Brand identity designer David Airey once said,”Your website opens doors to contacts you’d never imagine you’d meet. Now more than ever, millions of people have access to your online presence, and whether you like it or not, they’ll immediately judge you upon your site design.”
To a designer, this may seem like it states the obvvious, but too often a website gives a different impression than intended. It’s impossible to please everyone, but understanding the audience – the one you want to reach – and leveraging their point of view with your own aesthetic is the best recipe for success.
The majority of internet users make a complete judgement of a website within 11 seconds. Depending on their needs and the website’s purpose, the judgement will be based on some things more heavily than others, but people are generally impressed by the following:
- Performance – This website loads fast and works in my browser.
- Credibility – This website is professionally designed with well-formatted content, so I feel comfortable taking it’s advice or buying a product.
- Relevancy – This website’s style and language is not contractory to my own.
- Usability – I can find what I need quickly and easily.
- Frequency – This site is actively maintained and up-to-date.
In the end, personality is about user experience. People want something new, different, fun or pleasurable. By determining what personality your website exudes, you are better equipped to put the best face forward to your visitors to build better brand trust, identity and success.
While personality can encompass a complex set of variables, broken down into specifics of design, your site can be tested against a few factors to determine how your business or brand communicates with the world.
Color increases brand recognition by 80% and is the first thing about your website that will affect your viewer’s perception. There are many interpretations of color depending on where and how it is used. Color typically invokes an emotional reaction before cultural stereotypes are applied, although in web design the reactions aren’t as diverse as they are in general. Take a look at the three major color groups to determine how your website makes your visitors feel:
Warm Colors ( Red, Pink, Orange, Yellow)
Warm colors invoke excitement and can give the impression of power, ambition, playfulness, success, cheerfulness and creativity. If not properly balanced, they can also be over-stimulating and come off as obnoxious.
Cool Colors (Blue, Green, Purple)
Blue is the most-used color in design because of its positive global appeal. Cool colors, in most cultures, have a calming effect, but when used alone or in combination with white can appear boring, conservative and impersonal.
Neutral (Brown, Beige, Black, White)
Neutrals have the most diverse affect on viewers, depending entirely on how they are combined with other colors or none. For example, brown is a very earthy, friendly color, whereas beiges and whites are minimalistic, elegant, modern or holistic, and can be too stark or boring if not balanced with strong style. Black, often associated with death and drama, can just as easily impart class, sophistication and mystery.
Colors don’t stand alone in design, and you can’t accomodate everyone’s taste or sensitivities. How they are used is what really delivers the core of your website’s personality. If your goal is to grow a brand or sell a product or service, your colors must appeal to your audience, so consider their age, location, gender and current trends to determine what sends the right message to them.
How you dress your website says everything about your attitude and the type of person you want to attract. Like the three women above, three websites can have the same colors, layout and functionality, but have drastically different appeal.
- If your website was a person, how would they be dressed?
- What kind of person dresses this way and what kind of people does she hang out with?
- How old is she?
- What does she do for a living?
Consider how these women might translate in terms of website style:
Content & Voice
In a study by the Software Usability Research Lab at Wichita State University in Kansas, a handful of common fonts were compared against different personality traits. The results confirmed that the font style and type are prominent factors in how viewers percieve content and designs where they are used.
While using perfect white-space and heirarchy are important, your website’s typographic perfection says more about your design skill and proficiency than it reflects your brand or personality. The font you choose for your logo and presentation conveys the voice of your website as much as the content itself, and factors into your website’s style.
Your website could be the perfect color, putting off a great vibe and rocking excellent content and copy, but take an embarassing tumble if you have broken images, misfiring links or unresponsive menus. An abundance of animations, special effects and cutting-edge user-interface tricks may also overwhelm and under-inspire. User experience concerns aside, the functionality you choose adds another layer to your website personality, down to the transition effects you choose for your image slider. Here is a look at how personality might match up with various features of your website:
Elegant: Fading transitions, medium-speed drop-down menus, traditional experience
Fun: Social network toolbars, animation, bouncy effects, multi-color hovers
Modern: Abstract transitions, horizontal menus, styled tooltips, unconventional experience
Something can be beautiful on the outside, and to most visitors that is all that’s needed, but how your website is coded can matter to designers, potential employers and discerning customers. Your code is the foundation upon which all these other elements depend. It’s not only what you use to create your website, but how well your code is structured. Does it look professional or is it a complete mess?
Websites created in ASP or Cold Fusion might be regarded as outdated, where a website that uses Flash is engaging and entertaining, but inconsiderate of mobile users. Using new technologies such as HTML5 and CSS3 can set you ahead of competition and make you look cutting edge or forward-thinking.
If you use templates or a rigid platform for creating your website and have always focused on choosing a design you like, now might be the time to consider hiring a designer or using a visual editor to get more control over your brand and your website’s personality.
Here is a quick list of questions for testing your site’s design personality:
- What emotional response does my color palette create?
- What kind of person does my design’s style reflect?
- What attitude do my fonts and language convey?
- How thoughtful, useful and personal is my site’s functionality?
- How well is my site put together and how much control do I have over changes?
On March 8th, Wix will release the very first HTML5 website builder, powered by a visual drag and drop editor that is perfect for designers or individuals who want the most control over their website’s design and personality. Use their extensive library of layouts, fonts, graphics, widgets and modern non-Flash elements such as sliders, animations and effects or upload your own. The builder is designed so that anyone can create a completely custom website and connect it to popular services without knowing a lick of code. Learn more here.