Web Design – Visual Design and Narrative Alignment

When most companies think of web design, they only focus on the visual aspects. Creating a visual aesthetic or standing out with a flashy visual presentation is usually the goal. However, this can mislead their brand as it’s their unique brand characteristics that will allows them to connect with their audience and have a unique identity. Companies need to align their visual design with their unique narrative in order to make an impact with their website and further their branding initiatives.

The Importance of Having a Brand Voice

The biggest mistake that brands make is using a corporate voice or not having a voice at all. There’s nothing else that says you don’t care about your audience than using a corporate voice designed to move a mass herd. You need a voice that communicates that you care about your audience and you actually stand for something. You need to let your audience know that you’re different from your competitors. You typically see smaller brands having a strong voice as they aren’t stifled by a public relations department that controls their every move.

These smaller brands have a strong opinions on relevant audience topics, publish unique content regularly, use interesting visuals (animations, mascots, distinct artistic styles) on their website and have their own unique tone whether it’s humor, passion, or wit. These brands communicate with a unique voice that lets their audience know that they’re dealing with a company that understands them and cares about their concerns. The unique voice of these brands also protects their brand equity as it’s not something that other companies can easily copy.

Aligning Visual Design and Narrative

Once you have developed a voice for your brand, you can start to build a narrative. To make your narrative impactful, you want to align it with the right visual presentation. The best way to go about doing this is through brand storytelling. This type of content delivers the story and core message of your brand accompanied by relevant imagery. The problem is that skilled designers and copywriters forget the purpose of brand storytelling and turn it into a flashy presentation created to wow the target audience.

The purpose of brand storytelling is to connect with your audience and communicate the unique identity of your brand. The identity will be made up of your core brand message and your corporate culture. The brand story should be lead by a narrative and use a visual presentation that aligns with it. The visual presentation will help you support and expand your story about the brand’s corporate culture and core message. It will communicate and subcommunicate characteristics of your brand.

A strong brand storytelling example to learn from is Airbnb. They have a page dedicated (https://www.airbnb.com/community-stories) to their brand story. Rather than tell the brand story themselves, they let their customers (both hosts and guests) tell their personal stories to their target audience. They use beautiful travel photos, pictures of host homes, feature real people and create a narrative that connects back to the brand. It communicates to their audience that people get an immense value out of using their service.

How to Execute This Alignment on Your Website

It’s one thing to explain a concept but completely different to execute it. So how do you execute your brand storytelling on your website? You start with the site architecture. Decide where the story is going to be placed. For most brands, it will be in the ‘about us’ or ‘our story’ page. Next, figure out how the main page and other pages will lead to your story page. From there, you can use breadcrumb links to lead back to the previous page and figure out what important pages you want to point to in the story page.

Then there’s the visuals. You have to figure out how you’re going to represent the brand story throughout the website and not just the story page. You can use a design that’s consistent with the visuals from the story page. Credibility seals like the BBB, Green Business Certification, security trust badges and another symbols that support your story may be helpful as well. For your website colors, you can use the color scheme that reflects the emotions and themes of your story.

Finally, there’s the communication. You need to make sure your brand voice stays consistent throughout the site. You need to reiterate your brand’s core message when appropriate (tag lines, slogans, guarantee statements, logos, brand). Additionally, you can create a visual hierarchy for your content so that users are given a logical reading path to discover your brand story. You can also use unique typography so that your message stands out. The bottom line is that there are many things that you can do to take elements of the story and integrate it into your site. 

Some Closing Thoughts to Bring It All Together

Clearly, making this all work is far from easy. You will be experimenting with your visuals, message, story and branding strategy quite a bit. You’ll have to go back and forth between your offline media channels and your digital channels to make sure that everything is consistent. You’ll also need to make some adjustments between various channels as the changes you make to offline channels may not perform as well as it does in digital channels. In this case, you’ll need to use a similar but slightly different brand presentation or come up with something new that works in both mediums.

A big part of the challenge is in finding the right balance between the narrative and the visual presentation. The tonality of the photos or images need to complement the narrative and vice versa. Having these two foundations clash with each other will make your audience feel like there’s something off. You’ll have the right narrative but the visual elements won’t resonate with the story. Other times, you’ll be able to come up with a beautiful visual presentation that helps you stand out but your narrative will lack a connection with the audience. 

Don’t be easily dissuaded with the process as it can be quite arduous. If you put in enough work and continue experimenting, you’ll eventually come with a presentation that perfectly communicates your brand on your website.