December 12


Designing a website that manifests your brand narrative

Have you taken a look at my recent chat with Laurie DiBiagio, the artist behind the brand Sirena + the Sea? Let’s just say that Laurie is a model for creating a web presence that manifests its brand. It takes only a glance at her site to get a sense that you know what she and her brand are all about.
When I asked her to talk about it, she had this to say:

As you said you picked up from my website, it’s not just a product. It’s a story and a spirit. Sometimes when you’re someone following your dreams, it’s easy for you to say to people, “Quit your job. Quit this and just go ahead and do it.”
They look at you and cross their eyes and think, “That’s easy for you.”
I guess the way that I’m telling my story and the way I’m representing myself and my brand, yes, it’s to show the world that I can do it, but at the end of the day it’s really not. It’s really to remind other people that I’m no more special than them. I don’t have a trait that they don’t. I’m not genetically predisposed to do this. This is available to everybody.

This is someone who knows who she is, what she wants, and how she can use that to inspire others. And it’s not necessary to talk with Laurie to get that about her. You need only take a look at her website. It’s all there: in the images, in the voice, in the narrative.
So how can you manifest your brand narrative? Let’s start with a refresher on what a brand narrative is.

What is your brand narrative?

Your brand narrative is your brand’s heroic backstory, and it’s also the destiny that your brand is fulfilling. It’s the stumbling first steps, and it’s the moments of triumph over obstacles. It makes your brand more relatable, providing a human context for abstract ideas and aspirations. It’s the guiding light for you messaging, and it’s the aphrodisiac that makes your brand irresistible to the public.

How can a website manifest your brand narrative?

An effective website reveals your brand to the world. It’s a visual shorthand for your brand’s mission and its personality. It does this through storytelling, both textual and visual.
The designer and author Paul Jarvis identifies 5 qualities that good stories share, and including these qualities in your site design will go a long way towards manifesting your brand.

Keep your story simple

Find the simplest way to tell your story so that visitors to your website get it without having to think about it. Simplicity doesn’t just include the arc of your story. It also includes the visual presentation of your story.

  • Is your website easy to read?
  • Is the navigation intuitive?
  • Do visitors quickly get a sense of how to interact with your site?
  • Do they immediately know what their role is in your brand’s narrative?
  • Can they focus easily on the most important content?
  • Can visitors understand your story just by looking at the images you’ve chosen?

Aim for your audience’s emotions

A good story tugs at the audience’s heartstrings. It may surprise them or excite them. It may give them hope or give them a kick in the seat of the pants if they need it.

  • Did you consider the emotional impact of your brand color choices?
  • Did you provide hidden treats on your website to delight visitors?
  • Did you offer incentives for them to engage with your brand’s narrative?
  • Did you compel them to answer your calls to action through emotional language and imagery?

Suspend disbelief

Why are people willing to buy into stories that are clearly fictitious? Why do we tune in to Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead even though we know these are entirely fantastical creations? Because the storyteller made the story feel real to us. We’re willing to suspend disbelief when we care about characters’ and their missions. A well-designed website can have the same power over your audience.

  • Are you consistent in your messaging?
  • Do you offer visual evidence of the claims you make about your brand?
  • Do you provide testimonials that ground you brand in the real world?
  • Is your design attractive?

Pay special attention to the last item on this list. Sociology research indicates that we find more attractive people more trustworthy. In his book Emotional Design, Don Norman explains that “attractive things work better” because they open our minds and trigger our imaginations. We’re also more forgiving of minor hiccups as long as the design delights us.

Be authentic

You won’t manifest your brand narrative anywhere – on the web or in the world – if you’re not being true to your values and your mission. From your website to you social media, be sure that your message is uniquely yours. Paul Lowe, the creative mind behind Sweet Paul Magazine and The Makerie, expresses this sort of authenticity perfectly in a recent episode of The Fabricant Way:

It takes away the mystery, and it makes it a little more approachable when you show things that’s not so perfect, and we also try to do that with the magazine. I’m never interested in showing a perfect, completely even chocolate cake. If I make a cake for a shoot for my magazine, and it is a little lopsided, I will show it lopsided because it’s still super delicious. It’s all about the flavor, and I feel like if I do that and people are like, “Oh well, if he shows it then, you know, I shouldn’t be so upset if my cakes come out a little lopsided.” Cause let’s face it, you know, cakes sometimes unfortunately come out a little lopsided. So there’s nothing wrong with it as long as it tastes good.

  • Did you start from and stick to a clear, authentic central message?
  • Does your copy reflect your brand’s personality?
  • Are you moving past stock footage to include imagery that showcases real people and products?
  • Do the other visual elements of your website connect with your brand’s mission and goals?

Encourage visitors to connect

Finally, a good story is a story that anyone can relate to. Even if your target audience is a very narrow group of consumers, they’re humans just like all the rest of us. And there are some things that we all share in common. We all want to connect. We all want to improve. We all want to grow. We all want to thrive. Make sure your site reveals a brand narrative that people can relate to. Paul captured this attitude perfectly in our chat:

Our craft projects are easy, they’re doable, they’re chic. Because I feel like we all want to be creative. We all want to be creative like, maybe, some of us every day, some of us maybe once a week. And we don’t want to…in my mind, I’m not going to show people a craft project that’s going to take three days. I can show you something we were called to do in 30 minutes, with you know, a few things that you need, you don’t have to spend $250 to create something fabulous…and [when] they say, “Oh, that’s cool, where did you get that?” You can be like, “Made it myself.”

  • Is your site invitational, welcoming visitors like a good friend?
  • Does your site show how real people interact with your brand?
  • Does it offer visitors the hope of achieving those universal goals that we all aspire to?

Both Paul’s and Laurie’s websites perfectly capture their authentic, inspiring, and totally relatable brand, and that elevates their brands. They become irresistible through powerful storytelling. In Laurie’s words:

I guess my product and my story and my brand and myself as a human are a reminder and inspiration for people to do whatever it is that is in their heart. I hope when people head over to my website or touch my product or see it they feel inspired to follow their own compass and do what makes them happy.

How well does your website manifest your brand narrative?



brand purpose, Branding, creativity, Web, Web Development, Websites

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