When it comes to website design we can get so preoccupied with website strategy, usability, IA, wire frames, copy and design that we sometimes forget to challenge some of the more functional, hygiene aspects of website development. However, with a little bit of effort one can turn the mundane into innovative brand experiences.
Everyone hates waiting for a website to load and yet many websites still default to a standard pre-loader. Considering slow site speed is one of the biggest factors affecting bounce rates it’s probably money well spent investing in an engaging pre-loader to keep them entertained while they wait.
If you need some inspiration, there’s a fantastic site called Pretty Loaded which is dedicated to the wild and wonderful art of pre-loaders. I should warn you now it’s strangely hypnotic and addictive!
404 Not Found
When you think about it, the standard ‘404 Not Found’ message is such an anachronism – it’s not only out of sync with the rest of your carefully crafted, consumer friendly website but it also looks like it’s been written by some random technogeek. I came across this great list by Mashable recently which gives loads of examples of how some brands have tried to add their own personal twist to the standard 404 message. This one below happens to be one of my favourites:
Just because someone types in the incorrect email address doesn’t mean you have to chastise them for inputting incorrect data! Why not inject your brand personality into the copy to turn their mistake into a slightly more positive experience?
Everyone hates filling in forms so it really makes sense to make it as inviting and effortless as possible. When Unilever asked TMW to drive handraiser traffic to their Lynx Lounge login area we decided to ‘sex up’ the registration form by including a rather attractive virtual assistant. When you enter your details you’ll find the virtual assistant delivers a personalised response which was a nice touch I thought.
Even if you’re not familiar with the phrase Captcha you would have come across it by now. It’s an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart” ie it invites the user to submit a code to determine whether they are human or a bot. But who would think to turn a Captcha into an ad? Solve Media, for one. The company have worked with the likes of Toyota, Microsoft and Dr. Pepper to create an ad message out of the text. For Dr Pepper, for instance, instead of typing in the usual gobbledegook, users were prompted to type in “There’s nothing like a Pepper”.
So you want to help people find stuff quickly on your site? Well, you can do the easy thing and plonk a standard search box in the top right hand corner of the website. Or you can tinker with it a bit to add a bit of charm which might present the brand in a more favourable light.
I’m seeing more and more fancy tag clouds these days – it’s almost becoming an art form in itself. There are some rather cool 3D animated tag clouds like the example below or if you understand jQuery (which i don’t!) there’s a plug in you can use here. Or why not follow the example of Nowness and give your audience a selection of interactive ways to navigate tagged content?
The navbar has obviously been around for years and is a vital way of signposting content on the site. But for that very reason it’s easy to opt for the status quo and use a standard format. However by changing the aesthetics or functionality of the navbar can help to convey the brand personality as well as enhance general usability of the site.
Now I’m not suggesting you ditch your existing domain name starting from tomorrow but there are times when it pays to come up with something more inventive. I love the way Converse have done it where every page is literally hosted on a different domain. My particular favourite is this one http://www.icantbelievethisdomainwasntalreadytaken.com/
It’s all too easy to overlook these hygiene factors and either take them for granted or neglect them due to other priorities, especially when we’re all working at 100 miles an hour or to tight budgets. But as the above examples hopefully demonstrate, it’s possible to deliver a very positive brand experience from even the most mundane aspects of website design. I’m sure there are other examples I’ve missed so feel free to add them to the mix below.