Is this you?
In the hurry to launch or because of the lack of resources you decided to pluck “a sure winner” from an endless field of identical website templates. Or maybe you chose to use the Bootstrap or Foundation frameworks: it’s quick and easy! If you are one of the smart ones maybe you hired a designer guru or better yet a rockstar agency. Let me guess… This is the website you ended up with:
Congratulations. You have a website like everybody else!
Besides being damaging to creativity and diversity of visual web culture today, it is even more damaging to your brand and how you differentiate on the global market. It is highly illogical for me to see companies go for identical cookie cutter designs, especially in a time when business owners should recognize the value of branding more than ever before… In an environment where new competition emerges by the thousands every day.
You might think you are using a proven recipe for success, but this “success” comes with a price. At the very least you miss out on the opportunity to make a lasting impression your customers will remember you by, and at the very worst you lack the needed identity to differentiate from the clutter and you never succeed to engage them in the first place.
Templates, are meant to be modified, adapted and customized, yet we became afraid of them. What was meant to be a flexible guideline, today has turned into a design canon. “But it allows for a consistent user experience on the web. People learned to know what to expect, and that’s good” – someone would say.
Don’t listen to them. Get a good design team on your side and I am certain they will be able to provide you with a user experience which goes beyond what a website is “supposed to feel like”. If you don’t have the resources for a good creative team, make the effort to do the research yourself. You know very well that startups require many sacrifices.
I came across some examples on the web suggesting how to avoid this design trap. They can help, but to me, they don’t address the issue deeply enough. This is where brand discovery comes into play.
It could not only help you break the limits of this website mold, but it can also give you valuable insights which can lead to future exponential success.
Here are 5 ways how brand discovery can help you escape the web design singularity nightmare:
Each of these following questions is designed to inspire insight. First I recommend that you screen them quickly, then come back to the areas where you think there is more to explore.
Identify your industry
The biggest problem I see in the adoption of the cookie cutter mentality is to use this design template regardless of your industry and the nature of your business.
Take for example a digital creative agency, a cloud computing service, and a food delivery startup. Do these businesses have the same customers, employees, operations model or business objectives? What makes us think they should they have the exact same website design? What industry are you in? The creative filed? Technology? The internet? What are the current issues your industry is working on and how do you contribute to solving them? What kind of attributes is a company in your field expected to posses? What kind of problems do you solve for your customer? Is your brand image close to your industry’s standards?
Be crystal clear about your position in the market
Positioning is about differentiating yourself further within your industry. It’s about discovering your startup’s unique place and value.
How do you compare relative to your competitors and what is your competitive advantage? What value do you offer that can’t be replaced by anybody else? Do you sell premium products/services or are they easily available for the masses? How would that shape the way you design your website? Is your offering simple to understand or it is more complex and technical? If it’s simple, then a few lines of text and a call to action is all you need. If it’s complex, you might need diagrams, infographics or demo videos to explain your product or service.
Target your target group
This is marketing 101, and it’s about understanding who is your website addressing to. Making a significant effort in this area could drastically change your website’s content, and as a result, it will be better received by the people visiting it.
What do you know about the people you want to attract? Are they mostly male or female, young or old? Are they employees or business owners? What do they expect from a kind of product or a service you offer? What attracts them and what do they usually want to talk about? What do they aspire to achieve? How does your product or service help realize your customer’s dreams? What do you know about their values? A website providing cutting-edge risk management insight for Wall Street VPs should look and sound differently than a business which provides Miami city tours.
Decide what your site is supposed to do
Think about how you can use your website to elevate your business efforts. Websites have come a long way from simple brochure-like designs with plain info about your business. There are many strategies and web technologies which you can implement to make that much-needed extra sale.
Think about your marketing strategy. Would your business be better off if you only collected e-mail subscriptions or maybe it would be smarter to streamline it with your social media for a quicker response? Maybe both? Have you considered creating an online platform for users to connect with your brand? Then you should start thinking about designing a user forum and feature user-generated content which your customers are the most passionate about. Maybe you can attract leads by publishing useful articles with a lot of useful information and resources. Then you might be better off if you rearranged the content of your website with the latest articles from your writing team.
Dive even deeper in your brand
This simple effort always pays off. No matter how well you’ve worked on your initial branding, it’s always smart to re-visit the process and compare your brand with newly acquired data and experiences.
For example: How do your strategy statements sound today? Are you satisfied with your brand manifesto? Are you achieving the good in the world you hoped to achieve in the beginning? How does your site communicate and help achieve your vision? What is your customer’s feedback lately? If you asked them, what would be the one thing that your company consistently provides for them? Service? Speed? Durability? Is your site designed to illustrate and guarantee this promise? Do you communicate with your audience in an authentic voice or does it still sound stiff, generic and devoid of emotion?
Remember, any change in business has to be approached strategically. It’s not wise to be different just to be different.
These questions provide you with a direction which builds upon the already existing strengths of your business and it exploits your natural position on the market. Use them to discover and re-discover what your startup is all about. Recapture the world-changing momentum of your early days to seize the imagination and hearts of your audience. Be and express yourself!
At the end day, what would brands be without emotions anyway?
I am a brand strategist, designer and content manager. My philosophy is that brands are intrinsically human, and can’t ultimately be treated with classic business and marketing strategies. To have a truly successful brand companies have to understand the human brain and listen to the human heart.
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