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November 8, 2012
Your Website Has a Voice!
 
Keep it simple, user-friendly and creative. When it comes to website design, these three tenets can be more challenging to stick to than you might think. It is important to remember that a website doesn’t just display information; it is a communication platform for your brand.

Simple
Inc. Magazine recommends that you “think of your company's website as a first impression for potential future clients.” You want viewers to return to your website not only for the content, but for the layout design as well. The layout should clearly direct the viewer’s eye across the page while still maintaining structure. Using contrasting sizes, colors, and fonts will help with this concept. A page with little definition will leave a viewer confused and frustrated at having to search for information. The home page is an opportunity for you to demonstrate these concepts with the mission and purpose of your brand, because it is the first impression a potential client or new employee will have.

Typography on a website needs to be the appropriate size and color. Designers typically utilize a 10 point font size or smaller, however for a specific design element a larger text can be applied. A sans-serif font can clearly be read on the web (the graphic at the right demonstrates the difference between a serif and a sans-serif font). While communicating your brand’s message on a website, keep the variety of fonts to a minimum as to not distract from the overall purpose. Additionally, make sure to take advantage of line spacing; adjusting the spacing not only makes it visually pleasing, but also easy to read. Not enough line spacing causes the viewer to squint, while too much line spacing just looks like you are trying to fill space. Another fact to remember is that viewers don’t always have the same computer screen when viewing your website.

When choosing the appropriate typography color, black and white is sometimes the most successful. If you do choose to use color it should not distract, but enhance the design of the website. Nothing is worse than a website that misuses the color wheel.

User-Friendly
To make a website user-friendly, a search box can be an important visual and navigation tool. According to Smashing Magazine, “on content-heavy websites, the search box is often the most frequently used design element.” A simple, easily accessible search box increases value and reassures the viewer when they are looking for specific information. The search box should still tie-in with the overall feel of the site.

Your brand’s website should also be media friendly. Reporters, bloggers and potential clients should be able to effortlessly find your contact information, what you stand for as a brand, and examples of your work. A media center tab or other navigation bars help with this idea.

Often, viewers glance and scan a website for just seconds at a time. The goal for using your brand’s website as a communications platform is to inform the reader on the most important parts of your organization in those few seconds, as well as drawing them into spending more time on the website. Smashing Magazine notes that, “since users almost never read but scan we need to provide them with some focus anchors to fix their attention to the most important parts of our articles.” Block quotes and pulled quotes effectively capture information about your brand in a stylistic and purposeful way while creatively utilizing typography. Again, make sure the design of the quote still fits with the overall theme.

Lastly, keep in mind that you want viewers to be able to easily access your website from both their computer and their phone, so when adding graphics or animation, a short loading time is always best in order to communicate effectively.

Creative
It is important to remember that your brand’s website should incorporate a personal touch. A “Meet the Team” page is an example of where design should emphasize the personality of the brand. Adding photos or quotes adds a human element. This is where you can really stand out and appeal to a client not just through your experience, but through your personality as well.

If you are looking for some great examples that further demonstrate these principles, (RED) and Anacostia Watershed Society are two non-profit organizations that effectively communicate their brand through their inventive use of color and fonts.

While creating a brand’s website, the elements of simplicity, being user-friendly, and creativity can become lost in the desire to “wow.” Ensure your website is visually appealing, while still presenting your content to viewers in a clear and efficient manner. Your website has a voice, so take advantage of the opportunity.

Brian Wagner is a senior manager at Gibraltar AssociatesHunter Hardinge is one of GA's rock star interns. This article is cross-posted on Gibraltar Associates' in-house blog.

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McBee|Gibraltar is the strategic communications solution on the McBee Strategic Consulting platform, based in Washington, D.C.. Forged in 2013 between McBee and Gibraltar Associates, McBee|Gibraltar provides communications counsel and services to global corporations, smaller public and private companies, investment and professional service firms and high-profile individuals. www.McBeeStrategic.com
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