Thursday, July 31, 2008

Why usability versus branding is such a farce

Branding compatible with usability ...

"It’s a familiar scenario. A meeting with the Web and marketing teams and there’s a raging debate going on about brand guidelines. A proposed improvement to the design contravenes the guidelines.

One group thinks that branding is more important than usability. The other group thinks the opposite. In fact, they are both wrong because usability is branding. It shapes people’s opinions of your product or organisation. The brand is not a colour palette, it is not a typeface and it is not a selection of images. The brand is the way someone feels about your product or organisation.

Brand guidelines are very useful for projecting a consistent concept and tone. However, brand guidelines are not the brand, they just help to give it some consistency.

The experience your customers have doing business with you has a greater impact on your brand than the subtleties of your guidelines.

On the Web, brand guidelines can easily be the reason for bad user experiences. A lot of the time they are the main cause of obstacles that stop users even making it to your checkout.

Some examples include:

• Your palette might limit you to a hyperlink colour that nobody notices.
• The use of a heavy serif font might make your content impossible to read.
• Attempts to comply with the ‘tone of voice’ might impede customers’ quest for facts.
• Overly prescriptive rules for presenting the logo might make large demands on screen real estate.

It is improper to dismiss usability issues because of the constraints of branding guidelines. If the issue is significant, you should disobey the guidelines in as consistent a manner as possible.

If branding guidelines create usability issues on your website then the guidelines are not supporting your brand.

Considering the Web when initially creating the guidelines is the best way of preventing this usability versus brand guidelines debate. The agency brief should include a list of detailed requirements to support your website.

So really, there is no conflict between branding and usability. It is an illusion that stems from a basic misunderstanding of what a brand really is."    (Continued via Precision Marketing, David Hamill)    [Usability Resources]

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