Branding, Concept, Communication and Focus Testing

Rick Vidallon

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I’ve seen it all. The good, the bad and the ugly of Web site design. And the more I analyze what’s on the Web, the sadder I get, because the Web has become open game for Web site designers with bad taste and no plan.

On the other hand, there are many talented Web designers to choose from. But talent will only take one so far. A designer has to understand and master the essence of design: Design with purpose, Create with purpose, and Implement with purpose.

As with the world of print, TV, and radio, a designer must design with four specific goals in mind:

Branding Good branding makes the cash register ring. Take Fox News as a case in point. Unlike CNN or MSNBC, Fox strives to be a bit more edgy and bold - and they lead the pack. Their logo animation, bumper graphics, and over-the-shoulder graphics are bright primary colors. Even their music is a bit edgier with guitar riffs versus the subdued music tones of the other stations.

Concept A great concept on a shoe-string budget will blow away a weak concept on a multi-million dollar budget any day. For example, how many truck or SUV commercials have you seen with guys careening through mud or snow-covered mountain passes as the words scream out “Chevy Tough” or “Ford, Built to Last. ” I can’t believe executives at these car companies spend millions each year on poorly conceived advertising campaigns.

Now, see if you remember this one. A mother is about to drop her child off at school, and asks if he’d rather get dropped off at the curb instead of directly in-front of the school. The child says, “nah, that’s okay mom. ” He steps down from the Hummer and strolls up to the school entrance while an older student, with his eyes glued to the Hummer, says “cool. ” This is a “concept;” a very well executed concept. It strongly conveys an attitude. Even Hummer’s theme music has attitude. The branding and concept raises the Hummer’s image above the rest.

Your Web site or your client’s Web site should convey this type of branding and concept. Think outside the box. Look at other well executed designs for inspiration. Don’t look at the industry, look at the design. Just because you’re building a Web site for a golf course doesn’t mean you should only Google golf courses in your research. Look beyond. Here are some great Web site resources for creative inspiration.
CA- Communication Arts, the online counterpart of Communication Arts magazine.
Design Interact, The premier source of information and inspiration for the field of interactive media.
Cool Home Pages, Great resource for designer's block.

Communication During my career in broadcast graphics we would churn out graphics for the evening news. Many of them were “over-the-shoulder” graphics which appeared behind the anchor as they delivered the story. The main philosophy I constantly ingrained into my design team was:“If it doesn’t read – it doesn’t work. ” In other words, if the volume of the TV is turned off, the viewer should know what the story is about without the presence of text or title.

Your Web site should project that same philosophy. Ask yourself, does it immediately communicate my message? In television your message is “one click” away from the next channel. On the World Wide Web, you’re one mouse click away from a potential customer moving on.

If you own an e-commerce site, do you expend Web real estate endlessly talking about yourself, or do you get right down to business by featuring your products? If you own an industry or business site, do you have fancy animation with glitzy music, or does your site convey a serious professional business image?

Make sure your Web designer is communicating well with the public. Solid thinking translated into clear messages works every time.

Focus Test Want good feedback? Want good direction? Try a grassroots focus test.

Late one evening after some finger breaking work on some all important Flash animation, the cleaning crew entered my office. I asked, “What do you guys think?” They replied, “What is it?”

I was taken back. Ouch!!! I had fallen into the old trap of not being able to see the forest for the trees. This is an all too common problem among creative types. Design work tends to be a labor of love, and you can get too close to your project without seeing the big picture.

Get feedback, it’s the breakfast of champions. Ask your team, neighbor, spouse, significant other - ask anyone but yourself. And once you step out on the ledge, make sure you’re ready for negative feedback. Learn to embrace it and use it to develop into a better professional. Growing some thick skin will also be helpful.

To see what I mean, visit

About the Author - Visionefx President Ricardo Vidallon has been in the creative business of advertising, cable broadcast, animation and the World Wide Web for more than two decades. His work has been featured on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Inc. , Fox News and NBC Entertainment. His career track in Web consultancy includes the global companies of Reynolds and Reynolds, CMGI Solutions, and Automark, Inc.


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