Usability and Branding: You Can Have Both

Kevin Holland provides a thoughtful response to my critique of the Chiptole web site. Here is his summary:

David raised a very good point about the importance of making key functionality usable. I’m just saying it’s not the only point. The purpose of a website is not just to make it easy to find things. It’s representative of the whole experience offered by an organization or company. It is, in fact, your organization. As we are giving our organzation’s website a much-needed redesign, that point is very much on my mind.

I don’t disagree that the web can be an extension of your brand and/or experience for your customers. However, I think you can have both usability and brand consistency (whatever that may mean to you) with a little thoughtful design. Chipotle fails in this area, I still believe.

In fact, Kevin’s post actually contains the core of my rebuttal. He discusses the experience of going to Chipotle as part of their brand: simple, easily understood food selections; rapid service; and a tasty product. All in all, a highly ‘usable’ restaurant experience that is presented in a ‘hip’ way. Why can’t the site mimic this core part of their brand while being hip at the same time? Answer: It could without having to limit its usefulness by burying key features under gee-whiz flash animations.

See Apple’s web site for an example of a company that makes its big margins on the hipness of its highly usable products. No flying iPods, you’ll note.

In reality, this discussion is a bit of a shot in the dark, since we don’t know what Chipotle really wants their site to contribute to the organization. I do assume that selling burritos is in there somewhere, however.

It would be interesting to see a survey of their web site visitors, asking why they came to the site that day. I would bet a free burrito that the single biggest reason is to find a restaurant and/or place an online order, not to see what this hip burrito experience is about. I don’t see how an organization is doing itself any good if the branding gets in the way of providing core services.

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2 thoughts on “Usability and Branding: You Can Have Both

  1. I’m with you on this one. Search Google for “Chipotle locations” and you get http://www.chipotlefan.com/index.php?id=locations, a site “not affiliated with Chipotle Mexican Grill.” The funny thing is once you submit a search it takes you back to chipotle.com’s results page. It’s a fan’s fix for poor functionality. Too funny.

    I’m all for branding consistency, but there’s easy ways to make Flash searchable these days. They just have lazy developers.

  2. Pingback: Association Inc. » Blog Archive » Usability, Experience, and the Art of Burritos

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