Step-By-Step Branding Strategy For Website Redesign (with videos)
The goal of your brand is twofold. First, it helps distinguish your company, or products, from competitors. Second, your brand creates an impression on potential clients. Most brands fail because their web design has not allowed the consumer to distinguish them from their competitors.
The examples below show how different businesses tend to look the same if the branding is not well developed. It’s especially apparent when obvious stock art imagery takes the center stage. Not only is the design unmemorable, but it also cheapens the business and the brand, in the mind of the visitor – all of this in under a second.
Common medical services branding:
How many website visitors see the photos and believe they are real staff? Probably less than 10%. Wouldn’t it be better to highlight specific services and authentic patient testimonials?
Common law firm branding:
How many law firms use stale images of gavels, scales of justice and the capitol steps? Once again, this does a poor job of differentiating a legal practice from the competition.
If you’re not attracting your ideal clients, or your site is outdated, it’s time to revamp. Here is a step-by step guide to branding strategy for redesign:
1. Choose the right web agency.
Your best branding ally is your digital design agency. Your agency should have experience working with businesses at all levels of brand sophistication. This includes:
- Startups with little or no branding.
- Established businesses that have let their brand become diluted over the years.
- Businesses that are seeking to completely rebrand as part of the redesign process.
Different types of agencies will prioritize your brand based on their focus. For example, a strong technical agency may not understand the importance of branding. Therefore, they may take the brand as provided, and just mechanically apply it to the new website. A strong creative agency, on the other hand, may want to completely revisit your brand, challenge your brand assumptions, and spend the bulk of the redesign effort on redefining your business.
In our opinion, it is best to find an agency that balances business strategy, visual design, technical skills, and usability best practices. If you are interviewing digital agencies, ask them about their branding process and see how much emphasis they place on the visual design portion of the project. As our generic, legal firm and medical practice examples above show, a successful redesign should not skimp on the visual design effort. We’re happy to brainstorm redesign solutions with you.
2. Create the brand handoff and brand style guide.
The building blocks of your brand should be captured in a document called a brand style guide. A style guide can range from 1 to 20 pages or more of examples and direction. Your brand comprises many, many elements but here are the primary ones:
- Logo or brand mark.
- Color palette: Usually includes primary and secondary palettes.
- Font styles: Typeface and weights for various content usage.
- Supporting graphics or images: Photography style, iconography, etc.
- Brand personality or character: How should your brand be perceived, what words describe it?
The website redesign is the ideal time to refresh your current website style guide or create a new one. The style guide will define the design direction for the creative team, and keep everyone on the same page across all your online channels. It should ensure that the design of your website is consistent with the design of your facebook page, your display ads, your emails, even your printed and video collateral.
These are some examples of brand style guides we have created for clients. You will notice that in some of these we also drill into the styles of interactive elements, like buttons and menus.
3. Get the opinion of your stakeholders.
In order to avoid potential business conflicts, we recommend polling the website stakeholders within your business and getting their opinion on design direction for the website. Typical website stakeholders are the CEO, CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), CCO (Chief Creative Officer), Art Director, and Director of Business Development. Since this is an online medium, a list of website links that are liked/not liked is a good place to start. Once again, we suggest making a spreadsheet to categorize these websites and provide notes on what aspects of the site are liked/not liked. This will give the web agency a baseline to work from.
Remember that visual design is subjective, everyone has a preference, from the CEO of the company, down to the office interns. For example, stakeholder 1 may prefer traditional colors and images, while stakeholder 2 wants to shake up the industry with an expressive color palette and avant-garde imagery. It is best to resolve these prior to getting your agency involved. A style guide will help mitigate some issues of stakeholders having opposing opinions on design.
Your agency can also explain design best practices to help resolve potential conflicts.
4. Target usability and functionality.
The user experience or UX is another opportunity for your redesigned website to support your brand. The buttons that you use can be customized to change color, shape and animate. Images on your website can transition in interesting ways. These actions and micro-interactions also contribute to your brand image. Work with your agency to identify interesting ways to infuse your brand into the website interface. The end result will be a more memorable, enjoyable and cohesive experience for your website visitors.
5. Work with a copywriter.
Content is still king. Your best clients will want to read content that they find valuable and relevant. As websites get older, they often pick up new content and edits that stray from the prescribed brand style. Websites become a “Frankenstein of messaging and writing styles”. Once your content for the new website has been determined. It is advisable to have a professional copywriter review it and clean it up.
If you don’t have one in-house, the copywriter should be provided by your agency. Your website imagery is often derived from the text messaging. Strong copy, combined with strong imagery is what will differentiate your brand from your competition. The copywriter will work with the business and the agency to integrate their knowledge of the brand and messaging, into the redesign project.
What if you like the design of your current website?
Sometimes we’ll have a client that is generally satisfied with their current website design. They like their current color palette, imagery, and layout. What they are not satisfied with is the functionality. They are looking to enhance the website by adding features like; ecommerce, blog, social media, membership, mobile responsiveness, etc. These types of projects are easier, and usually less expensive because an agency can lean heavily on the current design styles to inform the redesign. If your business is satisfied with your current level of design, then make sure to communicate that to your web agency. Provide them with your graphic assets and style guide, if you have one, and you should be good to go.
Although you can learn a lot of basic information from reading and watching the series below, you can get much more specific and relevant information by discussing your redesign project with us. We *love* to talk about web projects and and strategy. You can call us directly at 310-754-3807, or fill out our email inquiry form.
To sum up the branding strategy for your website redesign:
- Work with a design agency, or your creative team, on the brand strategy that will differentiate your business and communicate that strong brand image.
- Gather your style guide and other branded assets.
- Get the opinions and support of business stakeholders and provide it to your redesign agency. Your agency will have a process; try to follow that process because it’s built for efficiency and success.
- Work with your agency or creative team to maximize usability and functionality.
- Work with a professional copywriter who can create compelling messaging to your target clients. The combination of brand imagery and content will make your website much more effective.
This redesign series features 6 companion videos, below is a list of their titles and descriptions:
- How do I plan for a website redesign?: This article discusses how businesses can put the critical pieces in place and set the stage for a successful project. As the old adage goes, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” View Video >
- How to approach branding strategy for your redesign.: Branding is the cornerstone of your business; It’s your outside face to the world. In this article, we discuss how a redesign is an opportunity for you to strengthen your brand. View Video >
- How to organize content for your redesign.: Content is still king. Website customers want relevant text content, compelling imagery, and other media. We discuss how to approach your content strategy and organization for optimal usability. View Video >
- Technology considerations with redesigns.: Technology changes as fast as design trends and there are many ways to improve your website technology. We take a straightforward approach and provide sensible recommendations. View Video >
- SEO considerations with website redesigns.: Many businesses are in need of an SEO refresh and are missing opportunities for increasing the relevancy of their content. Watch this video if you want to maintain your search engine equity. View Video >
- Budgeting for your redesign?: This is a tough topic, it stands to reason that a redesign should cost less than the original website, right? But don’t fail to consider rising labor costs and increased technical and testing requirements on the mobile side. View Video >