Brand Development – Online and Offline Data and Information

Offline Information

Brand Development – Capture and Consistency | SME Organisational Learning

“Data is raw material. Information is data that has been processed in such a way that it becomes meaningful to the person that receives it.”

Let’s say Offline Information is the method used by staff or stakeholders to create information output offline using today’s information and communication technologies. This is innovation and a well-established process your business does use every day to learn from your staff/team. Various Information Communication Technologies are used by your staff/team everyday which does result in information that is distributed to your clients using; email, web mail, internal servers, cloud services, mailers and the good old post box.

It is often surprising to staff/team and stakeholders just how much offline information is created and passed to clients/customers. This process is carried out; daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly throughout the working year, with staff/team members and stakeholders using multiple software packages (ICT’s) to do this. The ‘information’ documents are professionally created and not the problem field. The problem field is the use of legacy; logos, fonts, colour changes, written content, redundant strap lines and images in the information documents used which becomes perpetual. These legacy documents are most likely out of sync with your brand and business values and could be harming your brand equity as a result of the fragmented array of documents. Remember that this is the current ‘offline process’ your staff/team use to take your valuable business data (IPR) and create information for your clients.

Methodology / Approach

Offline – Information Communication Technologies

Understanding context:

  • Observe and Empathise:

After the introduction to your business and with you and your team’s assistance I will investigate the existing branding formats currently in use ‘offline’ for your business. I will also look at your marketplace and compare your business brand with your closest competitors both in the UK and also internationally, depending on your aspirations.

Understand and Define:

Once I have a clear understanding of the existing branding formats and outgoing document types, I will then breakdown the component parts into individual projects.  It is also important to note that the way in which your team edit and create the ‘offline documents’ should be reviewed. This will allow for a clear understanding of the way in which data is collected and subsequently how the information is used and presented within the defined problem field.

Create new solutions & ideas

  • Synthesis and Ideate – Document design drafts

Having gathered the required critical research data, I will then look to create multiple design drafts for the various document format types needed.  The drafts will show various possible design directions that could be undertaken for the reviewed branding of your business. The first design draft will look at your existing branding and make incremental adjustments in an attempt to modernise your brand without straying too far from the original look and feel. The second draft will be the more radical design possibility. This options is designed to cause a reaction positively or negatively when presented for feedback. Finally there will be a third design draft that will find the balance in design between the first and second draft design.

Develop solution to fit to context

  • Prototype – Document design

Once I have created the design drafts I would look to gather feedback from you and your team, and depending on the feedback I would then move to the synthesis and ideate stage again, to further develop the draft designs. Alternatively if there was little or no feedback I would progress to the testing phase to further stimulate a feedback response.

  • Testing – Document design

Once the newly created ‘offline’ document designs are complete and are ready for deployment they should be accompanied with a note when sending to clients / customers. The notice will inform client of the ongoing Brand Development process that is taking place and invite the client to be a part of the process by giving feedback on the ‘offline’ document attached. This approach to testing is a transparent method to signify change and thus improves the bond between the client, your business and new business brand.

Once the feedback from the client has been gathered it will allow the project to move back to the Synthesis and Ideate stage. This would offer further opportunities for subtle design refinement and group input from the team/staff members. As brand development is a continued process, input from clients would only be required once in the development phase to ensure there will be no loss of momentum in the effective change and deployment of your new Business Brand.

Online Information

  • Brand Development – Capture and Consistency | SME Organisational Learning

“Data is raw material. Information is data that has been processed in such a way that it becomes meaningful to the person that receives it.”

Let’s say Online Information is a method used by staff or stakeholders to create information output ‘online’ using the latest information and communication technologies (ICT’s). This is innovation and a well-established process your business already uses every day to learn.

Various Information Communication Technologies (ICT’s) are used by your staff/team and the information created from the data is then freely distributed to your clients using; FTP (file transfer protocol) software, web based applications, mobile applications, content management (CMS) systems and also client relationship management (CRM) systems.

Online Information and Communications Technologies (ICT’s)

  • Adobe Dreamweaver
  • Website (CMS) using Joomla or WordPress as a Content Management System
  • Website (CRM) using a Customer Relationship Management System
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Slide share
  • LinkedIn

With the advances in mobile technology and internet network speeds improving, businesses are finding it much easier to move around information that is critical to their business. Clients also have higher expectations as they become more comfortable with the latest technologies and information transport methods. With businesses embracing technology to streamline activities, there is a habit of deploy and adapt quickly strategy. This pursuit of incremental process innovation can lead to a loss in Brand Equity that is caused by brand consistency problems. This adopted incremental development strategy unless governed will have a far reaching effect of the Brand Equity of your business as the inconsistency are carried by the technology quickly across the entire business.

Online information can be thought of as the continued development of vendor characteristics (content) in the pursuit of improved web equity that directly reflex’s your Business Brand today and tomorrow (website, social media, client login areas, CRM systems).  Web Equity should be an important focal point of your Business Brand Development Strategy. With your ‘offline’ branding established and in place, it is important that your ‘online’ systems such as; website, social media profiles and client login areas reflect your business values.  Improving your Web Equity does require resource investment, either focusing the investment on staff training or perhaps hiring a third party to carry out the work required. To improve your business Web Equity development involves the considerations of numerous integral factors.  A starting point would be the utilisation of the information about your business and also the inclusion of the historic information about your business. This may seem like an anti-climactic and obvious solution but it is important that ‘online’ information reflex’s your current business values consistently. If your business values or characteristics change, then so should your ‘online’ information.  The legacy data that your business has can also be added to your website; client relation management system and social media profiles. This is valuable information and will further increase your business Web Equity. Old flyers, brochures or media articles can be digitised and help to demonstrate the timeline journey that the business has undertaken, and as long as this information is clearly presented as historic information it will improve your Google ranking organically.

Methodology / Approach

  • Online – Improvements in Web Equity

Understanding context:

  • Observe and Empathise:

Looking at how your website is currently used by your team, your business and also your existing clients is a critical part of understanding the problem field that exists for Brand Consistency ‘online’. Gathering feedback from team members and clients will further help in understanding the context in which your Business Brand can be improved. A Brand Strategy ideas should start to emerge at this stage of Observation and Empathy as thoughts and ideas become more connected to the task and context.

  • Understand and Define:

The information on your website is currently presented within the problem field, and so defining how the information should be presented involves mapping the existing information ‘online’ currently on your website. Clarity of current of current information architecture has to be done in detail (see example below) as the website may have a lot of web pages and various code language types (HTML, PHP, .ASPX).  Also looking at any 3rd party inbound information will be extremely valuable and help to clarify the Brand Management approach to be undertaken within the defined problem field. The findings from the above stage will now further help in the complete understanding and defining process of your new ‘online’ Brand Development Strategy best suited for improved Brand Equity and business growth.

  • Synthesis and Ideate:

Having considered the findings from the process stages above, it would be prudent to then create multiple drafts of the new website. This would be created in a graphic format and will continue to complimenting the new look and feel of your business that has been established ‘offline’. Three website drafts should be created to allow for better individual design creativity, flexibility of possible interface format types and collective input from individual team/staff members. Again this step in change ‘online’ must compliment the newly established Offline Business Brand development.

Develop solution to fit to context

  • Prototype:

The first website draft should be a “safe option” design concept which gives the designer time to prompt for input from the team/staff at the early stages, and to get a feel for the myriad possible directions that could be taken. This also allows staff/team members to feel part of the process of change and closely connected to the new brand of your business. Having early input from staff/team members and stakeholders is critical in the design development process. The first website draft should always be created with as much input as possible.

The second website draft should be more daring in design and with little or no input required from team/staff members and stakeholders.  In the designing of the second website draft a strong reaction should be the objective. An ideal reaction would be (love it) really good or really bad (hate it).

Finally the third website draft should be a balanced design solution focusing around the first and second website draft. Light-hearted input should be encouraged if there is willingness from team/staff members and stakeholders to provide input. The design look and feel should effectively bridge the gap between the first and second website draft but at the same time remain in keeping with the overall Brand Developed Concept that is emerging. Collectively the three website drafts will give a broad design scope ready for feedback from management that projects a considered approach.

Once all feedback has been gathered the drafts will most likely require subtle changes to the designs presented. This will mean repeating the prototype stage until the three website drafts are ready to present for feedback again. If the feedback is positive and there are no major changes then the project can move to the Testing Stage.

  • Testing:

Selecting two of the strongest web design drafts and asking for constructive feedback from clients will give an unbiased indication of the success of the design thinking stages detailed above. Once the feedback from the stakeholders has been gathered, the project can move back to the Synthesis and Ideate stage. This will offer further opportunities for design refinement and group input from the team/staff and stakeholders focusing on the stronger two website design drafts.  As any Brand Development is a continued process of organic evolution, input from stakeholders would only be required once in development phase two. This is to ensure there is no loss of momentum in deployment as the need for change has already been established. Involvement from stakeholders throughout the process also helps to improve the bond between them and the brand of the business.

  • Building in HTML

The website draft usually comprises of one template, and one HTML home page to give a strong representation of how the website will look when it has been built.  The top banner, the footer and the side menu (page links) of the template should clearly compliment the brand that has followed on from the ‘offline’ documents previously created. It is the component areas outlined above, including the styling of the home page that set the presidents for the entire website and thus the Brand Development Concept. Every attempt will be made to ensure the stakeholders are 100% happy with the website draft at this stage (sign off document) which will save time consuming template changes once the draft moves to HTML.

Once the website is ready to build in HTML, it will require temporary website hosting space. The hosting space that is recommended is a Linux based platform, but it can be Windows if that is the only option available. It should be noted that the temporary website address is created so that it does not delay the development process of the new Brand Development Concept, as there are very often third parties involved in the maintenance and management of an existing business website. The temporary hosting space can be setup either by Get2it or the FTP details can be provided by you. Building your new website can now begin. As the website is being built the progress can be monitored by going to the temporary website link that will be provided via email.

  • Phase 1 – HTML Creation and Discussion pages

It is worth noting at this stage that even though website development involves a level of graphic design input, the Brand Development Concept approach for the design of a website is very different to ‘offline’ documents. There are many additional characteristics that need to be considered when creating an effective user interface. The approach Get2it use to create such an interface is a simple and professional design approach that is intuitive and will be future proof.

Creating an interactive HTML model of your website will allow a real world feel for how the website will function when live. This also allows stakeholders to give instant feedback based on live user interface testing (temp website address), which will dramatically help to improve the final outcome with the input gathered from early stakeholder user experiences.

Discussion Pages will be placed inside the HTML draft, indicating pages that there will need to be development discussion and possible involvement from third parties.  As an example a Discussion Page might be added to your website as said page may lend itself to present a live feed ‘online’ from an internal system of the business such as ‘charts’ or perhaps a content management system (CMS) may be required to upload documents. All possibilities will be discussed using the Discussion Pages as a ‘call to action’. This is critical as any decisions made about technologies used will have implications to the daily functions, performance and perceived value of you products and services that are delivered to your clients and potential customers. It may also help define your business unique selling proposition (USP).

  • Phase 2 – Content, Refinements

When the HTML version of the website is at a presentable state, including the Discussion Pages, the next step would be to circulate the draft so that staff/team and stake holders can review the website and provide feedback. At this point it will also be likely that areas within the website will be identified as needing more information, either as images; written content or both. Whilst design refinements are being carried out, the additional content can be gathered by staff/team members. This process would be repeated until the HTML website reaches a satisfactory completed state with only the Discussion Pages remaining to review.

  • Phase 3 – Handover

Unless it has been agreed for Get2it to continue to support the final stage of website development or to carry out the work required, the HTML website is now ready to handover to the primary stakeholder.  All files will be zipped and included in the handover, also including the; CSS style sheets, images, Photoshop images and Illustrator files.