Building Your Brand with Consistent Design
A guest article by the POWr team. POWr is a free suite of fully customizable plugins that anyone can use. Create beautiful forms, galleries, social streams, and more on any Shopify store or website, without writing a single line of code.
The human experience is dominated by vision.
Our sense of sight employs as much as 30% of our brain’s processing power, compared to just 8% for touch, and 3% for sound.
But despite the literal super computer plugged into the back of our eyeballs, the vast majority of visual data is processed subconsciously. That is, we recognize only a fraction of what we “see”.
For some, this is just random trivia. But for graphic designers and online store owners, it has real world consequences. When customers shop your site, trust matters. Minor inconsistencies that fly under their conscious radar can still erode trust and set off unconscious alarm bells, sending potential sales elsewhere.
WHAT IS CONSISTENT DESIGN?
At the root, consistent design means creating a sense of familiarity. Shoppers are most confident and willing to spend when a site feels familiar and reliable. Creating this feeling should drive your design process.
To start, stick to a small number of fonts -two or three is plenty- that work well together. Don’t look for similar fonts; your pages will end up stale and blocky. Instead, find combinations that complement one another. You’ll see this in most eCommerce templates already. But there are other resources, like ifontyou, which showcase appealing font combinations for you to borrow. With more and more applications, like POWr, leveraging the 700+ Google fonts, there’s plenty of room to choose.
Treat color schemes the same way. There’s been endless research on color theory and consumer emotions -blue corresponds to serenity and logic; yellow suggests emotional strength; orange triggers the appetite; and green equates to peace and calm - and Kissmetrics does a great job breaking down the psychology of color. But as a baseline, treat colors like fonts; find two or three complementary colors that will appeal to your target demographic. Test combinations with Adobe’s free color mapping tool. And compare your decisions to other successful retailers in your space.
LOGOS THAT WORK ANYWHERE
Logos are visual shortcuts. The average adult recognizes hundreds, if not thousands, of logos, often for brands and products they’ve never even used. A recognizable logo is both simple and versatile. It should work in broad range of sizes, media, and print qualities, both on your own site and elsewhere.
Aim for a memorable, easily scaled, visually distinct design. Start in black and white, and introduce colors later, and sparingly. Steer away from text heavy designs. And evaluate your work from across the room to see what it will look like to a casual shopper.
The human brain processes images much more quickly than text. And it has has an easier time recalling images as well. When selling online, images are your digital stand-in for a physical experience.
That said, you’re probably already using high quality product photos. But how can you make them match the rest of your site? In addition to the obvious -consistent lighting, dimensions and resolution- consider using subtle filters. Lightweight filtering can improve visual consistency and soften the lines between product photos and other elements of your site.
Adobe Photoshop is still king of image editing. But other services like Pixlr and VSCO offer cheaper alternatives with similar functionality. Once you settle on a particular filter, you can use it again and again to create a consistent look across different products.
BEYOND YOUR OWN SITE
Between text, colors, logo design and photos, you’ve got all the ingredients for an internally consistent store. Now it’s time to think about the larger context. Customers arrive at your store with a lifetime of online experience. Capitalize on this with pages that are simple and familiar, and consistent with other sites they’ve used and trusted.
To be clear, this is not a call to go out and clone Facebook. But think about where successful brands place their call-to-action buttons, how images relate to text, and how users expect to navigate a page. Basic intuition should be enough to guide shoppers through your store from browse to checkout. Leverage what they already know for fast, easy learning. Novelty is okay, but remember that your site is part of a larger internet experience. In the end, what’s memorable is often what was most familiar to begin with.
Consistent design is more than a set of style guides. It’s an integrated approach to building customer recognition and confidence, from homepage to product to packaging. Think of iconic brands and what they bring to mind: Apple’s smooth rounded curves; Coca Cola’s sharp white-on-red. A successful brand takes on a personality of its own, and leverages this through each customer interaction. In designing your own brand, define what matters to your customers, and stay true to it. Insecurity is the enemy. Create a space where customers know the ropes instinctively, whether they’ve shopped with you for years, or landed on your homepage just now.