Many smaller businesses associate branding with their logo. The logo is the visual symbol for their brand but it is not the brand. Your brand is embodied in all of the intangible attributes your customers associate with your product, service, or company. It ranges from the customer support experience, to the atmosphere in a retail environment, cleanliness of company vehicles (and the driving) to advertising, marketing communications, product design quality, and any other touchpoint where this is opportunity for you to make an impression on your customers. Next time you look at a logo, pause and think about all of the words and feelings you immediately have - that is what that brand means to you.
When deciding on a domain name, often the preferred choice is already registered and most people are not inclined to seek a potential buyout. A second option is to consider derivatives of preferred domain name. E.g. trinityriveronline.com. However, that approach can dilute your brand since ‘online’ is a generic keyword and has little to no added value. While most people and businesses want a “.com” Top Level Domain (TLD), it is not always feasible. The next consideration is alternative TLDs (ie .net, .org, .info, et al). In most cases there are no rules that prohibit using them for unintended purposes. A for-profit company can use .org and a non-profit can use .com. To some degree, the choice of a TLD is similar to a street suffix such as “Ave., Rd, St., Pl., and Ct”. - there is no material difference but perception can be an influencing factor in the final decision. Finally, there is debate over the value of choosing a keyword-based domain name like “best-camera-prices.com”. The consensus is that the little value it has for Search Engine Optimization is not enough to compromise ones brand. As evidence, the most successful, popular, and recognizable properties on the web do NOT use keyword-based domains. Yahoo!, Google, Amazon, eBay, YouTube, FaceBook, Twitter, and Bing.
The first and most important design element of your website is your corporate identity (aka, your logo). It is the cornerstone of your page design because it sets the tone, personality, color palette, and typography for the site. Your identity should be the first step in your design exploration, and it is worth the investment to have a qualified graphic designer create your logo. An experienced, professional identity designer will need a thorough understanding of your organization, customers, and products to channel his or her thought process. You should be offered multiple concepts from which to choose, and they should be presented in black and white. A solid logo should stand on its own without color. The logo should scale easily from a tiny newspaper advertisement to a billboard and to do this requires a vector-based design file (not a bitmap designed in Photoshop). Ideally, the identity includes usage guidelines that specify color variations, spacing, placement, and trademark requirements for your company and third-parties who use your logo. Whether it is word-mark, illustration, or stylized text, the general rule is - keep it simple. Used diligently and properly over time, the ROI from your brand identity will elevate your business and bring competitive advantages.