When I listen to discussions about branding at the University, they often tend to focus on visual concepts: graphic design, graphic standards, page templates, etc. And I do not disagree that these items are parts of a successful branding effort.
Today I received a marketing email about the above book, and reading about it reminded me that the primary focus of branding should not be on graphics but rather on emotions. An excerpt from the book review notes:
Web sites must be able to connect with people on a number of different emotional levels – – and to do so very quickly. I absolutely believe that if a Web site can establish a set of emotional states that are truly reflective of the particular brand, it can subsequently influence those emotions to reach a desired outcome.
Again, graphics obviously play a role in this emotional negotiation. But the many variables of the web experience— accessibility, text, image (still and moving), video, audio, input/output— are all very important considerations that can easily be pushed aside when too great of an importance is placed on what color is this pixel, and is it in the right location?
My focus on web design has increasingly been on the emotional aspects of the experience. The trick is to expand the vision and understanding of the project owner, to these more abstract and nebulous project parameters. The reason that graphics become a big point of debate, though, are two: 1) they are visible and thus right there in front of you, and 2) they can quickly be changed by the designer. Many of the other web parameters require much more resource investment by the project owner, and thus they are more complex to discuss, design well, and implement.
The low-hanging fruit of graphic consistency and excellence should never be considered the ultimate goal of good web design, especially when the graphic appearance of a web site is quite variable from platform to platform, and browser to browser. Graphic design is certainly a part of web branding, but it is only one aspect of the total design of the emotional web experience.
So after hearing about it, I look forward to getting and reading this book.