It is still very common for luxury brands to attempt to apply unique forms of branding to their online space. Unfortunately, what many high-end brands simply don’t realise is that this is often at the expense of user experience and search engine value.
I’ve selected the common issues below as a point of reference for leading luxury businesses looking to increase their exposure online. Ultimately, the below examples intimate that by trying to be so exclusively different, many brands are failing to deliver an acceptable website experience for the customers.
It is of utmost importance that a brand reflects the terminology that their target customer base uses on a day-to-day basis. One of the biggest mistakes luxury brands make online is failing to use the most relevant descriptive terms that are most helpful to the user.
Within luxury fashion there are a host of terminology faux-pas such as an insistence on the term “ready to wear” as a collective term for luxury clothing ranges. A more suitable term would not only provide an easier user experience but it would also open up the SEO potential for the page.
2.Text as an image
Back in a time when web technology was rather more primitive, it was more far acceptable that brands preferred to use images as their navigation and buttons. However, in an age where CSS can alter the way HTML text is displayed on a page changes the game somewhat. Another problem I have with luxury brands displaying text as an image is it now hinders the SEO of pages. Google is unable to read the text to understand the relevance of the page as it is displayed within an image. Users that rely on text-to-speech browsers or that have browsers that don’t display images will therefore be neglected and marginalised.
3.Page load times
There appears a common theme among luxury brands to shove as many high-resolution images on a page at once just because it looks good. However, the more images there are on a page the slower the page load time will be, and this is an increasingly important SEO factor. Similarly, from a user experience perspective, a lengthy page load time will almost certainly negatively impact a user’s perspective of a brand, potentially causing a bounce and a missed conversion opportunity.
Some luxury brands make the cardinal sin of failing to give the user an option as to whether they view splash screen promotions or imagery. While some may argue that this is an integral part of the luxury brand experience, by not giving the user an opportunity to decide whether or not they view the content you run the risk of alienating them. If a user feels they haven’t found the information they want or its made too difficult for them to obtain that information they will move on elsewhere.
There’s no doubt about it, Google is becoming much more efficient at reading flash-based content and that’s music to the ears of luxury brands who continue to build an entire website or significant portions of the site in flash. It’s the aesthetic richness and exclusivity that flash technology provides which is so appealing to high-end brands, but flash-heavy sites can still prove more difficult to read than traditional HTML in terms of SEO and usability.
The bottom line is this: if a search engine uses too much of its resource in an effort to read your content and index your site it will be forced to index less of it. Users will also be required to have rather fast internet connections in order to navigate the site and if your Shockwave plug-in fails within their browser it’s game over before the match has kicked off. In short, loose the flash for HTML5 where possible.
There’s no doubt that aesthetics mean a great deal in terms of defining a luxury brand. But this should not be to the detriment of providing a first-class user experience. A sound focus on best practice digital marketing techniques should be the foundation with luxury branding overlaid.