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Why You Have Great UX/UI, But Your Branding Still Sucks.

An older article I wrote in 2017, but still very relevant in 2022. I haven’t witnessed much change since then, actually.


You gotta love the buzzwords in the Internet industry today…

Over the past few years, I have noticed that what used to be the disciplines of “information architecture” and “usability” and “graphic design” have been morphed into this thing called “User Experience” and/or “User Interface Design.”

(That’s “UX/UI” for the cool kids.)

With the all the hype and hyperbole circulating out there, you’d think this is a new approach. A more enlightened approach to design.

Don’t misunderstand me: That designers are now trained in the subtle art of the cognitive psychology and produce wonderfully-usable design interfaces, all in the name of making sure the users come first is not a bad thing in-and-of-itself.

After all, the users MUST come first — right?

But where’s the art?The passion?The authenticity?

You may have the most usable interfaces in the world. You may have user-tested the thing at every step of your development cycle. It may look like a Zen-dream of an app or website. A three-year-old could use it. Wonderful.

But no three-year-old would want to use it.


It’s because the branding — the sum of all the experiences and emotional connections people have with your company — sucks.

You forgot that your users are actual people. Vulnerable human beings with emotions. Driven by desire, not logic.

You used the best design-patterns you could find. You fell in love with “minimal” design because you love your iPhone (or the hipster-designers do). You assumed your users could not be engaged with something that challenges them a little.

You played it safe.

And you made your website or app look like every other website or app using the same templated designs everyone else does.

Think about it this way: Ask yourself, what does your home look like?

  • OPTION 1: Is it a minimalist, uber-clean, Euro-modern environment that would be featured in a science-fiction movie?
  • OPTION 2: Or, does it have that “lived-in” look? Is it full of memories, color, texture, love, dirty dishes and just the right number of dust-bunnies?

I’ve spent a decade working with people at the end of their lives, visiting them in their homes and listening to their stories. I have sat in hundreds of living-rooms with people from all walks of life. And I am willing to bet that your home probably looks more like option 2 rather than option 1.

Why? Your home is where you are most authentic; where you are most real.

It is where your story is lived out.

And every brand tells a story.

Too many times, I have seen a company invest a ton of money trying to present themselves like option-1 above, rather than meeting people where they are, with authenticity in their option-2 world. And it is inauthentic — it is a lie.

Most people can see right through it.

So, what is your brand’s unique, authentic story? What are your users’ human stories?

That is where to start. Long before the website template rolls out and the user-testing begins, you need to ask yourself some deeper questions, and be willing to take some creative risks. Be willing to be artful about it. To explore and engage your users where they really live with what really matters to them.

Be bold! Be different! Be you!

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