Recently I asked some business owners to share the challenges they faced when designing or redesigning their website. There were a lot of people who mentioned user-friendliness, writing compelling copy and accessing support, but then there was this —
“For me it’s branding. I don't just want a website that says what I do. I want it to reflect who I am.”
She was ashamed of her website and wasn’t confident in directing customers there because it didn't feel authentic to her business. She knew that, in a crowded market, a website with personality was going to forge a connection with her ideal customers and be the most memorable, but she didn’t know how to build that personality or ‘humanness’ into her website.
So how do you create a website with personality? Before I answer that, I feel like it’s important to understand why so many people wind up with a boring, personality-less website, because I guarantee it’s not what they set out to build.
I’m long out of the dating game, but I’ve seen friends go through some interesting potential partners and there’s one thing that’s an immediate deal-breaker, and it’s not always their looks. Nope, it’s a lack of personality. My mum likes to say that these people have ‘the personality of a dead fish.’ They’re the kind of people who have you searching for the exits or nearby friends at a party because they are dead boring.
Our personalities indicate not only what we share, but how much we share of ourselves, and in when it comes to brands, I frequently see three big reasons that personality is stifled.
Your brand personality indicates how your brand thinks, sounds and behaves. It represents your business vibe and dynamic, and is important in determining how your customers feel when they engage with your brand.
So, to get clarity around our brand personality, we first need to understand who we are as a brand (what do we stand for, how do we approach our work differently?) and who our ideal customers are (who are the people we want to serve, what value do they expect from us, and how do we want them to feel when they work with us?).
This is an exercise in elimination, as much as it is about clarity. You want to know who you’re not and who you don’t want to serve as well.
Once you know who you are and who you’re speaking to, it’s much easier to start weaving these attributes into your brand personality.
If you’re designing a new website, it’s likely that you’ll start by looking for inspiration. You might create a board on Pinterest, google ‘best website designs’ or even sneak a look at the competition for ideas.
Here’s the problem with this. When you look at what others are doing it’s so easy to get paralysed and overwhelmed by ideas. It’s easy to get distracted from who you are and who you’re trying to serve (see #1). This often results in the creation of a website that is a melting pot of ideas rather than a website with a clear strategy and vision.
If you want to build a website that connects with your customers and has your stamp all over it, the worst place to begin is by looking outwards.
Your website design process should always start internally. I know that building a website can be quite an undertaking. If you’re at this juncture it’s a great time to pull yourself out of the day-to-day nitty gritty of your business, and evaluate how your new website is going to help you achieve your big picture goals. Does it need to generate leads, sell products, streamline your processes? Before you look for inspiration, get clear about what you need your website to achieve in your business.
Even if we have a razor sharp brand strategy, and know exactly how our brand should think, sound and behave, there’s one final barrier to overcome— what other people think.
Our biological desire to fit in stops us from being completely honest and transparent, even in the business world. To avoid alienating anyone or being too vulnerable, we limit what we share or how much we share of our personality. We never take a stand, or say anything that people might not like. This protects us from copping criticism, but it also means we never make strong emotional connections with our customers because we never give them the opportunity to get to know us.
We all need to embrace that not everybody is going to like our personalities. But, you’re not for everybody, you’re for your dream customers.
Even if you stripped away staff, offices and logos your brand could still exist, because it does so in the minds of customers. So, when you build a brand personality for your company, you’re essentially personifying something that only exists in our minds. This can be a bit mind boggling, so I find it easier to base brand personalities on real life people.
If you’re building your brand personality, ask yourself—
Think about their personality, physical attributes, how they act, what they say. Your ideal personality might be a TV character, a fusion of a few different people or it could be you. Your personality should feel authentic to you (and/or your team), otherwise it becomes difficult to apply and is harder for people to get behind.
Now that you have your personality muse, you can begin thinking like them to filter your personality throughout your website.
Is your style classic and chic, colourful and playful, modern, vintage? Build a visual identity— colours, styles, logo, typefaces, imagery graphical elements— that reflects your brand personality and use these elements across your whole website.
If you are using photography on your website, your personality can also be reflected in the background location, lighting, photo treatments, outfits and even the people in the photos. Imagery can be so powerful in communicating who you are, so spend time finding or capturing the right ones to drive home your message.
Think about how you can replicate these emotions in your digital home. Does your website bring the fun with a button to ‘self destruct’ like Hamish and Andy’s does? Or does it make customers feel special by remembering their name as they browse? How can you share your brand personality through your website experience?
Back in high school English Lit, I thought that the best way to get high marks was to sound intelligent by linking everything back to phallic symbols and using words like ‘intertexuality’. Side note: Is that even a word? My point being, it’s best to shoot for clarity, because there are no brownie points for sounding like a Dickens novel. No one is going to admire your intellect, they will just be left puzzled.
Using language that your customers would actually use is critical.
Clarity is important, however, your copy shouldn’t be devoid of any ‘humanness’. Look for opportunities to inject personality and tell your story in a way that doesn’t detract from the meaning of your words or the functionality of your website. For example, menu navigations are a terrible place to be creative with your words, but an about page is a great place to share where you’ve come from.
If you want your website to reflect who you are, not just what you do, it needs to stem from your core brand positioning— who you serve, what you do, why and how you do it. Once you’ve nailed the fundamentals, you can build out the finer details of how you look, feel and act to really show off your personality throughout your website design, experience and copy.
What are some of the ways you plan on injecting personality into your website design? Let me know in the comments! If you think this article was interesting or could be useful to a friend, use the share buttons below to share the love.
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