Drink & Drive Website Design Theory

Now before you think I’ve completely lost my mind, advocating irresponsible behaviour could somehow be linked to good design, the headline link will be forthcoming. Stick with me here. This will not irritate MADD.

A fellow entrepreneur friend of mine recently posted to Facebook her frustration in selecting and working with a good website designer. A topic of great interest, countless comments and advice poured in. It became obvious that hers was not an isolated incident. At issue primarily was the designer’s failure to execute on what she felt was clearly communicated design direction. We pay a designer to take us to a place we couldn’t get to on our own, so a certain amount of leeway and trust must be given. But the parameters must be established including necessary elements, likes and dislikes, and ultimately a way to allow the site to stand out from its competitors.

One very clever way to achieve this is through the “drink and drive website design theory.” Owing credit completely to Geoff Ramm, a brilliant marketer in the UK, the idea goes like this. Select a drink whose brand you feel represents your look, feel, values and heritage. Then do the same with an automotive brand or a specific car. Once you have your two brands, visit their websites, look at their promotional materials and observe things such as design, layout, colour palette, use of fonts, white space and images. The idea is to look beyond your industry and usual competitive sphere to gain design ideas that are aligned with your likes and values.

I actually used this technique for the recent redesign of my website. Check it out and let me know what you think.

My alcoholic brand was Molson Canadian, and my automotive brand was Volkswagen. I’m far from a staunch Molson fan, but the brand does represent values and design that align with my own: a proud Canadian heritage, dependable, having an outdoor lifestyle including cottage time and hockey, being seen as the “everyman’s brand” and not pompous or fancy, having a crisp clean and simple design with lots of white space, and finally associated with good times and specifically a sponsor of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, which I participated in.

My automotive brand, Volkswagen, was selected because it shares European roots, stands for quality and dependability, features promotions with clean simple images using lots of white space and classic sans serif type, evokes a “hippy heritage” that aligns with my baby boomer demographic and uses a quirky and artsy sense of humour in their advertising.

With my drinking and driving design elements researched, along with written copy and functionality requirements, I was able to give specific directives to my designer, and get a site I am now pleased with.

I would suggest it is critical to find a company that offers not only good design, but also good back end technical work. The two skill sets are not often available in the same person, but if you find them, you’ve got a keeper. The alternative is to hire a company with multiple people and skills working on your site. I would suggest having it built on a WordPress blogging platform to make self-administered updates easy. Also make sure your site is optimized for mobile, since the use of mobile devices is increasing dramatically.

The bottom line is – do your research, flush out a detailed creative brief, negotiate terms of payment and then trust the process.


Mary Charleson

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