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We need to talk about branding in web design | Slangbusters Blog
Sep 17, '19

We need to talk about branding in web design

No, like seriously. The world (wide web) needs more beauty.

White iMac G4 with a colorful illustration of a globe in it

For many, the web is a medium to sell. For the rest, it is the product. In the way that a consumer experiences a product, similarly, a user experiences a website. In both cases, branding is something that becomes essential. Today, it is not a world where the economy was limited to borders like it was before the internet came along. The world has become one small town with information going between Alaska and Australia in minutes and to the moon and back within seconds.

Since now, you cannot personally interact with every customer or anyone interested in your business, your domain shall do it for you. This is why it becomes important to brand it so that it has a personality, interacts delightfully- in a convincing manner.

The amount of hurtfully soul-stirring web designs that plague the internet is not unknown to us. In unlikely conditions that you haven’t come across bad web design, it’s a travesty out there. It is such a travesty we had to use the word travesty. But then how can branding medicate that?

Well, branding has the power to make your idea make beautiful. A website just needs to reflect that. Let’s talk about how.

On brand!

The importance of branding in itself hasn’t reached its ideal stage of industry acceptance and we won’t even start about the misconceptions that fuel this wildfire. A potent branding strategy results in a strong web presence among many other aspects that lead you to success.

The brand is the entire package, the website is the packaging of that parcel. Even the opening ought to be an experience.


The world wide web is not a new concept anymore. You don’t even have to type it in the search bar before you click ‘enter’ to get to the desired website. Today, bad design is not an excuse. The user might not even wait for the website to load. They want answers- and they want it now.

Googling has become a verb and your website is now the result of that action. The website needs to make it click with the user.

The good, the bad and the ugly

H.H. The Dalai Lama’s controversial statement would have made sense only in the context of this article. If it’s not attractive, no one is going to listen to you. If it does not demand attention, no one is going to listen to you. To add to the referential analogy, just like any human, web design must be beautiful inside-out. A well-designed website with nothing but keywords will get more people landing there but because of the irrelevance of the content, bounce rate would be high. It takes half a second to reach the close tab or get distracted by another web page open in another tab, just a tap away.

Patience is a virtue that the audience seems to lose online; you need to serve it to deserve it.

The world is not binary but mediocre design will not get the traction that its content deserves. A website is like a window that allows a peek into the world of your business. Good web design not only attracts the customer but also compels a window shopper to buy, maybe even sign up for the loyalty program.

The difference between good and bad design is the experience. One feels like shopping at Costco and the other, in an official Apple store. You know exactly which is which.

Bad web design is just a missed opportunity to tell your story amongst many other things.

Talking about ugly web design, we might as well call it the dark side of the web. It might even lead you to download a virus.

This proves that the future is ideal only for good web design. It will thrive. Only the branded will survive. Children are already tech-savvy and the next generation of grannies and grandpas would be present-day millennials.

Good web design is fundamental to last long. Branding adds timelessness to every aspect of the brand, including the real estate of the internet- your web presence, and its content.


Talking about content, in a world where everyone and everything is seeking for seconds worth of attention, people tend to promise things out of their provisional abilities. These promises are keywords that help you optimize your website to rank on the first page(s) of search engines, most popularly, Chrome.

Where the brand goes amiss is depending on content focusing on what people want rather than what your USP is.

Hey, people do judge a book by its cover. That’s where all the information is.

More than click-worthy content, a lot of marketers go for click-baits. These are nothing but false promises that might bring you traffic, but not credibility, never credibility. In the long run, this might prove to be more harmful than profitable. Always remember, more the bounce rate, more the scope of improvement; not the other way around.

There are multiple ways for a user to end up on your website, SEO being the most essential one, but there is only one way they will stay.

Keywords are an extremely necessary tool. But you don’t sell just by saying what people want to hear or just saying nice things. You have to be nice things, Otherwise, it’s just lying and deceiving the web user.

Don’t panic it’s organic

The delight element on your landing webpage is anything but a lashing “call us” or “get a quote” button on the top corners of your screen or the Zendesk chat button asking unsolicited questions as it pops out of nowhere.

Good web design uses concepts like natural reading sequence, precise content that leads you somewhere- ideally, the call to action, focus on user experience and interaction while providing functionality. This is where the right audience feels welcomed and shows you care about every person’s most valuable; rather an invaluable asset- time.

With the right content and good SEO, you build an organic audience that even search engines like Google prefers, welcomes, and pushes up in the search engine result page.

Attention to detail for such executions and design solutions is a recipe for a perfect cocktail of good SEO to attract them and good web branding to make them stay and enable interaction.

Design + Emotion

It hasn’t been said enough times and it hasn’t been said louder enough for the people at the back. A lot of branding is about emotions. A website is the biggest opportunity for interaction, and emotion. The scope of good web design to spark any emotions is wider than we know. All media can be incorporated. It has endless possibilities. If it is possible in code, it is possible to ignite engagement and interaction.

Humans are social animals. We can’t live without communication. Since we have evolved enough to have created tech that makes it easier, why not use it to its maximum potential and make use of a basic human need- interaction.

Happiness is one of the strongest emotions that can be instilled through good web design. The way things are made, you accept and like the story of it, and that is the beauty of emotion.

Sagmeister believes being happy while designing is also important.

See, when we talk about instigating emotion, it is meant in a very indirect way. You don’t ask someone to be happy to make them happy. You act like what would make them happy. Taken in a literal sense, it would become cynical.

Stefan Sagmeister has too much experience in the industry to ignore. Here is the example that he gives while talking about happiness by design:

The artist, ‘True’ has made sure he used the same classic typeface as the original subway instructions, Helvetica. This means that it blends in and doesn’t demand attention, especially for regular commuters. People who actually would look up from their devices and consciously look at them will realize the uniqueness and brilliance of it, in the end, making them experience happiness.

Three levels of design by Norman

Sagmeister was not the only one who acknowledged design and emotion, Don Norman gives out three levels of design, obviously applicable to good web design. These are the principles that when followed would give you a foolproof design that would gain the traction it deserves.

Norman devised the levels of design, for designers to consider while they design anything, from a teapot to a city map. These levels give you a wholesome approach to any type of design. Let’s see how these fit in the art of web branding and designing.

An underrated statement for context: “Good design is always invisible” at least to the common eye, bereft of design knowledge. But the subconscious always notices it and makes you feel pleasant.

Cognitive level of designing

Cognitive Level

At this level while developing the product, the designer makes sure the product will sell, they integrate the platform within the branding strategies. This comes from studying the target audience, giving them what they need in a delightful manner they weren’t expecting.

Norman believes emotion is about acting, it’s about being safe. Cognition, hence, is about understanding the world, emotion is about interpreting it, saying good, bad, safe, dangerous and getting ready to act. Which is why muscles tense or relax based on the stimuli.

Behavioral level of designing

Behavioral Level

In this level of design, the designer strategically plans out the functionality of the domain. The basics of application include the fact that the design must be interactive, useful, responsive and usable.

To put it into perspective, Apple’s Newton MessagePad would be a good bad example. You might have not heard of this device because it was the PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) we didn’t need. It is a classic example of the absence of a basic need for usability. Did the user need the iPod? Definitely. A $700 ($1200 with the inflation rate today) device was not the need of the hour. period.

Visceral level of designing

Visceral Level

This is the level which is the only one acknowledged by everyone outside the branding industry. This level is where the designer plans the beauty and delight in quality, it is about the direct trigger of emotions, it is the aesthetic phase of design. The goal of this level is that the design must be basically a memorable experience that lasts in the user’s mind, through a visceral response.

Interface, motion, and interaction are three essentials that make the web and experience, not just an activity. Good web design represents, attracts, generates leads and promotes sales. It cuts through the clutter.

A studio is where matches are made

Movies are made on the editing table and brands are built in studios with artists who can brand. It is a common misconception that the web designer needs to up their game by also learning the aspects of branding and design websites wearing multiple hats at the same time.

We beg to differ. Real brands are made in studios like ours where there is a professional working meticulously on each and every aspect of the brand, where the CBO and the Interface designer collaborate to design a web experience and then the content strategist adds their flare with words to complete the project.

It is always good to learn about branding but for a quality brand, one must collaborate with focused individuals who not only throw in their ideas while they give multiple perspectives, but also add their touch of professionalism for an impeccable web experience that results in brand loyalty and credibility.

It takes a tool to not use tools

To sit on the shoulder of giants is not a metaphor limited to philosophy. Design giants like Google and Apple Inc. have allowed us a peek into the world of material and interface design that shows design principles in the web design sphere that have worked and always will. These tools which are Google Material Design guidelines and Apple Human Interface Guidelines are some fundamental pieces for anyone who either is starting out in the world of designing or has a creative block while working on a web design project.

Danielle Sacks, former senior writer at popular magazine Fast Company rightly says, “Design is about the three dimensions and the five senses”

Matias Duarte, vice president of Design for Google says, the idea is to provide a design language that mimics the feel of pen and paper. Material Design offers the user physical edges and surfaces to work with, giving context to what parts of digital design can be touched.

Such giants, with such guidelines, are voluntarily lending their shoulders to make the internet beautiful again.

Now say it with me…

Brand message + imagery + architecture + labels + indicators + brand assets + color + character + emotion + positioning + consistency + functionality + tone of voice + personality + coding strategy + personal touch + language + relevance + authenticity + design principles + theme + pallette + user interface + experience design + icons + layout + orientation + impact.

These are a few of a branding expert’s favorites when we indulge in web design.

Good web design and branding is a basic requirement. It shows you care.

— by Manas, Content Strategist, Slangbusters Studio

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