When you think of a brand, most people think of a company’s logo. However, a brand is much more than a logo. True, the logo serves as a central hub and baseline for the visual brand, but there is much more to it than that. Don’t get me wrong, a company’s logo holds a lot of weight as it is the first thing most people will notice. The logo also sets the tone for the branding of a company as well, so it is a very important piece of the puzzle. Let’s run through all the elements that compose a company’s visual brand.
Logos can quickly say a lot about your company and what you do, so it is important for your logo to mirror your mission in some way. Logos should always be rendered consistently, but you can have variations based on placement and usage. For example, you may have a default orientation but offer an alternate orientation for certain circumstances. Another common variation example would be a one color version of your logo. It’s important that all variations have the same essential qualities and not be dramatically different from one another.
You must be explicit about the usages in the brand guidelines so the logo is used appropriately at all times. Scalability is also a key component, as a good logo can scale up or down and be easily identifiable. If details are easily lost at smaller sizes, you might want to think about simplifying your logo.
Another large part of a company’s visual brand is color. Colors evoke feelings and emotions that work at a subliminal level. You want to make sure you use a color palette that illustrates your core company beliefs and directives so that you communicate that to your audience. You would not only use these colors in your logo, but also in other brand materials such as your website, business cards, promotional materials, presentations, documents, printed materials etc. When creating your color palette, you’ll want to choose 2-3 key colors to use. Too many colors can be overwhelming and can make the branding muddy. Once the color palette is determined it is important to be consistent. You’ll find that consistency is key when it comes to branding. Inconsistencies send confusing messages to your audience and make you look unprofessional as well.
Believe it or not, but the typefaces or fonts you use communicate personality and set tone for your audience. A study called the Aesthetics of Reading even found that good typography induces a good mood. First, it is key, that you choose fonts that are legible for obvious reasons. Second, you want to use fonts that fit the tone of the brand. Serif fonts, which have letters with short lines coming off the edges, are view more as formal and traditional. Sans-serif fonts, which have no serifs, are viewed as more informal and playful. Sans-serif fonts are also more suited for digital media like website and applications. Script fonts resemble handwriting which can make them hard to read. Lastly there are decorative fonts, that are highly unique and very informal. Decorative and script fonts can be used for headings or in logos, but aren’t best used for body copy. When creating brand guidelines, you’ll also want to determine the proper letter spacing and line height for text as these also important factors your audience will be influence by.
Visual branding creates consistency, trust, credibility and familiarity. Making the wrong choices with your visual brand identity can be disastrous. Think about your company’s message and mission and make sure the logo, colors and typography reinforce them. Create a brand style guide that you can share with all your employees so that they have a reference to maintain consistency. If need be, police the usage of branding elements to make sure everyone is being compliant as not everyone respects or understands the value of consistency. With a harmonious visual brand your company will have a loud and clear voice that speaks volumes to your audience.
We’ve been blessed to work with the PlayStation team on the design and development of the PlayStation.Blog since it’s inception in 2007. If I were better at organizing, or perhaps slightly psychic, I would have kept better track of each design iteration. But fear not! One of my favorite sites/tools to play with is here to save the day. Enter the WayBack Machine.
As I pulled screenshots from the archives, I noticed more than just the evolution of the PlayStation.Blog. It was like I was also watching the growth of our team and the WordPress platform along with it. Starting with a fairly basic, but nice looking blog, the site has grown into flexible content and social media hub for one of the most notable brands in the world.
So take a trip back in time with me. I grabbed a screenshot from the launch back in 2007, and then one from the end of each year since. Like any evolution, changes are often small and incremental. Small header and footer changes are common. But when you’re done, compare the original to the current site to see just how far it has come.
Some notable highlights:
2008 shows a shift to much more media being included in posts
Last year, Eventbrite, Automattic and Voce teamed up to bring the Eventbrite and WordPress communities together! While initially the project was slated for WordPress.com, it quickly became apparent that it should not stop there, the community should implement the themes and service on their own sites. Well that time has come!
How it came to be
The goal was to allow a promoter to leverage their Eventbrite presence on their WordPress site. It would enable further personalization of Eventbrite events, while bringing more users to the WordPress platform. We needed a design that would be appealing to all audiences, seeing that Eventbrite is home to various types of events. Visitors would also need to be able to view content from a variety of devices, so they were made responsive.
In September 2013, the themes were launched on WordPress.com. Eventbrite, Automattic and Chris (from Voce) had some great blog posts about the themes after the launch! Automattic has maintained the themes over the past year, then this past summer, we kicked off the project to bring the themes to WordPress.org!
In order to keep things simple, the collection of plugins used with the themes, in addition to common logic shared between the themes, was abstracted and packaged up in to a single plugin, the Eventbrite Services plugin. As a bonus, having the single plugin will allow us to bring features and enhancements in a more streamlined format. For example, in the future, we plan to bring the Eventbrite Event Calendar/Listing widget, found on WordPress.com, to the community as well!
As an early care and education provider, you play a critical role in the health and wellbeing of children. You are also very well positioned to help identify children who might need extra help in their development. This FREE, online training course, Watch Me! Celebrating Milestones and Sharing Concerns, helps you fulfill this role by providing tools and best practices for monitoring the development of children in your care and talking about it with their parents.
The amount of information we needed to integrate was massive. We ended up splitting it into 4 distinct learning modules, each with its own quiz to test how much you learned.
In addition to segmenting it out into more user-friendly chunks, we knew we had to make it interactive to keep the user engaged. Videos and large imagery were just the start, though. To make the user feel like they were truly involved, we used their scrolling as a way to activate certain elements. Scrolling up or down kicks off some subtle animations and really draws the user in.
“The difference between a domain that’s six months old versus one year old is really not that big at all.” – Matt Cutts
This seems like something minor, but what other details aren’t you thinking about? Oftentimes we excel at the things we know about but are hurt by things we haven’t even considered. For example, are you considering snapping up one of the new TLDs that are arriving almost daily? You may want to reconsider. Here are a few other things to keep in mind when setting up your site.
Country TLD extension: Having a Country Code Top Level Domain (.cn, .pt, .ca) helps the site rank for that particular country… but limits the site’s ability to rank globally
Site Uptime: Lots of downtime from site maintenance or server issues may hurt your ranking (and can even result in deindexing if not corrected)
Server Location: Server location may influence where your site ranks in different geographical regions. Especially important for geo-specific searches
Domain registration length: A Google patent states: “Valuable (legitimate) domains are often paid for several years in advance, while doorway (illegitimate) domains rarely are used for more than a year. Therefore, the date when a domain expires in the future can be used as a factor in predicting the legitimacy of a domain.”
Keyword As First Word in Domain: Moz’s 2011 Search Engine Ranking Factors panelists agreed that a domain that starts with their target keyword has an edge over sites that either don’t have the keyword in their domain or have the keyword in the middle or end of their domain
Keyword in Subdomain Name: Moz’s panel also agreed that a keyword appearing in the subdomain boosts rank
Public vs. Private WhoIs: Private WhoIs information may be a sign of “something to hide”. Matt Cutts was quoted back in 2006 – “…When I checked the whois on them, they all had “whois privacy protection service” on them. That’s relatively unusual. Having whois privacy turned on isn’t automatically bad, but once you get several of these factors all together, you’re often talking about a very different type of webmaster than the fellow who just has a single site or so.”
Back end developers are often the unsung heroes of successful web applications. Oftentimes the design gets the glory (or shame) because you can’t see all the work going on behind the scenes. And in many cases the developers only get mentioned when something is wrong or somebody is wondering why their site is loading so slowly. This relationship translates directly to SEO rankings as well.
As I mentioned before, page load time is a key contributor to your ranking. The two biggest bottlenecks when it comes to WordPress application performance are almost always external requests and the database. That’s why we try to cache everything that can be cached. Check out the Voce Platforms Afterburner site for specific details on how we leverage cache on WordPress projects.
Voce Performance Tools is a plugin we released that combines all of our favorite back-end optimization tools together in one plugin. Most of the plugins listed in this section are included in this plugin. This plugin also includes our Cached Queries plugin.
Aside from overall site performance, there are additional areas back end developers contribute to SEO. Some of these could fall under the front end developer section, depending on how your team splits out work.
Presence of Sitemap: A sitemap helps search engines index your pages easier and more thoroughly, improving visibility.
Priority of Page in Sitemap: The priority a page is given via the sitemap.xml file may influence ranking.
Schema.org Microformats: Pages that support microformats may rank above pages without it. This may be a direct boost or the fact that pages with microformatting have a higher SERP CTR
Use of Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools: Some think that having these two programs installed on your site can improve your page’s indexing. They may also directly influence rank by giving Google more data to work with (ie. more accurate bounce rate, whether or not you get referral traffic from your backlinks etc.). Even if using webmaster tools doesn’t directly help you, it provides you ways to help…
Check your site’s health for potential issues that Google has detected.
Understand your search traffic and learn how users are finding your site.
Make optimizations to help Google better understand and represent your site.
With all of the tools available to front end and back end developers, dedicating even a small amount of time towards SEO can make a big difference.