In Part 1 of the Using Brand Research to Build a Better Website series, you learned how to conduct consumer research to set your brand website goals and create an effective strategic plan to reach those goals. Now, it’s time to consider how to create the right messaging and navigation to ensure your website accurately reflects your brand identity while being highly usable at the same time. In other words, it’s time to learn how to marry branding and web usability.
First, your website is just one element in your marketing toolbox. It should provide a consistent representation of your brand promise from the words used on each page to the experience the site delivers to each visitor. Think of it this way — words are passive while experience is active.
In other words, the messaging on your website communicates your brand promise passively while the overall user experience communicates your brand promise in an active way. Both are important but they are quite different. Finding common ground so they coexist in the best possible way on your website is challenging, but brands that can do it open the doors to success.
Therefore, you should conduct consumer brand research to learn not just what messages are most compelling and help to lead people through your website to perform specific actions that help you reach your goals, but also to learn how to present those messages and the entire user experience on your site through effective navigation. If consumers land on your website and can’t find the information they want or have a negative experience in any way, that negativity will reflect directly on your brand experience, too. Consumers don’t differentiate the two in their minds at all. Remember, branding is all about creating the right consumer perceptions, and a bad user experience on your website won’t get the job done.
Don’t think about the navigation within your site only. You also need to consider social navigation, the presentation of local information, and navigation for mobile visitors. For example, I used my mobile phone to find the nearest location of a specific restaurant chain while traveling recently. I opened my mobile browser and navigated to the restaurant’s website where I clicked on the Restaurant Locator link.
Next, I met with a surprising message that destroyed the user experience. The paraphrased message said, “This feature is available only through the desktop browser.” Beneath that message, I could choose from two buttons. The first said, “Stay on mobile browser site” and don’t use the restaurant locator tool, and the second said, “Go to desktop browser site” where I could use the tool I needed. Why wouldn’t the mobile site be configured to enable people who are on the go and looking for a nearby restaurant right now to use the restaurant locator feature? That’s a missed opportunity and a navigational mistake that damages the site’s usability and negatively affects the user experience and consumers’ perceptions of the brand.
These are the types of user experiences you need to consider as you build your website. Don’t assume you know how people will use your website. You need to ask them, and that’s where brand research becomes an essential part of brand messaging and navigational planning. Survey existing and prospective consumers to find out how and when they use your site, what information they want to find quickly, and what information they access again and again.
You also need to make sure you include social navigation in your web design. That’s the topic of Part 3 of the Using Brand Research to Build a Better Website series, so stay tuned for all the details. If you missed Part 1 of the series which discussed setting goals and defining your web design strategy, follow the preceding link to read it now.