Your Brand, Your Users
Posted in — Mar 11, 2010
Take a deep breath, I know you've been told that your brand is not your splash page, not your logo, not the things you sell, or how you sell them, your brand is your connection to your customers. Simple right? You build your website with all the relevant info, who you are, what you do, why the quality of your product or service is a better value proposition than another similar product or service, and you do all this with lots of text and imagery that is crafted into (you hope) an engaging visual experience.
All done right? Swishy homepage slideshow? Check. RSS feeds for all your news and events related content? Check. Contact information all up to date? Check.
But come closer and I will tell you something that you may not have considered before.
Your website,* it's software*. It my not look like the latest copy of your favorite word processing application, but the way your users interact with your website is the same as any other piece of software that they are using in their daily lives, and believe me, they are using a lot of software these days - on their computers, on their phones, on their televisions, when they visit banks, when they are traveling, everywhere.
And each of those interactions with these various pieces of software shapes each users emotional and psychological response to the companies that provided them. Have a good experience using a self check-in system from an airline, you're probably going to appreciate your flight a little more, and remember that they that it made your travel experience easier. Have a bad experience trying to print boarding passes through the same airlines' website on another occasion and you will also carry that experience with you, shaping your future purchasing decisions with it.
"My website may be software in the technical sense, but it's not like it's a real application", you think, but is it really so different? It may not have menu bars, your users may not be able to save their work, but the experience of using software is the same regardless of whether the user is doing their taxes online, or simply looking for more information to make purchase. The user experience that you provide to your users through your website and the whole medium of the internet, is going to color their reaction to your brand, and the attachments that they may or may not make to it. To do this, you need to understand why and how users are coming to your site, and the various motivations that have brought them there. This is more than, just providing all your relevant marketing materials online, this is about understanding that you may have users who already have an affinity to your brand and would like to find other products, is your site catering to their needs, or to the new customer, who has been brought to your website via a blog post, do you provide an experience that draws them in to learn more?
And being software, it's important to realize that what makes the best software is an experience that allows users to accomplish the tasks they are performing, in a seamless, frictionless way. That's the number of clicks it takes them to find the information they want, but it's also the very fiber of understanding who your users will be, and providing an experience that suits their specific needs. Is it more important to have imagery on your home page that sets a narrative tone for your brand, or a way for someone who is looking to buy your product to quickly locate a nearby retailer? Are your users looking to you for an engaged online experience, where they join your Facebook fan club, or follow you on Twitter, or are they just looking for more detailed content about your product or service?
You need customers, your brand needs to love your users.