branding

If you’re going to spend the money to brand your business – and yes, you should spend the money to brand your business – it seems logical that you could then use that branding across different media platforms, right?

Right! However there are some caveats to consider. When done well, cross-platform branding can make your business look and perform well. Done inappropriately, it can cripple your business potential.

Let’s start at the beginning. Your business brand, according to Entrepreneur, is your promise to your customer. It conveys what can be expected and how your business is different than others. It isn’t just a logo or a color scheme. It is your business “voice,” from the tone of written communication to visual images.

Here are five tips to successfully translating your print brand to an online brand.

Be consistent, but not the same.

A successful brand can get across the same message without literally getting across the same message. Bottom line: What works in print doesn’t always work online. You may have a killer brochure, but it works because people hold it in their hands. They flip it. They fold it. Your website can convey the same visual feel of a brochure, but optimize that content for website delivery. Not only optimize it for web delivery, but optimize it for mobile web delivery. That leads us to the next tip.

Never, ever, ever use a PDF or Word document to communicate anything important about your business.

If you think a customer will want to download a document in order to read text about your business services, you will quickly lose potential customers. Forcing users to download files in order to gather information negates the purpose of a website. Make it easy for them (and search engines) to find the information they need and put the text on the website itself.

Be mindful of load times.

Print media are a great way to load up customers with beautiful imagery, text styling and design elements. Websites are no different, only the beautiful imagery is optimized for quick loading, text styling is streamlined and design elements are used to complement content, not be the content.

Don’t let your brand kill your brand.

UX Magazine describes how many corporate branding guides are incredibly specific and narrow. The brand standards are taken so literally that the online realm sacrifices user experience for the exact colors – and only the exact colors – dictated for print use. A strongly horizontal logo won’t work on many social media, and if you attempt to use that horizontal logo then it may not be legible. Remember our definition of branding from Entrepreneur: It is your promise to your customer. Does that mean you’re promising they will only see dark blue and yellow, or does that mean when they see graphic elements presented with your business style that they will associate that with your business? Hopefully you answered the latter.

5.Develop your brand with interaction in mind.

If you don’t already have a business brand, get started on one knowing that it will be used across different technologies and platforms. A truly successful brand is one that lets customers know who you are without explicitly saying it. This is done through colors, font, design elements and word usage. When developing a business logo, be sure it is flexible enough to work in different dimensions. You’ll want a logo that will look as good on letterhead as it does in the tiny square of a Twitter profile. You’ll want a color family that can consistently convey your brand regardless of what else is around it, such as other business logos on a brochure or the blue and gray layout on Facebook feeds.

Branding is no simple task. It requires a lot of forethought and strategy. The branding experts at Cube Creative Design have years of experience crafting professional brands. Contact us today to learn more.

Budgeting-for-the-Future

Budgeting for the future is a great way to ensure your business stays relevant in a changing online environment. While it isn’t necessary to keep up with every web design trend, it is a good idea to budget for future maintenance.

Here are 5 things to plan for when budgeting for future website maintenance. Be sure to talk to your web developer to get an estimate of what these common maintenance tasks will cost.

Design updates

Design updates are not the same as content updates. You’ll update content on your site as often as your audience requires, such as blog posts, calendar events or testimonials. Design updates mean you’re overhauling the entire look and usability of the site. Design updates are recommended if you answer “yes” to any of these questions:

Usability updates

Usability includes how visitors are able to navigate and consume content on your site, but that also includes “hidden” usability elements, such as page load times and mobile friendliness. As developers find ways to minimize files needed to display websites, your site may benefit from some data dieting to help it run more quickly and efficiently.

Browser incompatibilities

Browsers, such as Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari and Firefox, are routinely updated. Sometimes these updates can cause trouble when viewing your website, particularly when it comes to styles used to display content. Typically newer browsers cause less issues than older versions, but if a new browser is released and users have trouble viewing your site, you’ll need your developer to tweak the style sheet accordingly.

Content reviews

Once you’ve posted content to your site for a year or two, you’ll want to audit it for broken links and usability. Is it easy to find? Do you need to remap your navigation? Should you curate or archive some content to clean up how your site looks? These are all great questions to ask yourself, then discuss with your web developer.

Search Engine Optimization

Log into your tracking program, such as Google Analytics, and review how your site is doing in search engine results. Discuss these findings with your web developer and find out if there is anything you can do to your site to boost your page rankings in search results. This added traffic could be the difference between lackluster site performance and increased sales conversions.

main-menu-mistakes

Quick: What is the most important navigational element on your website? No, it isn’t the creepy pirate animated GIF pointing to content. It is your main menu.

The main menu serves a critical function on your website: It helps users find all the other content.  A poorly designed main menu can be detrimental to your website and your business.

Here are a few major mistakes to avoid with your website’s main menu:

Crazy Locations

Users expect to find a main menu at the top of your site horizontally or at the top left of your site vertically. If you put it anywhere else then they won’t know where to go to find your “inside” content. As MySiteAuditor so eloquently puts it: “Be clear, not clever.”

Crazy Sizes

The more choices they have, the longer it will take users to make a decision. No bueno. Keep your main menu short and to the point. Links should be short and to the point as well, no longer than 1-3 words. KISSmetrics suggests that menus should be limited to five items because our short term memory holds seven items. Avoid burying “trigger words” in submenus, where users may not know to look for them.

Crazy Wording

Again, don’t get clever in your main menu. Instead of “reach out” or “let’s chat,” just use “contact.” Be specific with your links as well. Instead of “services,” use the actual service titles, such as “babysitting” and “tutoring.”

Bridges to Nowhere

Every page of your site should be accessible from your main navigation. But wait, you just told me to limit my menu sizes? I have a lot of content! That’s where a content management system and a good structure will serve you well. If you have a lot of blog content, users should be able to navigate to category archives easily. If you have a lot of products, users should be able to navigate through those product categories easily.

If you have a lot of pages, really look at how you’ve got them structured. What do your users really need? Are you putting up content in pages just for the sake of having it online? It begs the question: Why are you paying to upload and store that content online if users likely will not use it?

Cube Creative can not only help you structure your site for the best user experience, we can help you edit your content into manageable information for your users. Contact us today!

Outdated UX

The internet is a relatively new contraption in technology terms. It has really only been popular with the masses for around 20 years. As any teenager will tell you, being cool 10-20 years ago, or even 3-4 years ago, does not translate to today’s sense of cool.

Right now you’re probably thinking one of two things: “Who cares? I don’t need to be trendy.” Or “I want to be trendy but I don’t want to reinvent my website every 2 years!”

If you aren’t ready for a full overhaul of your website, perhaps consider updating some telltale signs of age:

Carousels

Carousels are everywhere. They typically hold content with arrows to navigate forward and backward, with multiple slides. They can be automated to add some dynamic content to your pages, but they are also, as SideProject.io points out, quite inefficient at engaging users beyond the first slide.

Consider editing down the content enclosed in a carousel and repurposing it on the page. Besides, you likely aren’t reaching your users with those “inside” slides anyway!

Text as Images

In a world before @font-face, customized fonts beyond the traditional Times and Arial were relegated to image embeds. There are a few reasons why this is a bad idea in modern web design: first, it is terrible for search engine optimization. Second, it increases the load time for a page having to download each image rather than text. Third, it is awful for folks with sight impairments who rely on screen readers.

Any modern web designer worth their salt will know how to use custom fonts in a design without defaulting to images. Google even offers a library of free fonts for use on websites.

Page Loading Indicators

Known as “preloaders,” many early sites included a progress bar to tell you how much longer you’d need to wait to get page content loaded in your browser. In today’s world of high-speed connections and optimized content, these preloaders aren’t necessary. They can even turn away users who would like to get started on content before the entire page loads.

Hover Content

Calm down with the hovers, Marty McFly. This isn’t a punky skateboard that helps him escape the dastardly Biff. Hover content is content that pops up with a user hovers their mouse over a section of your website. Quite popular in the pre-mobile era, it simply isn’t a good design element today. It relies on the user having a mouse, which has been completely eliminated in touchscreen devices.

Auto-Play Videos

This was a faux pas back in the aughts and it still applies today. Loading a page shouldn’t mean a user is assaulted with stealthy ninja audio or video. What if they aren’t expecting a video? Perhaps they are at work, or in a study lounge. Auto-play videos are a surefire way to make your users grumpy.

Large Background Images with no Responsive Element

Desktop computers come with large screens, yes. Faster internet connections mean we are able to load larger images. Good photography can make for a beautiful website. But using large images with no thought given to those smaller screens can backfire on you.

In the end, there are two questions SideProject.io suggests when making web design decisions:

  1. What are you trying to communicate?
  2. Are your users best interests in mind?

blog-10things

In this digital world, your website is going to be one of the first and best impressions you can make on potential clients or customers. Web “people” go by many names: web designer, webmaster, web developer, Chad. Because of their technical prowess, they have an uncanny ability to speak in a totally different language.

Before you commit your time, energy and cash toward building the perfect website, ask these 10 questions:

  1. What is your process and timeline?

    Know the plan before you start. How long will it take for them to get you a site design idea? How much time is built into the project for approvals and feedback? When will the site launch? What happens if things are delayed?
  2. Who is doing the work and who my contact person?

    If you’re hiring a freelancer, it is likely this will be the same person. If you’re hiring a web design business, you may have a main source of contact that isn’t directly handling your website build.  There are pros and cons to each. With freelancers, you’re likely to get a faster turnaround time on answers to your questions, but you’re also more likely to get the technical jargon that could get confusing. With web design businesses, your contact person will have the ability to translate all that jargon into meaningful information, it just may take an extra few hours or a day to get a response to your questions.
  3. Can I see examples of your work?

    Any web developer worth his/her salt will have an online portfolio with references.  When you look through these examples, look for things that show their experience in areas that your business needs. If you’re looking to build an online shop, look for sites with e-commerce capabilities. If you’re looking for an online portfolio, be sure they’ve done that kind of work before.
  4. What about content?

    Web Chameleon sums it up best: focusing on the design and forgetting about content is a costly mistake.  Not only can content changes dramatically alter the initial website design, but it can hinder the site’s launch by days or months. Will the web developer create content for you or are you responsible for content?
  5. How much?

    Know your costs up front, and know how those costs might change. A small business should expect to spend at least $1,000 for a good website. Depending on the level of customization and features needed, these costs can go into the tens of thousands. Get a detailed estimate and scope of work, then be sure to ask what could cause those costs to go up.  Excessive content changes and last-minute alterations can cost you, so be sure to make a plan and stick to it when possible.
  6. Who will make content updates after the site launches?

    Some developers prefer to handle all content updates and others prefer to build self-sustaining sites that they hand off to their clients. Be sure you know the expectations before you start. How much will you need to know? Will they train you? What happens if something breaks after you make content updates?
  7. Are Google products included?

    Google offers a wealth of free products to enhance your website, with the top two being Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. Analytics is a tracking code installed on the site that reports all sorts of data on visitors, including how they found your site. Webmaster Tools allows developers to test and submit sites to Google for indexing, which will help with search engine optimization. Does the web developer do this as part of every development project, or is this an add-on service?
  8. Are your sites responsive?

    Modern websites are built with multiple screen sizes in mind. This makes Google happy (read about Mobilegeddon here), and also makes mobile phone users happy. If the web developer doesn’t automatically design with responsive wireframes, they are woefully behind the times.
  9. Is there a warranty or service arrangement?

    Websites require ongoing maintenance. Be sure to ask what will be included in this initial project cost. What if something breaks shortly after launch? What if something breaks after I touch it? What if something breaks after I let another person touch it?
  10. How will my site behave in the future?

    Is the site going to grow with your business or are you expected to rebuild and redesign in order to grow? What happens if I decide I want to add a blog or social media? Getting answers to potential additions in the future will help you gauge how flexible and attentive the web developer will be to your growing needs.

Cube Creative Design has 10 years experience and a wealth of examples across multiple media platforms. Contact us today to find out how we can meet your web development needs.

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