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Design Trends We Love: Custom Functionality for Interactive Brand Content

Making the case for unique functionality to boost branding & user engagement

Over the past few years, our design work at BlueKey has evolved into a more strategic process reflective of the bigger picture, taking everything from brand goals and analytics to user and stakeholder surveys, copywriting, and content editability into account. As Art Director, I’m always looking for design trends that improve UX for our clients’ websites. 

In 2018, we’re focusing on a design trend we love and use for our clients: adding custom functionality to branded content to make it more interesting and engaging. When this functionality is done successfully, it’s implemented in a way that’s unique to the brand itself—designing with purpose and originality. We see this trend in action with Buzzfeed’s ‘listicle’ content attracting more readers with bite-sized, GIF-focused pieces of content, and CollegeBoard’s personalized Step-By-Step College Search. 

Applying functional elements to design on a micro level can sometimes be a challenge. Conflicting opinions on relevancy and importance can be a roadblock, but the user’s experience is the priority, and having more “fun” while browsing and searching content is proven to be valuable for all types of users across all mediums. 

When creating a piece of added functionality to branded content for one of our website projects, I’m specifically looking to feature something important in the context of the client’s business goals. In other words, fun and functional look nice, but don’t actually accomplish anything if they aren’t adding to the user experience. 

TIGER CORNER FARMS

Here, we have a virtual farm tour for clients at Tiger Corner Farms, a creator of shipping container farm systems. The goal here was to take a block of content that would flatly describe the features of one of their high-tech systems, and instead animate it with a touchpoint-style “tour” of the farm system’s features. 

Now, a website visitor can experience what it’s like to be inside a Tiger Corner Farm, connecting a real life experience to an online one. This adds more eye-catching content to the Tiger Corner Farms website while also encouraging more user engagement and interest in their products. 

CALIFORNIA EARTHQUAKE AUTHORITY

The goal is also to ensure more visibility or greater understanding for pieces of content that may seem uninteresting or complex to the user. In the case of California Earthquake Authority, we created a How it Works section in a highly visible area of the homepage, accounting for the fact that CEA customers were often confused about the process of obtaining earthquake insurance (which has to be done through one of CEA’s participating insurers).

With this standout section, we’re putting the client in front of any potential confusion or questions among their web visitors, teaching users about the process of buying earthquake insurance. Breaking the content into numbered steps makes this process more easier to absorb for a potential customer unfamiliar with effort involved.

These functional content elements work best when they're designed to meet specific needs of the target audience.

If done thoughtfully, we can create designs that share content the way users want to absorb it—a powerful way to connect people to what your brand has to offer. As design trends grow toward increased amounts of micro functionality and unique ways to support brand goals, we’ll be keeping up with the times. 

Laura Geror
Senior Art Director & Professional Sun Chaser
Clare Sweeney
Content Strategist & World Traveler
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