The Relationship Between Branding and User Experience
A brand combines the visual identity of your business as well as its perceived identity. Branding gives your customers an idea about what to expect from your product or service. Every time a customer interacts with your brand in-store, or online, the customer's perception of the brand can be strengthened. On the other hand, if a customer has a negative interaction with your brand, that can be detrimental to how your brand is perceived. The customer should have a consistent and positive experience with your brand in all instances. This includes interaction with your brand's digital elements -- such as your website or on mobile devices.
In very simple terms, user experience focuses on meeting the user’s needs. Today, many companies identify user needs and adapt their business accordingly. A great example of this is Netflix, who adapt their service at a rapid rate, all so the user can have an entirely seamless experience on their platform. Right from the time a user on-boards the platform, to the personalization of content based on a user’s behavior and needs, Netflix’s use of user experience and design is disrupting the entertainment industry.
Although branding and user experience each have their areas of focus, there is also a lot of overlap between them. You may have identified the best font to use for your logo and brand, but is it legible across all devices? What should you give more priority -- branding or user experience? From a branding perspective, it is important to maintain a consistent and evolving relationship with customers. This is done by having a good marketing strategy in place. From a UX design perspective, designers have to think about how their work translates to communicating the brand’s identity in a consistent manner across all touch points. From a user’s perspective, their experience when interacting with a brand and their perception of the brand are inseparable.
Let us look at some ways in which branding and user experience can be connected.
The first and foremost step is to establish your brand’s identity and then communicate this across your business, including to your UX designers. Based on an understanding of your audience and business proposition, establish your brand identity. While logos and visuals are extremely important for your brand, a brand identity is more than that. A brand identity is made up of a company’s personality, values, and vision. Some of the things to consider when you build your brand identity include defining your brand’s personality, your mission statement, tone of voice and the core components of your branding design.
Once you have a good understanding of your brand’s identity, you will also be able to define some attributes associated with your brand. For example, Nike identifies as an empowering and innovative brand. This can then be used to define the guidelines for UX design. Designers can then also use this as a reference when prioritizing which micro-interactions they should improve so the user has a seamless experience on site.
It is important that you balance the branding aspects of user experience with the functionality. If for example, the branding elements used to create the visual identity of your brand is overpowering (unique fonts, unusual colors, etc.) and these aren't compatible with how a user interacts with your brand online (e.g. they see a default font such as Calibri), then that's not good for the overall brand experience. Good design will mean that all the visual elements interact seamlessly with each other. This will avoid a user being confused and having a fragmented user experience.
Getting the basic visual elements of your branding right (logo, typography, etc.) is an essential step in establishing your business. It is also important that this is done smartly so that all elements lead to an engaged and happy user.
Balancing and strengthening the branding and user experience of your business is an ongoing journey. The key is to test and learn. As your customer base grows, more opportunities will arise where you can understand how users interact with your business. You will also be able to develop a deeper understanding of what design elements are more familiar and comforting to a user versus what impedes them in taking desired actions such as making a purchase on your website.
Testing and trying new things with both your branding and user experience design, understanding patterns in design and customer behavior, will help you arrive at the optimum balance between branding and user experience.