconsistencies. Not sure how a brand guide can serve as a blueprint for your website rebuild? Below are just a few ways in which it helps.
Where a brand guide helps most is establishing a consistent visual identity for your brand. What does that actually mean, in terms of a website?
A logo is very rarely the name of your business typed out in your favorite font(s). A logo is meant to be a digital tool that can be utilized in different mediums and for different purposes based on the goal at hand. Make sure you are working with a versatile file that has options for different applications.
Your company should be utilizing 2, at most 3 fonts on your website. This is for a number of reasons, the biggest of which being it is pleasing to the eye and easier to read. A brand guide dictates what is used as body font, header fonts, and more.
A brand guide sets out which colors to use, but also how to use them in each situation. What is a background color, and what is a foreground color? Which colors can be used in conjunction with each other? Which combinations have enough contract to be ADA compliant? Your brand guide will save you a lot of headaches when it comes to color selection.
My favorite websites have little pieces of character and personality sprinkled throughout. Whether it’s a few repeating shapes, patterns, textures, icons, or even the way photographs are cropped. These are the important details that make a brand stand out.
While this is one of the most important aspects of your website, it’s also the easiest to screw up. Everyone thinks they have a good eye for photography- and maybe you do, but the point is not just finding good photos. The objective is finding photos that are authentic to your brand, and communicate who your company is effectively. This could come down to which models are used, the content within the photo, or just the editing style of the photograph itself.
Core Identity and Messaging
Knowing your core identity means knowing who you are. People want to know who they’re doing business with. What is your company… like? To a business owner this may seem like a silly notion. It can be hard to
1: personify something you so attentively built, and
2: see the company as anybody but yourself.
What are your values? What is your mission? What does your brand promise its customers? This is a vital foundation that your website is informed by,
Brand positioning is defined as the conceptual place you want to own in the target consumer’s mind—the benefits you want them to think of when they think of your brand. An effective brand positioning strategy will maximize customer relevancy and competitive distinctiveness, in maximizing brand.
In the consumers eyes, your company takes up the same amount of space and attention as a person does. Most likely your interactions are the same as any two people- digitally, socially, and on a feed. Because of that it’s more common than ever for clients to become fans, and for a company to take on a personality of its own. Your brand guide will pinpoint traits for you to use as a foundation.
Tone of Voice
How you say something is just as important as what you’re saying. Personality, authenticity, and reading between the lines of text to decipher intention have been a part of reading since it began.
That being the case, text content should be carefully filtered to make sure it meets your TOV standards. In your brand guide you’ll see the main attributes chosen with helpful guidelines.
Who is your customer? Are they all moms over 40? Are they other businesses? Are they doctors? Knowing who you are trying to reach will help you be more strategic in your language. Some companies have 5+ target audiences and need to speak to each of them differently on different pages of their website. Your target audiences won’t be able to see themselves in your website if you don’t build it with them in mind!
Not sure how to start putting together a brand guide for your growing business? Contact us today for a brand and web audit to get started!