What makes a good website? Think about your favorite websites to visit or the last time you went to a really good site. What made it so great? Chances are, it was an immersive experience that felt a lot like you were spending time in a well-cultivated space, like a hip store, a lush garden, a cutting edge laboratory or an artfully designed studio. Effective website branding makes websites feel like fleshed-out, real world spaces to explore and engage with.
All of the best websites have one thing in common: effective branding. Whether it’s a forum for competitive gamers or an online dog treat shop, the most successful websites are the ones that express their brands clearly through on-point branded design. For a website, branding success means building brand awareness and creating relationships with the target audience that lead to ongoing engagement.
Branding extends to everything a company does, like the advertisements they run and the other brands they partner with. Website branding is part of cultivating a consistent brand experience for all your followers and buyers.
What is website branding?
Website branding is visually representing your brand through your website. Every website you visit has some amount of branding incorporated into its design, like these website branding examples:
In the website design above, DSKY creates a soft, welcoming environment by using blue, pink and purple in a watercolor-inspired gradient as the website background. This color palette and design choice feels distinctly feminine, communicating that this website is for a woman-focused brand.
And below, arosto creates a more dynamic, bolder website through sharp lines, warm colors and a symmetrical geometric design. This communicates that Musikkverden is a bold, dynamic brand in touch with the natural world, as evidenced by the lush photos of plants and rocks.
Your company exists in two worlds: the digital world and the physical world. If you operate a brick and mortar shop, that’s your presence in the physical world. Your website is your presence in the digital world. And to achieve maximum brand awareness and engagement, you need to create an immersive, enjoyable experience for visitors to both. Just like you’d paint your store’s walls in your brand colors, your website should proudly display those brand colors.
Spot-on website branding
Before you can brand a website, you need a clear brand persona. That’s your brand’s personality: are you modern or old-school? Affordable or exclusive? Serious or silly? Once you’ve hammered out exactly who you are, you can develop a brand identity that visually represents your persona through design choices like fonts, imagery, a color palette and shapes as well as things like copy voice, customer service policies and yes, your website layout and functionality.
Altogether, your website and everything else you create has that brand identity working together to make people aware of your company, engage with them and ideally, create fans among them. This whole process is known as branding.
Effective website branding follows the same principles as effective any-other-kind-of branding. Beyond the basics of brand identity, we’ve got five tips for branding your website.
1. Website functionality
What does your website do?
Is it an ecommerce site? A streaming site? A secure client portal? A blog?
Whatever your website does, it has to do its thing well. For an ecommerce site, that means a seamless, simple, straightforward and secure buying experience. For a blog, it means presenting content in a clear, appealing way and making that content shareable.
Your website’s functionality is part of your brand. If it doesn’t work well—or if it’s awkward, difficult to use or how to use it isn’t obvious—that reflects poorly on your brand.
Beyond doing its job well, how your website functions plays into your brand. For example, if you’re a sophisticated day spa and your website offers users a way to book spa treatments online, your functionality might include the ability to book complimentary spa treatments and create custom treatment packages.
For a build-your-own produce box, the ability for users to click and drag photos of the items they want into a box on the screen, mimicking the process of actually filling a box at a farmers’ market, can be a piece of branded functionality that sets your site apart from its competitors.
2. Building a content strategy
Content strategy is, as the name implies, the strategy of positioning content to communicate your brand and its offerings. This includes things like blogs, videos and infographics.
There are a few ways your content strategy works into your overall website branding strategy, like:
- Getting people acquainted with your brand
- Giving people what they want from your brand—emphasizing that you’re the brand for them
- Extending your brand beyond your website—you might share your content in emails or social media, giving viewers a taste of your website’s look and feel before they actually visit your site
These strategies are a great way to show your customers who you are by extending your website to additional platforms, like social media and email. Through strategic, branded content, you can showcase what makes your brand unique and position your brand as the best choice for your target audience, which can help to drive customers to your website and brand.
3. Laying it all out
Your website’s layout is a key part of its branding. This is literally how your website is laid out: top or side navigation? How does the text wrap around the images? What is the site’s overall structure?
If your brand is accessible and easy-to-use, your website navigation should be clear and simple with large buttons and intuitive navigation. If your brand is highly visual, your layout should prioritize images. If you’re whimsical, fun and a bit escapist, a website navigation that makes it possible for users to get lost down rabbit holes can be an engaging way to communicate your brand.
Just make sure your layout isn’t confusing. Even if it’s complex, it should always follow a logical order that users pick up quickly after spending a few seconds on your website.
4. Creating a great user experience (UX) and user interface (UI)
Getting your website branding right is by creating a great user experience and interface. UX design and its close relative UI (user interface) design are subdisciplines within web design. UX design focuses on the user journey on your website from when the customer lands on your website to making a purchase. A well branded website will ensure that this journey is as smooth as possible, in the same way it would be smooth and intuitive journey in a store.
UI design is the art of creating interfaces, all the visual touch points of your website: does the call-to-action button stand out? Does the combination of colors, typography and images work well together? These are elements tied to your brand guidelines and have a great impact on the overall look and feel of your website.
Together, these aspects of web design cover things like efficiency, ease of use, accessibility and interaction between the person and the website.
5. Keeping it consistent
Consistency is key to all branding, not just website branding. When it comes to websites, consistency looks like:
- The same voice and tone across pages
- Consistent page templates throughout the website
- If you have more than one website for the same brand, then there should be a consistent look and feel across websites
This is where having a crystal-clear brand guide comes in handy. When you have all your design elements in one place, you and any designers you work with can quickly refer back to your brand guide and create branded web pages, designs and other assets that fit your persona perfectly.
Inspiring website branding examples
Now that you know what to look out for when branding your website, let’s take a look at some inspiring examples for successful website branding to get your creative juices flowing:
Cash App, Square’s slick answer to Venmo, leans into its funky, modern brand on its scrolly, surreal website. In a limited palette of black, white and Cash App’s signature green, you scroll past pillars, skate ramps and an homage to MC Escher’s “Relativity” to learn about the app’s offerings, which include instant payments, banking and even stock and bitcoin trading.
Nike expresses their crisp, action-oriented brand through their website showcasing shoes, clothes and people in action wearing them against a stark white background. Contrasting the white is the black text separating each section.
On Chipotle’s website, the first thing you see is an in-your-face video of a melty, cheesy, delicious quesadilla. As you scroll, you meet the next piece of Chipotle’s branding in website form: an image of each of their offerings. Click the one you want and start customizing—just like you’re at Chipotle and building your meal in-store.
IKEA’s website has a lot in common with an IKEA store. It’s neatly organized, it’s got a clear layout and it’s full of design inspiration for visitors. And unlike an IKEA store, you don’t have to walk through the whole maze to find the piece of furniture you’re looking for—you can just type it into the search bar and get suggestions in a second.
Crayola is synonymous with “kids art.” And kids art is synonymous with color and fun. That’s what you get the moment you go onto Crayola’s website—art, color and fun. Rather than showcasing the products themselves, Crayola’s homepage showcases the crafts you and your child can make together with their products, providing lots of inspiration before you see a single product description. This is a clear website branding strategy in action.
Get amazing website branding
Effective website branding can drive your conversions way up—and less-than-stellar branding can leave them on the floor. Don’t risk losing out on brand awareness and engagement opportunities by skimping on your website branding. Your website is your brand’s online home, so make sure it’s an inviting home by working with an experienced website designer.