OXD illustration of a computer monitor with an "X" and shapes

Your website is not your brand

OXD’s Design Director Kallie Ashenden discusses the importance of a holistic brand approach when it comes to your website.

You’re about to embark on a rebuild of your corporate website. It’s a big investment. It will take time and resources and commitment. You’ve worked hard to get the funding and support you need, to line up your development partners, and to get your organization on board.

And now, you’re finally ready.

Your company’s new website represents an evolution in your communications and your ability to deliver services to your customers. So, naturally, it’s tempting to believe that this is your chance to refresh and invigorate your corporate branding. Your new website could finally fix all the issues you’ve had to live with around your brand and messaging, while setting the future creative direction for your brand.

But, while a website is one of the most important channels for communicating with your customers, it’s only one aspect of your brand.

A website is just one element of an organization’s brand identity.

OXD illustration of a woman seated looking at her phone with circles of different components of a brands' identity

A brand is the holistic sum of every interaction an organization has with their customers. Today, brands have more places than ever to engage with people: in store, online, through print and digital media, on social media, in outdoor environments—you name it.

But competitors are also working hard to engage your audience.

To cut through all the noise, organizations must offer a consistent brand experience each time if they want to stand out, be memorable, and be appreciated. 

A brand is not a website. 

A brand is not a product or service. 

A brand is not a logo. 

A brand is all of these things and much more. 

Making changes to your brand on the website alone—without considering the impact these decisions have on your brand as a whole—risks further fragmentation and dilution of your brand, causing more problems and knock-on effects than you could anticipate.

Before jumping straight into a visual redesign of your website’s user interface, it’s important to take a step back and look at your brand’s bigger picture. 

Brands that deliver consistent, positive, easy, and meaningful interactions build trust with customers.

Research shows that brands that provide a comprehensive and integrated approach to brand strategy rank highest in consumer satisfaction. This means that, to maintain a successful and compelling brand, you need to consider all touchpoints. 

If your brand is inconsistent across your channels, you risk customer confusion, erosion of trust, and decreased customer satisfaction. This is why it’s important to consider the overall brand strategy first, and position the website as part of your strategy. 

Does your business really need a rebrand?

A rebrand can be a complex and large-scale project, and it usually involves an end-to-end branding process, including:

  • brand audit
  • brand strategy
  • naming
  • logo design
  • voice and tone
  • copywriting
  • visual identity development (typography, colours, photography, illustrations, icons, infographics)
  • design of all digital, print, and environmental brand assets
  • customer experience
  • rollout communications

An alternative to a rebrand

If a large-scale rebrand is not in the cards right now, a brand “refresh” in the context of your website redesign may be a better option. A brand refresh builds on the existing equity of your brand without changing it fundamentall​​y. A refresh maintains a visual connection to how the brand identity was seen before, while reinstating the brand promise to your audience.

Core elements of a visual identity, such as brand fonts and colours, are often the first things we’re asked to change in a user interface redesign. While there are excellent reasons why you might consider tweaking visual identity elements for digital applications (such as accessibility and screen readability) it’s important to make these decisions while considering the overall brand. For example, we believe all websites should meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines—which include colour contrast values to ensure that websites work for the widest range of people. But rather than just shift the brand colours on the website, we always recommend that clients update their brand palette globally so that colours are used consistently across every touchpoint.

Traditional brand fonts are also being reconsidered to meet the demands of the digital age. More companies are bringing standard web-accessible fonts like Google Fonts into their brands to help solve accessibility and consistency issues. 

These are pragmatic decisions, and it’s important for organizations to then review their print and digital visual identity to decide how their brand will provide a coherent transition from non-digital to digital mediums along the customer journey.

OXD illustration of abstract computer screen with a "?" and people looking confused representing concept of websites are not brands

Brands are made of people.

People are what make brands succeed. It takes a collaborative effort of all the staff within your organization to drive your brand strategy.

Brands exist across many platforms, environments, cultures, languages, and jurisdictions. So, it’s crucial to partner with all your teams, as well as customers, to gather feedback to support a successful brand project.

Even a refresh will impact other brand touchpoints, and this means an overall brand management approach needs to be developed, or revised. A brand project can mean a lot of change within your organization. Change can be great, but it needs to be well-managed so that employees and customers have a positive and consistent brand experience.

A brand audit that includes employee and customer feedback in areas that are working well, and areas that need to improve, is a good place to start.

What is a brand audit?

A brand audit is a series of questions and reviews that help provide insights into the complexity of your rebrand needs. This way, you can determine a plan of action based on the answers, before getting started on your brand project.

Consider questions like:

  • Does your brand strategy continue to position the organization appropriately? 
  • Is the visual identity (logo, colour palette, fonts, graphics) aligned to the brand strategy?
  • Is the visual identity compliant with accessibility standards?
  • Does the brand provide effective differentiation from competitors?
  • Is the brand voice and tone authentic?
  • Does your current brand amplify or actually detract from your new website’s ability to meet business and communication goals?

These are the types of questions that will help identify areas of the brand that can—and should—change. Then the necessary updates to the strategy, visual elements, and interface can begin.

Your website is not your brand

We get it. You’re eager and excited to get going on your website redesign project. But it’s important to keep in mind that your website project is not a substitute for a branding project. Look at the bigger picture and decide whether a rebrand or a smaller-scale brand refresh is in order, before diving into the redesign of your website.

Not sure where to start? 

Could your organization’s brand experience be improved for your customers? Are you unsure if you need a new brand strategy or a brand refresh before redesigning your website?  We can help! Check out the story of our own rebranding (including a rename), to see how we do it.

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