From your logo to your website’s stylistic choices, every visual element of your online presence makes up your brand identity. The sum of these elements will inform your new audiences' first impressions and how they perceive your brand. They thus deserve your undivided attention, from careful initial choices to cross-channel consistency. Here, let us start with the fundamentals of branding by exploring how to establish brand identity through website design.
What is brand identity?
First things first, let’s define what exactly brand identity is. In brief, it’s the sum of all visual elements of your online presence that communicate your brand’s essence. It's a visual representation of what your brand stands for, its communication with audiences, and what it offers. Your brand identity largely informs brand recognition and what psychological connotations audiences associate with your brand.
Echoing these qualities and functions, SendPulse defines it as follows:
“Brand identity is a set of visual components that represents a company’s ideas and allows customers to remember a brand and distinguish it from dozens of others. It helps shape consumers’ perceptions about a company, build loyalty and trust, and make a brand memorable.”
Brand identity is crucial for business growth. It distinguishes one brand from the next, allowing it to stand out from the competition. And in an era of stiff digital competition, this kind of advantage cannot be overstressed.
Ways to establish brand identity through website design
Now, your brand identity will always exceed your website alone. It will have to seep into social media marketing, Pay Per Click (PPC) ads, and every other channel you employ. However, all marketing channels will inevitably lead to your website. It will be the first contact with your brand for many, and you will have only a few valuable seconds to communicate your brand identity. So ideally, your website and its design should be where your branding efforts begin.
#1 Color scheme
First and foremost, your brand identity is fundamentally visual. Thus, you may begin with your website's most immediately visible optical element - its colors. You must use colors that represent you and your brand, especially if you already have an established brand identity.
To do so, you may first consider the psychology of colors. True, exact color connotations will differ among analysts, but their fundamentals should largely remain the same:
Once you do, you may then establish brand identity through website design by outlining what you wish to achieve:
What does your brand identity want to communicate? Coca-Cola’s energetic red is a far cry from Apple’s serene white. What emotions does your brand wish to inspire?
What resonates with your audiences? What you want to project may differ from what audiences perceive, however. Especially if you’re rebranding, consider what your analytics say about your audiences’ tastes and sensibilities.
How do your colors clash or mix? Aesthetics aside, always ensure your color choices don’t compromise functionality. Remember to examine your website’s readability and how color combinations fuse into their end result.
On the subject of functionality, your choice of fonts is equally essential toward ensuring it. So while you can experiment and push boundaries to communicate your brand identity best, font choices require caution.
As regards brand identity, fonts communicate ample information. For example, a lean, conservative font may denote serious professionalism, while a bold, quirky font may infuse your brand identity with some energetic playfulness. Font clashes do so, too; visual homogeneity can shift the focus to other visual content, for example, while stark differences between headline fonts and CTA fonts may grab the eye.
Still, while they’re a key way to establish brand identity through website design, fonts primarily affect readability. Thus, you may best initially limit your candidates to safe ones before expanding as your audience insights do. Hubspot pinpoints the following as safe font choices:
Arial Black (sans-serif)
Trebuchet MS (sans-serif)
Times New Roman (serif)
American Typewriter (serif)
Andalé Mono (monospace)
Lucida Console (monospace)
Bradley Hand (cursive)
Brush Script MT (cursive)
Comic Sans MS (cursive)
Along similar lines, your image choices will also considerably inform your brand's perceived identity. From what they show to which aesthetics they create, images across your website and content will frame your story. And a picture is worth a thousand words, or so they say.
In this regard, too, your image choices should carefully reflect the identity you wish to project. For a visual example of how powerfully images can do so, consider the following:
Where busy images can drive home a sense of adventure, abstract ones can shift the focus to your copy. Hand-drawn sketches can engage the imagination, while workplace images can humanize brands and near-monochrome backgrounds can soothe. Indeed, there are few better ways to establish brand identity through website design than proper image use.
Still, as you experiment and cater to your audiences, remember to account for functionality. If your images detract from your copy or CTAs, you may best look for other ways to communicate your message. So, as you explore what aligns with your audiences' tastes, remember to examine their behavior – and adjust to both.
Now, "style" may be among the vaguest and overused terms. It's exceptionally subjective most of the time, so it hardly seems actionable. And yet, style is among the qualities that determine a business website’s success. So here, we may pin the term down as "the combination of colors, fonts, and images into a user's experience" and go from there.
Like its parts, and being as subjective as it is, your website’s style can best be gauged by your audiences. So instead of attempting to measure it yourself, you can have your audiences and existing customers do so for you. Craft mockups of your website and share them, noting your audiences' overall perceptions. They may say it feels "clean and professional," or "edgy and cheerful," or anything else along these stylistic lines. Contrast this feedback with your intended brand identity, and adjust your choices accordingly.
Finally, as you seek to establish brand identity through website design, you cannot neglect its voice. Your brand voice is made up of your style, tone, and even choices of words and jargon, serving as the final brand identity communicator.
Granted, your copy’s tone is not among traditional design elements one might consider, but it does synergize or clash with all of the above. It also serves as a form of cohesion across your online presence, solidifying your brand identity. For a rather infamous example, consider the identity Wendy’s Twitter voice communicates:
This kind of voice aligns with the one on their website, from snappy headings to descriptions: a bold font and vibrant red over readable white complete a solid brand identity like few others.
Of course, Wendy's brand identity resonates with their audiences and will not work for most businesses. Still, this should serve as an excellent example of how a brand's voice can complement and elevate all of the above into a cohesive, compelling whole. To do the same for your brand, carefully examine your audience insights, determine which voice best resonates with them, and use it consistently to fuel your branding efforts.
The bottom line
In closing, seeking to establish brand identity through website design is a worthy pursuit in an age of fierce competition. How your audiences perceive and remember your brand can make a tremendous difference in the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, from social media to content marketing and more. Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to branding, so you must always consult your audience's insights. With them in hand, you can make data-driven decisions regarding your website's colors, fonts, images, style, and voice, always in line with the identity you wish to project.