Perception is everything to a high-end brand, they need to have a single consistent customer experience regardless of where their customers choose to interact with their brand. Hence, these websites need to look incredible but not unique... They often need to represent brands that have been around for decades. They often have defined design styles, and their customers have well-established expectations. However, the brand experience goes further than the visuals, a high-end website needs to work perfectly, with 0 bugs... Thus creating this website is an intricate dance of creating a unique yet familiar website, that is beautiful, fast and works perfectly. When done correctly, you will have a website that is absolutely incredible just like the brand that it represents.
In essence, high-end websites stand out in a few ways:
- Improve usability
- Fast loading
- Sleek standout design
- Next-generation technology
Where to start?
Who is your customer?
The design process for high-end websites is not too different to any other website in that you need to work backwards from your end-user. We need to begin by asking who is the customer. Premium customers usually share some characteristics, many tend to be successful and with this success very busy, hence they value their time and spend it carefully. Many are also investors and look for value in everything they decide to spend their money on. These are three important aspects that you need to cater to. To do this you need to position your product as one that would fit in within their world, the most important information needs to be accessible and you need to establish the value of your product.
Diving deeper into the question of who is your customer, you need to determine how well your customer knows your brand, is your brand internationally renowned, is your brand known by an elite few or if your brand only just beginning to grow? Depending on which of these three categories your brand falls into will establish where you need to focus. If your brand is well known, it is unlikely that you need to place as much emphasis on who your brand is, if no one knows your brand you may need to create a stronger message about your brand.
In a physical store, there is a lot you can do to differentiate your brand from lower-end brands, from furniture and displays to staff and their uniform, the possibilities are endless. Unfortunately, it can feel impossible to break away from the overused e-commerce grid whilst keeping your website simple and easy to navigate. Hence, when deciding on layout research your competitors, work out what they are doing right and most importantly flag what they are doing wrong. The challenges with creating an engaging layout are working out how to make shopping or engaging with your brand a unique experience. For brands with a smaller product catalogue, this process has a lot more freedom.
For instance, a brand like Tesla only offers a handful of vehicles and hence upon landing on their website they display their products front and centre, meanwhile, a large premium car brand like BMW attempts to achieve a similar feel to Tesla before jumping straight into the traditional eCommerce grid layout, you instantly lose the reminder that you are engaging with a premium brand and as a result, the perceived value of the product is lowered simply by the way you are now engaging with it. Another brand that manages to mix up the traditional grid just enough to stand out is Gucci, they cater to their ideal customers by removing the price tag, and leaving a well-composed product photo with the product name and a subtle call to action "discover" which reminds the end-user that they are looking at something special. Throughout the Gucci product pages, there are lifestyle images displaying the root values of Gucci reminding the user of why they should care about their brand.
In summary, you should not underestimate your overall product layout, this is one of the final steps before purchase, once people have made it to this page they are likely seriously considering your product. Hence this is not the time to follow the herd, this is the time to stand out and remind your customers that they are about to become a part of something special.
Colour is an incredibly powerful way to send subconscious messages to your customers. Different colours represent different things subconsciously. This is an area where you can subtly differentiate your brand from other brands and create a seamless brand experience. Hence, if you are just starting out, use these subliminal messages to help guide the colour palette your select.
Hidden colour meanings:
- Red - Blood, fire, danger, strength, power and excitement.
- Brown - Stability, masculinity, earth, nature and wood.
- Orange - Cheerful, liveliness, assertiveness, fearless and youthfulness.
- Yellow - Sunshine, light, hope, happiness and wisdom.
- Green - Harmony, balance, security, hope, peace, nature and healing.
- Blue - Trust, loyalty, wisdom, faith, truth, confidence, and intelligence.
- Purple - Royalty, power, nobility, luxury and ambition.
- White - Safety, purity, cleanliness, light, innocence, and youth.
- Gray - Caution and compromise.
- Black - Power, elegance, formality, mystery, and prestige.
For established brands, you have a little less freedom when selecting a colour palette. When choosing your colour palette you should start with your existing branding, your physical stores and your products. Work backwards from here, if your product is bright red, then other shades of red and black could complement your product nicely, creating an experience that feels seamless from browsing online to the day your customer receives your product and holds it in their hand.
White space can help you prevent messages from getting lost. It is great to help highlight a product and creates a more breathable design that is easy on the eyes. White space is the reason for the saying less is more, sometimes adding design elements in every inch of free space can result in a cluttered and noisy design and when everything is demanding your attention ultimately your attention is lost. Whenever your customer begins to resonate with one of your messages their attention is lost to another element. In essence, you need to give your users the chance to browse your brand at their pace, if you cannot skim a page in a few seconds to establish the key message then there is too much going on.
Don't lose sight of your goal
Always remember what your end goal is, is it to convince them to come in store? to sign up? or to make an immediate purchase? Ultimately the end goal should influence your overall design, the design needs to match your overall story and encourage the best possible brand experience.
Here is a basic checklist you can use when coming up with your design:
- Is there a logical journey to completing the goal?
- Are your key values communicated?
- Does your design promote a similar experience to your store?
- Is your website easy and fast to use?
- Does your website offer the same level of customer service?
- Is there support available for customers who have issues or questions?
As mentioned above, your ideal customer probably uses their time carefully, this increases the already large portion of customers who choose to browse using mobile devices. Hence, do not neglect your mobile usability, in fact, you may even wish to take a mobile-first approach. As taking a small design and adapting it to a larger size is a lot easier than the reverse you will achieve a seamless design across platforms.
If something isn't directly aiding the customer's journey to conversion then it should not be front and centre. For example, terms and conditions are essential for every website, however, based on our analytics across numerous websites are rarely referenced. Thus this is a distraction that should be relegated to a small sub-menu within the footer.
When you are dealing with high-end customers security should not be underappreciated. Hence, you need to invest in ensuring your website is completely secure. Using next-generation technologies like Gatsby JS can not only help you achieve incredible site speeds but due to the fundamental differences in the way the website is created, details from customers are stored in a completely different system to the portion of your website that your users interact with.
Creating a premium experience takes more thought and consideration than creating a regular website, this of course makes it an incredibly exciting process, however, a process that will inevitably take more time. Experimenting with designs that stand out takes a greater amount of consideration, there is a balance between a perfect variation of a familiar layout and a layout that is simply too complex to navigate. Working through these iterations of familiar vs unique to find the perfect balance between the two will take many variations of the design.
In essence, the most important aspect of creating a premium design is exploring the endless possibilities till you find the perfect one to represent your brand. This makes the design phase the single most important part of a premium website project. These designs will take extreme skill and expertise. If achieved your company will see incredible results and cement the desirability of your brand in the eyes of your customers.