Even a 5-year-old can create a basic website these days. The DIY tools, templates, and builders make it so very very easy. You buy a canned template, add your logo, content, and some stock photos, and voila!
But those canned systems aren’t concerned with branding and web design, and it shows. Customers today are savvy enough to spot a canned site and a stock image a mile away. Sometimes they don’t care. If the risk is low, the trust requirements are low. And in those cases, customers will be less picky. Where the risk is high, trust is key. And in those cases, customers will take their cues from the brand presentation, the website, and the content.
Let’s break this down.
As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, your brand is the collective perception of your company in the minds of your audience (meaning, what others think and feel about your company). You can affect this brand image in their minds through brand-building activities like social media, written content, sponsorships, trade show appearances, killer customer service, ads, billboards, and postcards. And your website. Your website is one of the primary opportunities to shape your brand in the minds of visitors.
Why? Because more and more of the world’s buying decisions are made online, or with online research tipping the scale.
We were once called in to rebrand a 30-year-old organization that was using three versions of its logo created over a period of two decades. If a prospective customer ended up with a brochure and the website in front of them, they were seeing what sounded like one company, but looked like two. They might wonder “Are these the same company?” Or “Is this the level of attention they devote to important things?” And “Maybe there’s someone else who has tighter control over their company.”
Cohesive brand presentation on a website and elsewhere, including both consistent design and messaging, builds credibility and trust without the prospect even noticing. Little doubts don’t get a chance to take hold. The subconscious prompt to look for the next option isn’t as likely to occur.
This is especially important across channels. Your website branding (the website has become one of the most important channels for nearly all businesses) must reinforce your social media activities, which must reinforce your marketing collateral, which must reinforce your proposals, your event graphics, and so on.
We all are constantly picking up cues from the branding and web design and marketing around us. We decide to trust or not without thinking about it. Your cohesive brand building, especially around your website, will help your audience trust you. It will indicate your legitimacy. It will make you credible.
We’re including a plug here for real, human-written website content on your website. And we don’t mean written by you. You are not your audience. And your inside-the-business point of view is vastly different from their outside-the-business perception. Hire a writer. Hire a human that understands the emotions and human nuances that are part of the buying journey.
Have you ever walked into a store or restaurant, felt instantly like you were in the wrong place, and turned around and left? I have. Some spaces just feel wrong. And some spaces just feel right. I’m sure there’s a bunch of science and psychology that can explain that, but we’ll skip that here. To put it simply, an appropriate experience is comforting and enables decision-making.
People’s radar is on high-alert and red flags abound.
- Bad grammar
- Weird messaging
- Things out of place
- Mismatched imagery
- Odd color combinations
- Broken links
- Confusing navigation
All of these are potential red flags to a website visitor. They may not specifically identify that the source of their discomfort is an uncomfortable typeface, but that discomfort is the seed of doubt, and can quickly send them to search for their next option.
The opposite is also true.
Providing the right brand and content experience makes a website visitor feel like they’re in the right place. A place that gets them, where people like them find solutions. This level of comfort allows them to digest the relevant information and make decisions.
And good design that puts all the right bits in the right places along their journey, reduces friction and provides clarity. It enables visitors to take decisive action. This combination of branding and website design can make a website a powerful tool for business growth.
We will note here that an “effective online presence” will look very different for different audiences. Visitors to the MoMA website will expect a very different online experience than visitors to a website for young adults with diabetes.
Different for the sake of being different enters the game when the services or products are the same or similar. Le’ts consider lawn care. The online expectations for the neighborhood mow and blow operation are very different from the online expectations for a company tending to large-scale commercial landscaping. Commercial customers will look for a website, and will expect it to be as well-tended as they want their landscaping to be. The mow and blow guys may not even need a website.
But how about a second company competing in that same commercial landscaping market? Well, they will need to meet the same expectations of the shared audience. But they will also want to make apparent that they are different—better in some way—than their competitor. This differentiation online happens through design, messaging, and the right experience.
And what if the risk levels are different? The strip mall property managers with landscaping needs will be looking for low-price cues. But the fine-dining facilities managers will be looking for quality first. They’re only concerned with price if their quality expectations are met first. Their risk in choosing the wrong provider is higher-stakes. So the trust and credibility that good branding, design, and experience provides will have a very real impact on the effectiveness of a website.
The canned website builders have their place, but they are not great at enabling significantly different experiences. By their very nature, everything they produce tends to look like a clone wearing different clothes.
How you do one thing is how you do everything
Let’s consider a real-world example. Imagine you’re a homeowner who needs to update some plumbing in your house. Plumbing is a high-risk endeavor: leaks, code violations, mold, rot, sinkholes, back-ups. The risk list is long. Knowing this, when the plumber arrives to do the work, what do you want to see parked outside?
- A beat up, rusty station wagon with no logo and a plumber in dirty overalls
- A clean, professionally-branded van, and a uniformed plumber presenting you with brand-matching paperwork in a branded folder
The choice is pretty clear.
Even when they don’t know they’re doing it, people will assume that how we do any one thing is how we do everything. How a brain surgeon gets dressed in the morning will affect our estimation of their skill and knowledge. “Look at that, Susan! His socks don’t even match. Can I really trust him with my brain?” Our mental math looks something like matching socks = attention to detail = safe choice.
While it’s true that customers with low standards may not care about any of this, do you want to grow your business with low-standards customers? Discerning customers with higher standards can lead to higher pricing, more revenue, better referrals, and better results for everyone.
Website as brand booster
Remember that your brand exists primarily in the mind of your audience. And your website is a huge opportunity to present the right visuals and messaging to shape their perception of your company. This is not a place to DIY, or to go for the cheap option.
There is a real difference between knowing how to build a website using canned tools and knowing how to design a website that attracts and converts the right prospects. A good website design team paired with a strong brand identity will help you take full advantage of the opportunities a website provides. And your business can only benefit.
If you came here with questions like how to design a website, or how much does a website cost, or how long does it take to design a website, we can answer those for you. Grab some time on our calendar and we’ll be happy to help you sort through the details.