This morning, as a part of National Design Week, the DC chapter of AIGA presented a workshop on Building Online Brands. The workshop, moderated by William Cosgrove of Threespot Media, is part of AIGA DC’s regular Salon series, which we have written about previously. In this workshop, Will took the group through two redesigns his firm worked on and talked about how a Website redesign is often an ideal time to evaluate who the organization is and where the organization wants to be.
In the case of Planned Parenthood, for example, after some soul searching, the organization realized that they needed to be more approachable to their younger constituents while not ostracizing their donors and supporters. With the help of Threespot, they created an updated version of the logo, selected a new color palette and chose stock photography that reflected the variety of races, ages and sexual orientations of the men and women they serve.
For Brookings (formerly known as The Brookings Institute), redesigning their Website also meant renaming the organization. The tired logo was refreshed and a new tagline was introduced. For inspiration, Threespot worked with the organization to find existing print pieces they liked, and used those elements to inspire the new design.
In addition to these two real-life redesigns, the group also discussed how the user experience is a critical aspect of a brand. Take, for example, Virgin America. Everything from the check-in to the cocktails served on the plane to the ticket purchasing experience is a reflection of Virgin America’s brand. Virgin is clean, fun, relaxed and fresh. Every touchpoint of their brand mimics these characteristics.
Dustin Curtis, a user interface designer, recently threw the proverbial “design grenade” at American Airlines after a poor experience attempting to book travel on their existing site. Curtis redesigned the AA site and sent it off to AA executives with a letter.
Sure, the redesign looks great. And Curtis makes some valid points in his email about the user experience. But does a redesigned Website mean that American Airlines will be able to compete with the user experience customers on Virgin America receive? NO. Absolutely, most certainly, NO. In fact, American Airlines current Website as cluttered and chaotic as it is, is far more reflective of the customer’s actual experience. American Airlines responded and they shared that their issue is an issue many organizations face:
“The group running AA.com consists of at least 200 people spread out amongst many different groups, including, for example, QA, product planning, business analysis, code development, site operations, project planning, and user experience. We have a lot of people touching the site, and a lot more with their own vested interests in how the site presents its content and functionality.”
Is hope lost for American Airlines and organizations facing similar issues? No. With some soul searching and a candid conversation with the Website stakeholders, American Airlines could begin to change the customers perception of their brand. And if they continue working as a team to make their touchpoints a consistent, calm, smooth experience, then American Airlines can change the perception of its brand.