Websites and branding: Three principles to keep in mind

First impressions do matter, especially for small businesses (and every organization), and often the first opportunity to make a first impression is your organization’s website. Question: how is your website branding you?

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Malcolm Gladwell describes the idea of “thin slicing” in his book, Blink. His point is that we have the ability to gauge what is important from a limited experience. Gladwell has received criticism for his thesis, but his ideas are valid. You do form an immediate impression when you first encounter others – and they do the same to you. That’s why it is important that your website…fit.

I’m currently working with a client in a specialized field, but the principles below apply to any industry. The important thing to remember is that you get the principles right because you could lose business before a prospect gets to know you. You don’t want a site that is branding you in a counter-productive way.

Here are three principles to consider when establishing (or re-evaluating) your web presence.

1. How does it look?

We live in a visual world and your layout, graphics, colors, images and copy blocks all need to work in unison to create a design that reflects you and your industry. For example, if you are a lawyer, people don’t expect a site that looks like ESPN Game Day. However, you also want to differentiate yourself from everyone else in your industry. There is a balance between what people expect to see from people in your industry and uniquely branding your organization (or yourself). Best strategy is to find a designer who can help strike that balance. The expense will quickly pay for itself.

2. How does it navigate?

It doesn’t matter how great it looks if nobody can find anything on it. Keeping navigation simple and functional should always be a goal. First, it decreases the number of things that can go wrong with your site as well as encourages prospects to stay engaged in your content longer. Depending on your industry, the objective is to communicate the most significant content in as few layers as possible. Ask to see some of the sites a coder has put together when shopping for help with your WordPress (or other platform) set up. You are looking for someone who philosophically keeps it simple.

3. How does it read?

It looks great and navigates easily, now keep prospects engaged in the content. So, how does it read? Concise copy that uses active verbs keep readers moving through the content, and the longer they are engaged the more they begin to feel confident in your ability to provide what your organization offers. Review your site. Is it full of corporate speak that people unfamiliar with your organization simply don’t understand? If you’ve gone to all the trouble to create a site that looks great and navigates well, don’t cheapen the content with poor copy. Basically if you can’t write, don’t; find somebody who can (I address this in Writing words that matter: 5 tips to improve your communications).

First impressions brand you  in the eyes of prospects and that branding will either be positive or negative. Having a great website for your organization isn’t that difficult to achieve, but these three principles are critical to keep in mind to enhance your opportunity to land and retain customers.


I write...a lot, and use social and traditional media strategies to help people and organizations communicate better.

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