Designing for Your Customers – 2 Very Contrasting Brands

Take a step back and look at your website – how well does it reflect your brand?

There are many good examples of brands that translate their brand experience through to their website. And there are also a few examples of websites which are not pleasing to the eye and from the outside look a bit of a mess – that do bring their brand to life.

Let’s start off with a company that do a great job of communicating their brand through their website.

John Lewis is a British department store steeped in customer centricity and quality. You know when you’re in a John Lewis store. The clean and crisp feel of the store as you walk around, helpful, friendly staff and a wide range of quality products. Not the most affordable place but also not the most expensive. John Lewis has big brand advocacy with a loyal following, because they know John Lewis won’t let them down.

How do you translate this online? A clean and visually appealing website. Ease of navigation and simple but effective design. A friendly, helpful tone throughout the website and email. Features and functionality that improve the experience: easy to use faceted navigation for example. (go take a look for yourself)

Many internet marketers use John Lewis as benchmark for site design and usability, and rightly so. But what if your brand is a tad bit different? I mean, what if your ‘brand’ is the exact opposite? Eccentric, chaotic, wild, buzzing, non orthadox?

But my site is different!

So onto another site which does a great job of communicating its brand through its website. When I first saw the site I was appalled. I felt I’d been warped back to 1996 with crazy fonts and graphics. I felt completely lost on the site. I laughed and used the site as an example of not just bad website design and usability, but prohibited design and usability practice! A good example of how NOT to design a website.

Now let me tell you something about this site. It churns ¬£millions a year (2005 figures – ¬£10m+ in revenue). It too has a loyal following. Customers use it for some big ticket commitments. They like the humour across the site, but more importantly understand the honesty that LingsCars brings out through the humour. The site translates the business owners brand better than any web agency could have come up with. It’s brash, messy, confusing etc and did I mention I don’t like it?

How many colours can you spot?


It appeals to its customers, it amuses, uses good persuasion techniques and is highly successful. Could it be improved? Indeed. But the art of Conversion Rate Optimisation, or CRO as commonly referenced, is not just about what looks good, it goes deeper than that. Understand who you’re selling to. Do they expect a John Lewis site experience on Lings Cars? If a clean and simple layout worked for everyone surely websites would look more uniform. They don’t. And I will again stress that I don’t like the user experience on LingsCars however what I do back is designing a website experience that is right for your customer.

Here’s a quote I found online from Ling herself: “Really, living in my web page means that when someone logs on, they are visiting my home. They really can have lunch, order a coffee and have a chat with me, wander around or relax, or just look at my car deals. I can’t find another business that has the same attitude about their web page; most are decided in a boardroom or committee. My web space really represents… me”.

How refreshing is that? The challenge for any big or medium-sized corporation is in pleasing those many stakeholders that have strong opinions on how the website should look and should be run. The bigger challenge is in giving control to those that are closest to your customers and to those that really know how a website should be run.



Online Customer Expectations

Do website users really know what they want?

Well actually this depends on quite a few factors. However what we do know is that there is a pressing demand from the general web browser (that is, a person not a program) to get things done quickly and to get it done right. So does quick=speedy page loading? No. Speed means access to information. Get the customer through your shop door and to the shelf or rail with the product they want ASAP! This is of course obvious but how many websites do you know that do this?

Lack of Information Vs Information Overload

Getting the balance just right is the most difficult task but offers the most reward. The e-commerce site I’m currently managing has quite a sizable number of pages (4 digits). So is this enough? Well relatively speaking the customer speaks the loudest. Analysis has shown that whilst we have as much as 10 to 15 times the information contained in our brochures, customer are still not satisfied. Afterall, it is the customer that knows what they want, not us! Or do we? Analysing traffic through your website can seem like walking through a maze.

The Little Big Brother Approach

Whilst web analytics can tell you the what and when, how do you work out the why? You can either ask them directly, in focus groups and lab tests – let’s be honest, how many participants can we really capture in full-flight – or you can install some clever software that will actually allow you to play-back customer journeys through your website! Clever? Well not as clever as being able to set ‘triggers’ to record certain journeys. Saves a fair amount of time working out why exactly your attrition levels are so high. You thought the page was so simple that it must be the users that are doing something wrong. Well set a trigger to alert you when someone hits this page and play back the sessions. You might just be surprised.

Customer Expectations

Customers are more and more expecting to spend less time searching and more time consuming information online. Go ask Google. That’s why it is key to reduce any ‘low-hanging fruit’ issues with your site as possible and concentrate on a strategy to streamline your customer journey for the mid-term. Information is key, but make it relevant, easy to find and don’t make your customers think too much!

Depesh Mandalia