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This is the first in a series of 3 articles dedicated to providing you with helpful tips and advice on maximising your web presence and digital strategy and focuses on the VISUAL aspects.
A strong, consistently engaging brand has a tangible advantage over less considered competition - recognition. With recognition comes familiarity, with familiarity comes trust and confidence, and in turn, customers can convey loyalty to a brand.But building this kind of trust takes time - your audience need to be exposed to your brand many times before they display loyalty. And a consistent brand message, established over time, enables your customers to immediately distinguish your brand from that of a competitor. From this, brand equity (the commercial value that derives from consumer perception of a brand, rather than from the product or service itself) is established.
The first and foremost way to maintain brand consistency is to keep your visual assets and application (logo, image styles, colours and fonts) consistent across all channels and marketing platforms. This is becoming harder to maintain with the increase of established marketing platforms (smartphones, apps, mobile websites, social networks, e-shots, etc.) over recent years - resources, either budgetary or human, are stretched.
Often, when customers decide to make a purchase, they are more likely to choose a brand they remember and are more familiar with. If you market your brand in a consistently engaging way across your website (and other marketing channels), you stand a greater chance that the brand they will remember is yours. Clearly identifiable images and clarity of message in all your communications ensures that there is no confusion about who your company is and what it is you do.
Inspired image choice is crucial to the visual appeal of your website. Sites that utilise original imagery (either created in Photoshop or through a photoshoot) engage on a more meaningful level.
By not using the best imagery available (or no imagery at all!) you are only appealing to the logical left side of the brain, but trust and confidence are things that require intuition and emotions, which are stored in the right side, to be truly effective. Your imagery should be unique and convey the emotional messages and triggers you want strongly associated with your brand. Using the cheapest, generic stock images really is a false economy in this respect.
- First impressions count
On your homepage, selecting the right image in the right position is vital. This might be the only time a user will interact with your brand before making a decision to choose your business over that of a competitor.
Those vital first few seconds of interaction should aim to provide a lasting, positive association. It doesn?t matter if you have the greatest product in the world, if you present it poorly people will create a negative association with your brand.
- Dare to be different
Be creative. Don?t rely on generic stock library images to promote your offering, utilise images that extend a metaphor from your content - let your images support your message, but not necessarily tell the message itself.
It is important to put as much thought into image creation as the content and tone of voice. It is not worth spending time and money on a new website or a refresh, only to use images that have a similar, generic feel to those used by your competitors. Great imagery gives a contrast to your offering against that of your competitor, creating a difference that goes a long way to boosting your brand equity and ultimately brand loyalty.
- The opportunities provided by photo galleries
Facebook (love it or hate it) and other social media have made flicking through image galleries online both a familiar and also an extremely popular habit.
Look for opportunities (like events, group meetings, etc.) and ask a talented team member to bring their camera or even hire a professional. It does not need to cost the earth and the pictures can be used in more places than just a couple of news pieces.
- Loading speed
Once you have sourced images they need to be optimised for the web - a balance is struck between saving images at the highest quality versus lowest file size to ensure quick load times.
Even though broadband and mobile internet speeds are increasing, it is still important that images always load quickly on all devices. Draining 50 MB of your users? mobile data each time they load your website is a big ?no? and not many customers are likely to wait around for images to load if they take much longer than a few seconds?
- Images are excellent for SEO value
Simply by associating some text with an image, you can increase the likelihood that search engines will place your page near the top of their results.
Optimising your images need not be a time consuming project - copying and pasting the title of a blog post or including a short phrase with a keyword is likely to get Google?s attention for all the right reasons.
- And yes, a picture can be worth a thousand words...
Customers aren?t going to remember everything they read on your website. If content is not relevant, they will gloss over the copy and look for something that is. Even if copy is completely relevant they will probably not remember every little bit.
A small picture can combat that problem by providing a tangible reminder about the content - there has to be something on a page that catches a customer?s attention and stays with them for an extended period.
- Great imagery and engaging content
The images you choose to populate your site with, will set the tone and personality of your brand, but if the content isn?t up to scratch your audience won?t be engaged. Great imagery won?t make up for bad content and bad imagery will have a negative impact on engaging content.
The magic formula is of course a combination of both!
Does it look good on all devices?
A responsive website is built to scale and functions optimally on any given device. Content, imagery and navigation are scaled appropriately for the users screen size.
Make sure that all your images are thoroughly tested on the various platforms and devices, ensuring they do not lose their resolution or impact as they change in scale and position.
In issue 2 (out on 14.10.14) we will look at content and how regularly reviewing your HTML content, copy social media and blogs can help you to maximise your web presence.
Remember, we can assist with every aspect of your digital strategy - from responsive web development projects, to mobile optimised solutions and e-marketing campaigns. For more information please contact us on 01256 370910 or email us.