user experience + brand thoughts
"Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. – Steve Jobs
The Brand Experience
When thinking about “Brand” most people think about the visual design as the look and the writing style to be the voice to make up the “feel“. A site/app/system’s general look and feel is conveyed via a variety of elements. Visual design, layout, and look; content; copy, voice, and tone; usability, relevancy, and navigation contribute to the overall brand experience. Inconsistencies and disconnects between any of these elements contribute to a negative user experience. Disconnects can leave the user feeling frustrated, disappointed, unfulfilled, and doubting the brand’s credibility. A successful User Experience should be perceptually seamless, cohesive, and un-intrusive to communicate a strong brand that knows, understands, and anticipates its users’ needs.
The mission statement is the keystone of the brand.
I call the Mission Statement out because its so often overlooked, and so vital to a good brand. So many groups will start out by defining the look – the tangible part of the brand, without defining its foundation first. By starting with the visuals, you force the other elements to retro-fit the other elements.
The mission statement reflects the soul of the company and the foundation of the culture. Without it the company can easily fall into silo’d teams and/or departments/organizations that don’t work cohesively to create customer satisfying solutions and services.
As a motivator for the team it provides a positive focal point to communicate the value of their work. We all feel good when we are doing good for others.
The team has a unified understanding as to what the ultimate value is to the the customer. The mission statement is normally an internal rally cry, but the mission statement will resonate with customers implicitly as they experience with the solution and services.
A foundational direction is created that ensures that all three of these remain consistent – IF the brand is made to be a foundational element.
Visual design elements serve to support the user in completing tasks while simultaneously supporting the site’/app/system’s objective and message.
These elements include the general color palette, typography, white space, images, icons, and buttons. All of these elements work together to assist the user in finding information and achieving their tasks. Additionally, visual design elements augment and support the site’s message and the essence of the brand. The placement of interface elements (links, buttons, graphics, separators, text) support the user’s task when they are organized and placed in intuitive, perceptually accessible areas. The flexibility and complexity of the screen layout is often dependent on specific factors in the individual user’s environment, such as device resolution. The user’s hardware and software environments frequently dictate design limitations – There is always a need to strike a balance between an engaging design, common user habits, and environmental limitations.
Once a User Experience foundation is established, the wireframes will depict the navigation needed within each page and the relationships between information on the page to support all identified tasks and subtasks. The visual design not only adds the “look” of the brand, but it supports the defined user experience. If colors are distracting or graphic treatments do not support the intended experience. It can cause conflicts in the users’ experience, resulting in the perception of a cluttered site, and degrade the overall success of the site for both the user and the business. It is important for the visual design to complement the look and the defined cognitive experience.
The key factor that drives users to visit a web site is to gain access to a site’s unique content offerings. Site content should be relevant, positioned from the user’s world-view, and aligned with users’ goals. Additionally, content should address and support the needs of the novice user as well as the expert user – Yielding an experience that accounts for varying user needs as well as the chronological progression of the user from a novice to an expert. Site copy should always be relevant to the user’s task; ensuring that the copy supports the user’s tasks and goals instead of distracting or confusing the user as they attempt to complete a task. When relevancy is apparent, site copy supports differentiating the site from competitors. It allows a Web site that would otherwise be perceived as cold and impersonal to convey specific goals, aspirations and emotion. This is often the finishing touch as it reminds the user that there are real people beyond the electronic front who are able to understand and empathize with them.
The User Experience Strategy and Architecture outline how the features of a site or system/app will help define the way in users engage with the site. Product Design should balance the latest technical possibilities with user needs and expectations. Disconnects between the users expectations or needs and the implementation or design can result in perceptions of a cumbersome or even frustrating experience.
User satisfaction is dependent on a fluid experience that is free of conscious decisions on how to use site tools or complete the simplest task.
Technical solutions and approaches to functionality must be consistent with user’s abilities and their desired tasks. If a user is more interested in the content than an entertaining or challenging engagement then presentation of the content should be focus. Although new and exciting technology possibilities will continue to be incorporated within a site over time, the user experience must remain consistent with the user’s desired experience.
The fruition of new experiences should be vetted through the established User Experience Strategy to determine its compatibility with the brand experience, and the user and business goals.
My experience with brand began in the NYC area when I began my career working with Consumer Product Goods – Building the first web presences for internationally and nationally known brands and products. Since then brand has been a foundation of my work. I call attention to its importance no matter what the size of the company I am working for or with. I encourage companies who do not have a brand, or only have a style guide, to engage with a full branding agency to define their brand properly. These teams normally engage representatives from the entire company to work collaboratively to define a meaningful, cohesive brand that resonates with all teams, and empowers them to work cohesively in mind and heart.
Tracy Besser Consultant, LLC © 2000