What is Branding? The important basics
The Business of Branding

What is a brand? Most would say it’s the logo, or the look of a company. If only it was that simple. A brand is more than a company's visual representation, such as the logo, colors and typography. In short, a brand is a representation of a company's values through personality and visual elements. At the core of a brand is a company's values. The company’s values affect the company’s personality, which is then communicated with elements such as the logo, typography, tagline, colors, shapes, textures, company culture, internal communication, and marketing practices.

In a lot of ways you can relate a company's brand to your personality. Your values affect your behavior and actions that make up your personality. Your personality is reflected in the way you dress, and the way you visually represent yourself.

Mike the brand guy Align.vn

Just like Mike, a well branded company should be easy to understand. When a company closely follows a well defined brand it helps their customers understand and build relationships with the brand - just like Mike and his friends. Unfortunately, building a company brand is much more complex and delicate than being yourself. A company is a collection of many people with individual personalities. And these people are representing the brand throughout the many touchpoints a company may have with their customers.

To build a strong company brand, everyone involved needs to understand the brand and participate in representing the brand. Because of this, not only is a brand an external communication of a company’s values, but also an internal communication of these same values.

The benefits of building a strong brand for your company

Having a strong brand is so valuable, that it directly adds to a company’s valuation, through the intangible asset known as Brand Equity. For example, in 2019 the brand equity of Coca-Cola was estimated to be 81 billion, representing ~40% of the company's market value. However, what we are concerned about in this post, is the ingredients that create brand equity; brand loyalty, brand awareness and brand associations.

Here’s a few ways that positive branding directly creates value for any business:

Brand Loyalty

  1. Reduced long term marketing costs: Generally, it’s cheaper to keep a customer, than creating a new one.
  2. Market leverage: For example, if brand loyalists frequently request your product in store, this creates negotiation leverage with retailers. This could lead to reduced costs of shelf space.
  3. Free brand ambassadors: With solid branding and a great product it’s possible to build core brand loyalists. These loyalists will live and breath the brand, and push the brand forward. This is how many clothing brands rose to fame and fortune.

Brand Awareness

Lowered acquisition costs of a new product line: When a customer believes and trusts a brand, they are more likely to associate those same feelings with all products under that brand. This eases customers into making new purchasing decisions. This lowers the financial cost per new acquisition.

Take Amazon for example. Amazon has positioned their brand to be customer centric, offering their famous A-to-Z guarantee. This guarantee has been a pillar of their brand strategy since the beginning. Building trust as an association to the Amazon brand is why customers can comfortably purchase virtually any product through their platform.

Real Coke Align.vn
Fake Coke Align.vn

As you can see, there are a ton of benefits to having a strategically developed and cohesive brand. Any company can benefit from a solid brand strategy, whether it’s a billion dollar corporation, or a small mom and pop. However, building a brand is not a simple task. Along with developing a well thought out brand positioning strategy, a company needs to communicate the brand internally and externally. Additionally, it’s important to consistently invest into the brand, and slowly change the brand to stay with the times.

The Importance Of Intelligent Website Design For Business
Understanding Web Process

Many business owners understand the importance of having a website. However, many often overlook the importance of website design and strategy.

Money and Time Design Align.vn

Creativity does not always equal positive results. You can build the website of your dreams, however, it may not be the right website for your customers. It’s important to remember that your website is a very powerful tool in the business toolbox. Use this tool incorrectly, it can cause a lot of destruction. Use this tool correctly, it can produce some truly beautiful results. The key to having a successful website is using intelligent design strategies that fit your brand and lead your visitors through the site in a purposeful way, all while pleasing the search engine gods.

In this post I will discuss the importance of intelligent website design, and how it affects a business’s bottom line (or any other KPI). More specifically, I'll briefly explain and give a few examples of User Experience (UX) design, User Interface (UI) design, and Search Engine Optimized (SEO) design, and their importance for a successful business website.

How a bad website design can lose you customers and sales (UX/UI)

A good website is more than a place to show and educate consumers about the business and its products. A good website is structured in such a way that it leads visitors through the website with a goal in mind. In the design world, we call this design structure, “user flow”. User Flow is the path the visitor takes while navigating the webpage. Not only does the user flow need to be simple and intuitive for the visitors, but it should have a strategy built in for the business’s goals.

Discount Align.vn

Here’s a real world example: Say a clothing store wants to clear inventory on last summer's products to make room for their new winter line. At the store they will likely position the summer clothing in high foot traffic areas, and label the clothing with bright red “ON SALE” tags. By moving the summer line closer to the customers and labeling them to stand out the store will likely turn through this inventory quickly. Though the discount definitely helps, the store would have a difficult time turning through the inventory if the clothes were tucked back in the corner.

In the above scenario moving the clothing is a basic example of real life User Experience Design (UX) hese same ideas and concepts should be applied to website design. A website without a user flow strategy is like running a race without knowing which direction the finish line is. For this reason, here at Align we always start by working with clients to define the goal and strategy of the website, then design to achieve this goal.

Another important piece of User Flow is User Interface Design (UI). UI design is the visual experience of the website for the user (this would be the red tags in the above example). For many purposes user flow can be fairly straight forward, however, UI is often tricky. Simple mistakes like wrong placement of a button, or wrong font sizes can disrupt user flow and lead to drastic impacts on key performance indicators.

For example, a popular icon design website Icon8 saw a ~50% drop in usage of their key feature because of a redesign of the feature’s interface. Their website traffic remained the same, but their KPI plummeted by changing 1 page of their website! Although the designers thought the new IU design was better, users found it confusing and began bouncing out of the site. Luckily they quickly made changes and corrected this problem.

After spending hours and hours on a project, a design might make sense to the creator but not the user. For this reason, we prototype test many of our web and app designs to get a better understanding of how the user will flow and navigate through the design. This permits us to make appropriate changes before the expensive development stage, and more importantly, before losing new and old customers.

UX/UI Bonus: Here’s a fun example of horrible UX/UI design that shows how important intelligent design is.

How website design affects your ability to reach customers through SEO

Before diving into this topic lets review how Google search results work. Like any successful business, Google wants to keep their customers happy and generate the greatest bottom line possible. Their goal is to keep searchers loyal to their search engine, so they can maximize ad revenue. Google does this by providing the “best” results possible to searchers. So when designing and creating content for a website, always consider what’s “best” for your visitors.

Understanding what Google defines as “best” for your visitors is a bit tricky, and sometimes unclear. However, through trial and error, and a few statements from Google employees, SEO specialists have been able to identify the following design factors as important for ranking on Google.

Page Speed

It’s unclear whether Google directly factors page speed into their search rank results. However, page load speeds directly affect a page’s bounce rate, which is a clear ranking factor in the Google algorithm. Bounce rate is a measurement of a page's ability to keep visitors engaged on the page. Google favors pages with a low bounce rate.

The reality is that us humans are impatient, and we like our information immediately. Studies show that if a page takes too long to load, we will close it down and find a new source of information - your competition. A study by Royal.Pingdom.com found that visitors are 30% more likely “bounce out” of the page that takes 5 seconds to load, over a page that takes 2 seconds.

That extra 3 seconds of load time led to a drop of 30% in page visitors. They also found that at 8 seconds, 60% of potential visitors give up and bounce out. As you could imagine, google doesn’t like this. Though, not only does slow page speed damage your ability to rank high on google via bounce rate, it also leads to a huge loss in potential sales.

If you are building your own website, plug your page url into tools such as GTmetrixGTmetrix and Google PageSpeed Insights and follow the recommendations. If you have a webmaster and want to test their work, this is also a good method.

At Align we shoot for page speeds between 2-3.5 seconds. However, sometimes it’s necessary to push this limit a bit. Some pages are likely to have essential elements or tools that will slow page loading speeds considerably. Tools such as Google’s customizable maps can really kill a page’s load speed (we found it to slow a page down by 8 seconds in some cases). However, maybe it’s essential for your webpage. When building a page, it’s important to consider the trade-offs and make adjustments if needed.

Website and page structure

Confusing UX Align.vn

In a way, you can think of website and page structure as the road map of the website. The roadways of a website (site map) need to have an intuitive structure, and the traffic signals (links and text) need to be easy to understand. If Google has a hard time understanding your website, it assumes users will have a hard time as well. Therefore, Google is not likely to rank your website.

SEO specialist Adam Clarke put’s it best “making it easier for users [to read and navigate your website] makes it easier for Google”. Here are a few tips to make it easier for Search Engine to understand and navigate your website.

“Design your site to have a clear conceptual page hierarchy” - Google

Align Lab Sitemap Sample Align.vn

Make sure the structure and flow of your website is intuitive and makes sense. In a very non-direct way, Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst suggested sticking to the normal pyramidal structure of a website. Meaning, your website should start with a home page, then flow into the main topics, then subtopics and so on. When you layout this structure on a sitemap, it will loosely resemble a pyramid. Additionally, it’s suggested that each page has a few links in text (not only icons or buttons) to other pages within the site.

Main Menu No matter the page, it’s important to make the subject matter and navigation links very clear. It appears that google favors text based menus across the top or side of the page. Avoid using overly creative menus or Icon only menus as your site navigation.

H1 and H2 headings Use headings wisely. Make sure each page has only one H1 heading, and that the heading contains the keywords or terms you are targeting. Also, make sure to contain synonyms or related words to the topic throughout the H2 headings. This helps Google understand what the page is about.

When you step back and look at everything discussed in this post you’ll find a common element - the user. When building a website or app you must always think about the visitors and how they will use the page. How will the user navigate the page? How will they react to this button? How will this image communicate with them? How does the website communicate our brand to our visitors?

If in doubt when considering onpage SEO, always consider the user. Generally speaking, Google’s algorithm is designed to favor great content and navigation for humans. So if you find yourself in an SEO dilemma, ask yourself “What’s best for my targeted user?

This post only brushes the surface of the importance of website design, but as you can see, there is more to a website than making it fit a brand and showcasing products. When building your website, or giving instructions to your webmaster/designer make sure to always consider how your visitors will use and interact with the page. If possible do some user testing. If you have questions, or are interested in having professionals take care of your website design and SEO needs make sure to contact us! We’d love to hear from you.