Popular Misconception: Web Design IS NOT Branding

People have been throwing around the term “branding” rather loosely of late. Since majority of branding work revolves around building corporate websites, many equates building a corporate website to branding itself. Allow me to clarify this – Web design IS NOT branding.

Why People Assume Web Design Equals To Branding?

There are generally two factors that caused and perpetuated this misconception :-

(1) Web Designers Are A Dime A Dozen

There has been a recent influx of open-source, easy-to-build, content management system and visual based web-builders. Gone are the days when building websites are the domain of programmers, requiring in-depth knowledge of computer languages. Today, any Tom, Dick or Harry can easily learn to build websites.

So Tom, Dick and Harry start offering web design services. With that, the market becomes saturated with amateur web “designers”. Therefore, the only way to secure any job is to price their services lower than their competitors. Eventually, amateur “designers” outnumber the professional ones. The price for web design services plummets. Customers rejoice. And professional designers get sidelined.

(2) “Branding” Is The New Buzzword

The word “branding” has been thrown around quite a bit of late. So much so that it has now become a buzzword in the design community. And every designer worth their salt starts offering “branding” services, without really understanding what branding is all about. It now means anything even remotely related to advertising, graphic design, multimedia design, web design, etc.

So instead of offering services in their specific areas of expertise, designers simply sell “branding services”. Besides, it takes too much time to explain to clients what their areas of specialties actually are.

Enter Amateur Hour

On one hand, many people are now well versed enough to build websites. On the other, many clients are seeking for “branding services” when they actually want something else, like corporate web design. So put one and one together, you’ll have clients paying for specific jobs which they refer to as “branding”.

Even professional web designers are also selling their services as “branding”, since that’s exactly what the clients are asking for. Throw in the amateurs into the mix, and you’ll have a price war that will artificially suppress the value of the service. So what happens?… Service providers are unhappy. They’re not paid what they’re worth. And clients are also unhappy. They don’t get their money’s worth in the service provided.

At the end of the day, nobody is happy. Clients continue to ask for “branding” services, since that’s what they perceive they want. And web designers will continue to offer “branding” services, since most of their clients’ work will revolve around building a website anyway.

Let’s Get One Thing Straight – Web Design IS NOT Branding

Imagine branding activity is the whole forrest. And web design is the patch of plains somewhere in the centre, where the trees flourish. While that particular patch of plains takes up quite a bit of area within the whole forrest, it’s still only part of the whole forrest. Likewise, while a lot of the actual branding activity takes place in the corporate website, it’s not the whole brand. The corporate website is only a part of whole branding exercise.

Building a website is merely building the framework to express the brand on. It is not THE brand. Completing a corporate website is a finite goal. It can be completed within a stipulated amount of time. On the other hand, building a brand is an infinite goal. It requires a constant presence that is regularly updated. It is not something that can be “completed”.

Building A Website Vs. Building A Brand

Commissioning a corporate website to be built is merely hiring designers to build a platform. It is on this platform that the brand will eventually be built on. Remember, a website can be “completed”, but building a brand is an ongoing process, which can never be “completed”.

If you just want the platform, ask for web design services. Just don’t expect that it’ll to help you elevate your brand status. Regardless how beautiful your corporate website may be, nobody will visit your website, because nobody knows that it even exist.

If you truly want to develop your brand, and make it well known to the masses, then ask for branding services. Yes, building a corporate website will be part of the whole branding process. But the corporate website alone isn’t the be all, and end all process of the branding exercise.

What Does A Generic Branding Exercise Consist Of?

Branding exercise is bespoke to each individual client. There is no such thing as a “standard branding package”. However, they generally consist of similar components across the board. Below are some of these components :-

(1) Design And Build A Corporate Website

A corporate website is the anchor of the whole branding identity. It doesn’t need to be “beautifully designed”. All it needs to do is to provide a stable structure to hold the contents. You can generally complete building a corporate within a month or two.

(2) Creating Contents For Permanent Pages

Permanent pages hold the standard information that visitors will seek when browsing through the world wide web. They usually consist of description of the company, the people behind it, and maybe even the culture, beliefs and values behind the company. Show your visitors what they want to know about you.

(3) Creating Contents For Regular Publications

This is THE BIGGEST part of the whole branding exercise. And this is the infinite goal of the whole branding exercise. Keep the contents fresh, and it coming. Regular updates tell your visitors that you’re still here, and you’re still doing what you said that you do. A break in your regular interval means that you’ve stopped doing what you said that do. And a break will impact your visitors and your potential customer’s confidence in you. It doesn’t really matter the reason behind the break. A break is a break. And the more breaks you have, the less reliable your reputation will be.

(4) Social Media Marketing

You may have the most active web presence in cyberspace. But that’s no guarantee that people will know who you are. And if nobody knows who you are, nobody will come visit your corporate website. This is where social media comes into play. Social media today is way larger than all the traditional media put together. So having a presence in social media is important is you want to grow your brand. But if there’s one thing that you don’t do on social media, it’s to depend 100% on it. Social media is where you spread your word out, not place your contents there completely.

(5) Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Everybody wants to be searchable on search engines, preferably on the first page. This is where SEO comes into play. You can pay to advertise on search engines like Google, pay somebody to tweak your backend of your website to elevate your search engine ranking, or simply grow your own SEO ranking organically. The paid option is the quickest way to boost your ranking, but it’s also temporary. If you want something more permanent, you’ll have to regularly publish contents that attract traffic. And best of all, it’s completely free… Just make sure that there’s no break in your publication interval.

(6) Physical Corporate Outlook

Now we’re moving away from cyberspace. Having a cyberspace presence is important, but visitors can and do come visit you in person. When they do, they expect to see that you’re the same as your reputation in cyberspace. Corporate colours, tagline, corporate fonts, and maybe even how your frontline personnel dress and present themselves. They expect to see a continuity from your cyberspace presence.

(7) Events And Publicities

Running your business from the comfort of your office is all fine. But if you want to make your physical presence felt, you’re gonna have to mingle with the public in events and publicities. The important thing here is to ensure that the image that you project here is consistent with the image that you project in cyberspace.  Again, different clients require different types of physical events and publicities.

(8) Other Offline Branding Identities

Every client is unique. Hence the numerous individually catered identity markers to makes them who they are.

In A Nutshell

Clients need to know exactly what they want. Don’t request for branding services if you’re only looking to build a corporate website. You’ll be sorely disappointed with a higher-than-expected quotation. And don’t expect the service providers to guarantee you any brand exposure or search engine rating either.

Service providers need to be transparent about the exact type of service provided. Don’t confuse clients with branding if all you’re providing is web design services.

And most importantly, understand that web design IS NOT branding. It’s only a component of the whole branding exercise, albeit a rather large part of it.

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