In some ways, branding is the toughest part of designing your web presence. We speak and think in symbols, and so once you have settled on a brand, you have decided how people will see and think about your business for the foreseeable future.

Since this is the only part of creating your online business identity that will have a lasting effect, you will want to begin with the end in mind. Ultimately, the question is, Who are you? How do you want to be seen? How do you want people to feel about your business? Are you the helpful store, the knowledgeable source, the unquestionable authority in your field? All of these roles are expressions of character. So it will help you at the outset to find a character for your company, even if you don’t work that character into the brand. And most of the character of your brand will be communicated by the following elements:

* Name. If your name is your brand, then this element has already been settled. You are your brand, and the elements of your web site will declare your character to the world. But if you haven’t taken this step, you might want to consider the character you’re trying to create with your brand: Are you trying for a personable, approachable character like Mr. Clean, or an impersonal, all-business character like FedEx?

* Color. Color evokes emotions, sets the tone, stimulates or sedates, shouts or whispers. A psychotherapist might want a color scheme for her web site that communicates peace and tranquillity, so a suite consisting of various shades of teal green might be best, with purple accents. A car parts retailer will be competing with companies running loud television ads and louder online, so a color scheme that employs aggressive colors like red or yellow might work best. Learn the language of color before you tell people who you are.

* Value. As far as your customers are concerned, you’re not in business because you need to make money; you’re in business because you offer value. Therefore that value should be expressed as a proposition somewhere on your welcome page: Come to me, and I will make you famous! Shop here, and you will save money! Consult with me, and your business will thrive! That value should be consistent with the character you’ve decided on for your brand.

* Place. If you already have a bricks-and-mortar home for your business, consider working that into your brand. Nothing says “solid and dependable” like an actual building, and that’s not a bad character for an Internet company to communicate.

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