By Diana Merkel, owner, Pinkshag Design
The Branding/Discovery Process
A great website design begins with a strong brand identity. If you are designing or re-designing a website for your firm, it is crucial that you know who you are and how to relate that to your audience. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and your website is often the first time that someone is “introduced” to your company. It is worthwhile to invest time and energy into this part of the process.
Be sure your web design direction adheres to any already established branding efforts and guidelines that you have in place elsewhere in your company. If you have never gone through a branding process, you should start by working with an experienced design team that can help you bring out your best through logos, imagery, color palettes and copywriting. When developing these core brand elements, consider what you want your brand to represent to your clients. Some clients choose to identify with their location while others prefer their branding to incorporate something about the types of clients they serve or a particular skill set they bring to their clients. Whatever your brand “look” is, when used consistently, it helps you communicate your values, philosophy, and sets you apart from the crowd.
It’s also important to consider how your brand will translate to other client “touchpoints” (sales, marketing, advertising, collateral, events, social media, newsletters, etc.). A well executed, consistent brand helps to build customer trust & loyalty, positions you clearly in your marketplace, and can put you well ahead of your competitors.
Another important part of the branding process is to evaluate your competition. What are they doing that’s working really well? What isn’t working? What brands do you gravitate toward, that you can relate to as a company? How can you learn from their successes and create a successful site of your own?
Applying Your Brand to Your Web Presence
Once you have the branding process completed, you can apply that to your web presence. If you have decided that your brand is modern, clean, high end and geared toward 50+ year olds, you probably don’t want a site that looks like you’re selling a children’s book. You’d want to design something that is sophisticated, clean, easy to navigate, and has fonts that are easy to read.
A typical design process for a site provides you with options for the home page look and feel and opportunities for revisions. Once that design is established, an interior layout and any custom pages should be designed and approved before development begins. Good communication with your design team is essential in finalizing a site that you are happy with and is in-brand. Talk through all of your ideas in depth before layouts are started. Consider any charts, photos, blogs, newsletters, videos, social media or other elements that you might have that need to be incorporated into the layout, so that they can be (re)designed as well. The best designs bring functionality and branding together in a way that keeps visitors interested and helps them find what they are looking for as quickly and simply as possible.
Case Study: Ponderosa Wealth Management
Ponderosa’s site was in need of an update. Through our discovery process, we worked with the client to determine that the logo icon was a little bit too simple, the color palette a little too heavy, and the site did not have a content management system, straightforward navigation, a contact form or links to newsletters. It was important to keep imagery and a logo icon that referenced the great Ponderosas that their area is famous for.
After a logo re-design and color palette exploration, we considered how the updates would translate to both print and web. Since then, we have created a consistent suite of materials including newsletters, event invitations, brochures, and sales sheets that have a consistent look and feel. We have re-designed the site to include all necessary functionality, built it on the WordPress platform, and trained the client to update her site on her own. The new site is easy to navigate, visually pleasing, and functional.
From the Ponderosa newsletter: “Our new look draws a stronger connection to our roots and core principles of remaining committed to serving the best interests of our clients, employing disciplined investment strategies, securing our clients’ wealth and their legacy, and maintaining long-term, high contact with our clients as their needs evolve. With the mighty pines that are so prevalent in the area serving as our inspiration, our new company look better reflects the enduring relationships between Ponderosa Wealth Management and you, our valued client. “
About the Author
Diana Merkel is the owner of Pinkshag Design, a boutique studio located at Laundry on Lawrence in the Rino Art District, Denver, Colorado. A designer for 15+ years, Diana specializes in strategy and design for branding, print and web, and has experience working with a variety of clients – from brand new start-ups to well established corporations. PinkShag is supported by an extended network of seasoned professional contractors, allowing them to scale teams on a per-project basis and to keep ideas fresh in an ever-evolving world of technology and communication.