Brand.com reviews all the latest trends in online marketing, and according to the company, the proliferation of social marketing tools has led some businesses to put the cart before the horse. In their zeal to optimize their Facebook presence or their Twitter feed, companies have become negligent of the most central piece of any online brand-building campaign. That is to say, as they have rushed to implement the latest and greatest in buzz-building technologies, they have failed to remember that having a strong company website is the single most crucial way to project authority.
“It is often said that a website is like a company’s online storefront—and while it’s become a bit of a cliché, it’s nevertheless accurate,” says Brand.com president Michael Zammuto. “Just as you wouldn’t allow your store signage to fall into disarray, or your window displays to become dated or unappealing, you also don’t want your company website to be anything less than fully enticing.”
The question is, how can companies positively brand themselves via a website? “In the age of social media, this is something of a lost art,” Zammuto admits. With that said, Brand.com has developed a ten-step checklist for companies to recover. Brand.com reviews its checklist, in the paragraphs that follow.
Brand.com Reviews Checklist of Website MUSTS
The first step toward developing a strong website, Brand.com reviews, is taking a careful assessment of who the target audience is. A good website is designed with specific customers in mind, the company notes—and the preferences of those customers can shape the entire look and feel of a site.
“What are customers trying to do on your site?” asks Zammuto. “If you’re setting up an e-commerce site, you need a sleek and easy-to-follow design, where people can find products and then check out with them as seamlessly as possible. If you’re simply offering information—for a charity or a medical organization, maybe—then you need the design to be more conservative. Taking stock of audience preferences is an important step, regardless.”
The second step that Brand.com reviews is to jettison any Stone Age web design ideas. “There are certain tricks and gimmicks that just aren’t used anymore, and before you start brainstorming your site, you need to make sure you’ve removed them from your mind,” Zammuto claims. His list of Web techniques to avoid includes:
- Custom mouse cursors
- Automated music or audio
- Doorway pages
- Anything that requires the user to download obscure plugins
Third, companies need to design their websites so they can easily be found. Sometimes, users will arrive at a site by entering the domain name into the Web browser bar. As such, having an easy-to-remember, short, and hard-to-misspell domain is crucial. “Usually, your domain is going to be YourBrand.com or .org, but keeping it as short and as memorable as possible is key,” offers Zammuto.
Brand.com also recommends that companies design their sites with search engines in mind. “Search engine optimization is a hugely complex field, but at the very least, a site needs to facilitate the easy retrieval of information,” says Zammuto. Specifically, all sections of the site need to be included in the site architecture, and internal linking needs to be easy and intuitive.
Of course, branding means making a site stand out, distinguishing it from competitor sites. With that said, Zammuto says there is such a thing as over-branding. “If you’ve made your site so ‘unique’ that it is unusable, you’ve over-branded,” he says. In particular, companies need to ensure that color selections, font choices, and navigational hierarchies lend themselves to easy reading and browsing.
Brand.com reviews another step, offering a caution to companies against going overboard with multimedia. There is a time and a place for multimedia, and it’s in telling a story that conveys something of the brand identity. For example, a video embedded in the website can enrich the user experience. Where multimedia should never be used is in site navigation; Flash animation, in particular, should never be used as a navigational tool.
“We also recommend that companies avoid using Flash ‘doorway’ pages, or splash pages—essentially ads for the company that lead to the ‘real’ home page,” Zammuto offers. “This undercuts your brand’s integrity and authority, because it really just comes across like a cheap trick, and it is inconvenient to the user.”
A sixth tip from Brand.com is to remember that speed matters. “How long does it take for your site to load on a desktop, and on a mobile device?” asks Zammuto. “If it’s more than a couple of seconds, users—especially mobile users—are going to get fed up and move on. Test your site speed before launching, and if it’s too slow, you may need to remove some images and larger files.”
Seventh, Brand.com reviews the need to use real text on their websites, whenever possible—”as opposed to graphic text,” Zammuto explains. Text is key for search engine visibility. Graphic text may look appealing, but it’s not “crawlable” by search engines, and as such, its effect on branding is superficial.
Additionally, Brand.com reviews the need for smart businesses to brand themselves as helpful and user-friendly—in other words, as genuinely keen to provide a meaningful service for their customers and clients. This means making the website itself as helpful and as easy to use as possible. “In particular, we recommend short paragraphs, sub-headings, lists, and bullet points, all of which can make a website more user-friendly.”
Next, Brand.com reviews the need for companies to test their sites thoroughly. “Send the site to several people you trust, asking for feedback, before going live with it,” Zammuto recommends. “An additional set of eyes is always helpful.” And on a related note, the final step Brand.com reviews is to remember that a website is never totally finished. “It’s an organic, dynamic thing, subject to change,” suggests Zammuto. “Companies are encouraged to avoid thinking that they’re done with a site, when continued updates and fine-tuning are utterly essential.”
The bottom line is that strong branding begins with a powerful website—and powerful websites rarely happen by accident. They only happen through careful, disciplined work—as outlined in the steps that Brand.com reviews here.