You’ve finally got your new brand sorted. It’s taken ages, you’ve had multiple shouting matches with your branding agency, but it was all worth it in the end. Just look at that brand – it’s awesome, it’s different from anything else, it’s a work of art.
Now you must lock it down into a document, so that nobody will ever be able to change a single part of it. It must never change. It is perfect!
OK I might be exaggerating just a bit there, but I’m sure many of you know the feeling of finally getting your brand finished. It’s such a lengthy process and it can sometimes be emotionally tiring for all involved. It’s not surprising then, that when you do finally get it finished, the tendency can be to never ever want to touch it again. The problem is, what if it needs to change?
What makes a brand?
Wikipedia defines a brand like this:
“A brand can take many forms, including a name, sign, symbol, colour combination or slogan. For example, Coca Cola is the name of a brand make by a particular company. The word branding began simply as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp. The word brand has continued to evolve to encompass identity — it affects the personality of a product, company or service. It is defined by a perception, good or bad, that your customers or prospects have about you.”
So the definition of your brand is not just your logo or what font or colour you use, but also the very perception that your customers have of you. This is the part that interests me the most, because this doesn’t only describe the brand, but also the user experience.
Therefore my question is this: If your brand interferes or disrupts the user experience on your site, making the user frustrated or even angry, will that then negatively impact their perception of your brand?
When a brand goes bad
If we take a look at the user centred design process, the brand typically doesn’t come into play until the visual design stage, when the final visual layer is added to the designs. Unsurprisingly this is when issues can arise. Perhaps an interaction requires the use of colours that are not in your brand colour palette. Or maybe the brand artefacts are interrupting the user’s flow through the site. Whatever the issue, you wouldn’t have seen it during the interaction design phase, because at that stage you are just designing and testing the mental model and user flows.
For the designer, being in this position is never an easy one. On one hand they’ve got an interaction design that has been tested and validated with users. But on the other hand they’ve got a huge set of brand guidelines stating exactly what they must and must not do. Which one has to change?
Something’s gotta give
Let’s look at this another way. When your brand designer/agency created your amazing new brand, they probably didn’t think of every possible scenario that the brand might be used in, and that is understandable. It is absolutely impossible to create a future-proof brand document, unless you happen to be psychic. And if your brand isn’t completely future-proof, shouldn’t it be just a little bit flexible?
So, if your brand is wrecking the user experience on your site, then you should change it, otherwise you risk the possibility of the user linking their negative experience directly to your brand.
Tips on working with your brand to provide the best possible user experience:
- Be aware of colour theory and use it appropriately. If you happen to have green and red in your brand colour palette, then use green for success messaging and red for error messaging. If you don’t have colours that can be used for these interactions, then you might need to add them.
- If your brand uses lots of images or illustrations, use them sparingly, and only put them in areas that do not require much thought from the user e.g. don’t use meaningless decoration around a large form.
- Don’t let branded areas of the site overpower the key messages and user flows. If you have key calls to action on the homepage, then they need to stand out more than the brand artefacts.
- Sometimes it’s OK to use a simplified version of a brand for the web, especially if it helps create a seamless and uncluttered user experience.
- Let your brand evolve when necessary – you’ll be rewarded with happier users.