Using Brand Research to Build a Better Website - Part 1

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Posted Apr 18, 2012
Susan Gunelius

Branding and website usability might seem like two very different things performed by very different groups of people, but when it comes to branded web design, marketing teams and technical teams need to work together every step of the way. In my new series on the AYTM blog, Using Brand Research to Build a Better Website, we'll take a look at how you can marry branding and web usability to create the most effective website for your brand. First, you need to set your goals and nail down your strategic direction.

Why do you have a website? What do you want people to do when they land on your website? If you don't know the answer to those two questions, then you shouldn't start designing your brand website yet. That would be like jumping in your car to start a cross country road trip with a specific destination in mind but no road maps or GPS system to guide you. A web design with no goals or strategy behind it could get lucky and have some success, but more often than not, it ends up being wasted time, money, and effort. To maximize your brand's success online, you need to know you're launching the right website to reach your specific goals.

First, you need to identify what your goals are. Do you want to make sales through your website? Do you want to raise brand awareness by communicating useful information? Do you want to collect contact information for a future campaign? You should have both short- and long-term goals for your website so you can create a map to get you there.

Once you know what you want to achieve through your website, you need to identify your target audience as well as secondary audiences. Who will visit your website? Where will they be in the buying life cycle? What information do they want? What information do they not even realize they want or need that you can provide?

Pre-launch brand research is the key to gathering this information. Don't assume you know what people who visit your website want. Chances are what you think is important to consumers isn't correct. Instead, conduct research with both your existing customers and a broader consumer panel to identify the information and activities they want from your website. Use ranking questions to prioritize the design elements and information that consumers want to find on your website. Also, survey consumers to learn what they don't think they want or need on your website.

You should also ask consumers about your competitors' websites at this point in the web design process. What do consumers like and dislike about your competitors' sites. If they could change one thing about each of those sites, what would it be? If your website is already live and you're in the process of redesigning it, make sure you ask these types of questions about your existing site, too.

Remember, a significant part of brand building depends on how consumers feel about your brand and how emotionally connected to it they are. Use your research to dive into consumer perceptions and emotions, so you get a complete picture of what consumers want and need from your brand.

The data you gather from brand research can help you identify the type of content and options your website should include. It can also help you determine what information needs to be prominently displayed and easy to find. Your analysis of this data leads you directly into the second step of using brand research to build a better website -- messaging, navigation, and usability -- which is the topic of Part 2 of this series. Stay tuned to read it on the AYTM blog!

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