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Client Highlight

Build Your Brand Like a House

Have you heard the story about the man who built his house from scratch with no plan, blueprint, or design? Of course you haven’t, because this would be a ridiculous approach to constructing a building and would likely be an enormous waste of time and money.

Before you build a house, you need to go through a planning process. You assess your needs, wants, and functional requirements, and you hire an architect to create a blueprint so the home is completely mapped out before ground is broken. Sometimes the planning phase takes just as long, if not longer, than the construction phase.

Building your business brand is similar to building a new house. It’s incorrect to assume you can have an idea for a product or service and jump straight into implementation. While it may be possible in rare circumstances, it seldom leads to a sustainable, established brand that can easily scale and grow.

Your business brand is the story your company tells. It is the holistic experience your audience has when interacting with your company. These interactions range from an individual’s experience on a phone call with customer service to a fleeting glimpse of your logo on a billboard to the content on your business social media accounts.

Building a brand from the ground up takes intentionality, strategy, and a clear vision for the future, as well as the steps needed to make that vision a reality. Simply put, you need a brand blueprint. Each aspect of your business—from colors and fonts to the wording of your emails to your website design—needs to align with your core mission, personal values, and financial goals or you will fail to build a solid, cohesive brand.

Your blueprint will need to include elements such as:

  • A clear mission statement, Unique Value Proposition, and a list of short- and long-term objectives
  • A breakdown of your target audience and their pain points as well as an analysis of competitors and general industry trends
  • Clear user pathways and funnels to generate awareness about your company, educate your audience, and guide them to the solutions you offer
  • A description of the emotions and values you want to appeal to in your audience as well as content and marketing strategies that support these value propositions and lead your audience to the desired call-to-action

By establishing a solid brand blueprint, you can more effectively increase leads, improve sales, create a company reputation, strengthen customer loyalty, and scale your business.

ATX Web Designs offers branding strategy and digital brand development services. For more information, drop us a line!

What Story Is Your Brand Telling?

Every brand tells a story.

Some stories are like an exciting and compelling novel that the reader can’t put down. Others are more like a waiting room magazine that is skimmed and tossed aside.

So what story does your brand tell?

Your brand is the total impression your company makes. It includes your company personality, values, aesthetic, reputation, marketing strategies and customer service.

Brands succeed by telling a compelling story that rallies their target audience to action. A successful story has the following elements:

A hero. Every good story has a protagonist. In branding, the hero is your audience or your prospect. Not your company. Companies that focus on themselves and their accolades in their marketing content won’t effectively grab their audience’s attention.

A premise. The premise of a narrative is the overall message or concept it offers. Your company’s premise is the foundation for your brand and illustrates why a prospect should engage with your content. Without a solid premise, potential leads or customers won’t get past the first few pages of your story.

A problem. When is the last time you watched a great movie where the hero did not face any obstacles? In branding, the problem is your audience’s pain points. Successful brands hone in on their audience’s specific pain points and present their product or service as a solution to these pain points.

A victory. What makes the victory in a story satisfying? When the audience can emotionally identify with it and picture themselves in the hero’s shoes. Successful brands use strategies like impactful images, video, testimonials, vivid descriptions and clear calls-to-actions to help audiences imagine how a particular product or service will meet their needs and values—thus completing the hero’s journey.

That’s a real page turner.

Have a story you want your brand to tell? Reach to our expert team to schedule your consultation by clicking here.

4 Dating Rules To Apply To Client Relations

Yes, you read that right. 

At ATX Web Designs we believe that every client deserves special treatment. In fact, we believe courting a new client is not unlike, well, courting. The same rules apply whether you are taking a prospective client out to coffee or taking a Hinge match out to dinner. 

CEO Daniel Griggs recently published an article on Medium about common dating rules you can apply to client relations. 

Here are his top four tips that will not only lead to better brand loyalty, but also to improved conversions and a bigger bottom line. 

  1. Prove your interest. Your date doesn’t want to guess whether you are interested or rely on hints or subtle social cues. Similarly, your clients should have a clear understanding of how valuable they are to you and what you’re willing to do for them. Don’t beat around the bush. As soon as a potential client shows interest, prove your commitment with an initial investment. For example, if someone subscribes to your newsletter, give them a free online resource of piece of valuable content right away. 
  2. Don’t do all the talking. Seriously. The more you listen, the better you will be able to understand your target audience and cater to their preferences. In particular, you want to listen for your audience’s pain points and then present your product or service as a solution to their problem. Customer feedback forms, consultations and social media engagement are great ways to listen better. 
  3. Don’t Ghost. No one likes to be left hanging. As soon as you exchange information with a potential client, start communicating. You can never follow up soon enough. When it comes to building and maintaining client relationships, consistency is key. Make sure you are regularly touching base with both your leads and current clients to keep them interested and invested. You want your brand to become a part of your audience’s everyday life so that you become their natural go-to product or service. 
  4. Let your friends set you up. Have a satisfied customer or a great review? Use it to your advantage. Consumers trust the opinions and recommendations of those in their peer group. Let your happy clients do some of your marketing work for you by incentivizing referrals or positive reviews. Try a referral program or online contest to gather leads from your current client base. 

At the end of the day, our clients just want the same thing than any of us want in a relationship: honesty, respect, appreciation and attention. By proving your interest, listening, communicating consistently and building out your network, you will attract new leads and earn the loyalty of current clients. They will be wanting to put a ring on it in no time. 

Design Smackdown: Building a Website that Sells in 25 Words or Less

I broke my toaster yesterday, and it’s the stupidest story you’ve ever heard. But I’m going to tell you anyway because at its core is a lesson we all need to learn about good design.

The toaster was my husband’s, which he’s had since before we were married four years ago. It’s beautiful, it’s sturdy. It toasts 4 slices at a time and allows you to choose from 5 different settings so that you can defrost your bagels while warming your bread and not ruin either one. The LED displays the time so you know exactly how much time is left. It’s a premium toaster.

Except for one fatal flaw: the tabs that you press down so you can actually toast the bread? They’re plastic. They’re just glued on to some skinny metal legs.
Which I know because yesterday when I went to make toast by pressing down on the lever–as you do– the damn tab came right off in my hands!

Without it, you can’t press the toast all the way down, and there’s too much strain for glue to be helpful. I know because I tried after the first one broke off six months ago.

I now have a perfectly wonderful toaster, and no way to use it.

Design For Form and Function

Whether you believe that form follows function or function follows form, we can all agree that function matters.

To design a beautiful, practical toaster that breaks when used to do the very thing it was created for is to design it badly.

To build a website that is beautiful and functional requires skilled design. And with websites, a skillfully designed website cannot be accomplished without excellent copywriting.

There are so many wonderful platforms today that can build beautiful websites for people. They’re well-designed, professional-looking and customizable. There are so many beautiful websites that look impressive and slick but you can’t find a damn bit of information you’re looking for. Or you can, but it isn’t clear and intuitive. You stumble over the writing.

Great web design doesn’t leave copy to the end. It integrates it into the design process from the beginning. The copy–the words, the phrasing, the language–you use on a web page are both the structure and the embellishments of your design.

Get it right and you get your goal.

Get it wrong and a whole lot of people leave your site frustrated and empty-handed, perhaps never to return.

Like form and function, copy and design go hand in hand.

What does a good copy-design relationship look like?

Copy and Design, Hand in Hand

Good designers know that website visitors don’t read every word on a web site. We scan pages, using the hierarchy of design to orient us. We view headlines (big and bold), subheadings (smaller, bold), keywords, visuals and layout to take us down a page and to glean information.

When a web page is difficult to scan, users tend to click away from the page, opting for an easier site. When information is hard to find because of poor design, we click away then too. There are billions of websites  on the internet right now and more created every second. If your website is difficult to read, to navigate, why not go find a better one?

Presenting information in a quickly digestible way is crucial to the success of your business.

Your job as the designer, then, is to make the page easy to scan.

As copywriter, write copy that blends in, that supports the design, that guides the user through the page–and do it all without ever being noticed.

There are four elements you must follow to have a well-designed, well-written (ie beautiful, functional, non-frustrating) website:

  1. Good balance of text and copy. Sites that are too word-heavy are difficult to read, and highly unattractive. Sites with too few words are often missing important information.
  2. An effective call to action (CTA) The call to action should be so natural you don’t even realize the call was made.
  3. Clear menu headings (including words and structure). Your visitor isn’t there to think about where to go, but to be led to his destination. Lead the way. Make navigating intuitive.
  4. Straightforward copy. Concise, economic, efficient. Words are for function, not decor.

We’re going to break down all of these elements using real examples in a segment we’re calling:

DESIGN SMACKDOWN: WHO WILL GET MY MONEY?

Two sites are going to faceoff in a competition of great design. The winner gets me as their customer.

ROUND 1: BLOGGING PLATFORMS

Squarespace vs. Wix

SQUARESPACE

1 squarespace 1 home

Wow. There are 25 words on the page, but it looks like there are no more than 7. I see immediately how beautiful and sleek Squarespace can make a website.

Balance. It says exactly what I need to know and not a thing more. “Make your own website” is a 4-word summary of the product (bonus points for efficiency) and their pitch (3 words!) changes periodically (“make it beautiful”, “make it loud” etc), reflecting the platform’s versatility.

CTA. I’m invited to start a free trial, and immediately assured that I won’t even need a credit card (a question that immediately popped up when I saw “free trial”). It doesn’t give details, just quietly removes the barriers. Perfect.

Navigation. At the top I have three clear options and I don’t have to think at all about what each one does. I scroll down and see “Trusted by” and don’t bother reading the rest because the layout makes it clear that this is a well-established, widely-used, trustworthy site for people of all industries.

1 squarespace 2

Copy. They highlight four benefits of using Squarespace (design, marketing, online shopping, all-in-one platform) and there’s not an extraneous word to be found. All the copy is focused on me and how Squarespace will achieve my goals. The visuals are effective at answering the “how” and the two options “Get Started” and “Learn More” (with Get Started being more prominent–I just want to click it!) are effectively designed to get me to yes.

WIX

2 wix 1 home

Balance. Just for comparison, I counted the number of words on this page: 32. It feels like there are a lot more words here than on Squarespace’s homepage, and they’re not all that valuable. Like, what does “stunning” mean? Squarespace showed exactly what it meant by “beautiful”, “loud”, “fresh” and the blinking cursor drove home the message of customizability.

“Wix unites beauty and advanced technology to create your stunning website. It’s easy and free.” None of that is bad exactly, but they already used “stunning” and, like, do we need advanced technology? The only thing that really matters to me is “It’s easy and free.” That’s what needs to be front and center!

CTA. Get Started. I like that. It gets right to the point and without scaring me off.

Navigation. I have to think about what I want, what part of the menu to click on. I see now why Squarespace decided to forego the header menu and to focus instead on four main benefits. In this case, visual is way more effective.

Copy. These descriptions look twice as long with too-small font that makes me not want to read. The pictures don’t support the text (Why the spreadsheet? Why the review? And what do they have to do with code?)

2 wix 2

It’s jargon-y. You have to explain wix code to me. It may be a small barrier, but as long as it’s there, I can trip.

When I scan Squarespace’s page, I can pick out keywords like “marketing” “online store” “grow your audience”. I can’t do that with Wix.

WINNER ROUND 1: SQUARESPACE!

ROUND 2: ONLINE SHOPPING

Target vs. Walmart
TARGET

3 Target 1 Home

I immediately notice: Easter. Pickup. Search. Save. Take note, those are four keywords that help me navigate without thinking. The colors are attractive, the visuals uncluttered, and the search bar at the top is prominent. I don’t have to think about how to get where I want to go. I just scroll down.

Balance. Initially I thought there were very few words, but now I see there are two menus at the top. (Take note: it’s excellent design when you can trick me into thinking the page is less crowded than it is.)

Very few words, and mostly action-oriented: “spend” “save” “get”. The pictures show me what I may want and the words tell me why it’s a good idea to buy.

CTA. Get the deal is perfect. I always want a deal! It supports the rest of the page, and I almost don’t notice that the deal means I have to spend first.

Navigation & Copy are where this site shines. I want to show two examples.

3 Target 2 news exclusives

You could say this in two words, “news and exclusives” but here’s what’s clever about their approach. Saying “news on exclusives” makes it clear that it’s newsworthy, and it elevates Target’s brand a smidge by showing it’s not the same old stuff here day after day. It also keeps readers engaged because who doesn’t like to be in on the scoop? Also, Target is a brand that does exclusives. I want to know what and when the next one is, and Target wants to remind me of that competitive edge.

3 Target 3 Featured

Featured categories is so economical. Great use of color, clear images, and words. I can find what I want just by looking at the pictures, or I can read the text. Well done.

WALMART

4 Walmart 1 Home

ACK SO MANY WORDS. My eyes don’t move easily in any direction, and I’m not sure where to look first. It takes some brain power to orient myself and decide where to go.

Balance. I don’t know where to go, so I just keep scrolling. The featured products have LOTS of information: reviews, number of reviews, number of stars, a small title, sometimes info on shipping. All that information makes me think and process, and that’s a drag in online shopping.

CTA. Is there a CTA here? I feel like I’m shouted out from all directions.

4 Walmart 2 categories

Navigation. “Show all categories” is a barrier, and we don’t want barriers. I was going to comment on Walmart’s lack of order here, but when I went I looked back at Target’s to compare, I realized they didn’t have any either. It was just an illusion. Let that be a lesson to you.

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4 Walmart 3 showcase

Copy. Yes! Finally they did something brilliant. The images are clear and so is the copy. They support each other in giving me direction. I want to start a DIY and paint my walls and cook my food.

WINNER ROUND 2: TARGET!

ROUND 3: APPLE vs. SAMSUNG

APPLE

5 Apple 1 home

Full disclosure: I’m a devoted Apple fan, and this is why. Their work is so clean and beautiful. This website is just about perfect in every way. Its visual, letting the products speak for themselves with just a few words sprinkled throughout to support the visuals.

Balance. They’re advertising ONE THING, but by showing just a peep of the iPhone 8, they make it clear that there’s more to scroll to. At the top is a header menu in case I want to look at something specific. But, it’s black and white and stays in the background–no distracting me, no competing for attention, no burdening my brain with extraneous thoughts or decisions.

CTA. It’s rare to find a site that doesn’t use CTAs and even rarer to find one so seamlessly integrated. Notice that though the entire image is a link, there’s still a CTA, but it acts as a selling point, a benefit, instead of a call to action. Geniusly executed.

Navigation. Just like with the products, you don’t have to think at all here. Scroll down and click on what’s most beautiful. But, if you are looking for something specific, there’s a discreet little menu that follows you around. You only notice it when you need it.

5 Apple 2 home pod

Copy. Homepod tells you to watch the film, to fill your curiosity about this little-known product. I love that “freedom calls” doesn’t say anything explicit about water resistance or the sim card. It’s all implicit in the visuals. Showing the five watches supports the tag line.

The site is filled with clean visuals supported by short sentences that are packed with power. It’s so easy to look around, understand what I’m seeing, and to spend money

SAMSUNG

6 Samsung 1 home

Immediately I’m presented with a choice: Do I want the 9 or 9+? Which means that already I’m having to think and process. A well-designed site is so intuitive you don’t even have to think.

Balance. This is a word-heavy home page. It’s not terrible, but as with Wix, the copy isn’t supporting the visuals so much as competing with them.

CTA. “Learn more” sounds boring and I’m already bracing for a pitch. As a general rule, you should avoid “learn more” always. Keep your CTA benefit-oriented.

Navigation. A lot of information is being thrown my way, and in no particular order. When I scroll up for the menu (barrier!), I have to read every word of the submenu to know decide (barrier!) where to go.

Copy. Look at this.

6 Samsung 2

I’m only going to point out three barriers. I welcome you to add more in the comments.

  1. Try it the Galaxy for 30 days. Sounds like a benefit, but the subtext is, “you may not like it and just in case that’s true, we’ll make it easy to return.” Thumbs down.
  2. The camera. Reimagined. Tells me nothing about the camera or why I should care that it’s been reimagined. Also, you’re trying to sell me on a camera by showing me a black square.
  3. Do more with your Galaxy S9 and save on accessory bundles.* What more can I do? WHY THE ASTERISK??

Samsung undercuts its own products over and over again.

WINNER ROUND 3: APPLE!

The Secret? Always KISS

We talked about copy and design going hand in hand. Now it’s time to KISS (keep it simple, stupid).

  • Keep your sites people-centered (not product or business-centered).
  • Remove barriers. Make it easy for your people to buy!
  • Use engaging visuals and brief but powerful phrases. Discourage thinking. Encourage moving.
  • Let your product do the talking

It’s much easier to critique sites than to build them great in the first place. But looking at different sites in terms of what’s effective, what’s frustrating, what’s easy to navigate, what compels me to buy–and what doesn’t–can inform our design decisions.

And also our shopping decisions.

Congratulations to all our winners! I’m off to buy some stuff.