User experience branding is a complicated subject and one a lot of UX people tend to avoid discussing or devoting much time to. I understand that, because this really is a tricky thing, and frankly, not all companies or projects have to really worry about this, save a few exceptions. Nonetheless, it is something that I feel we should discuss.
User experience branding is the establishment of a specific type, style or component of interface that is introduced by a company through their product. There are two circumstances in which you might need to be highly concerned about this concept, and we’ll talk about how to handle these two scenarios, plus a general tip, today.
So, the first circumstance where it’s especially pertinent is when designing a UX solution. You must make sure that you don’t accidentally clone a branded UX component. This can be a transgression in one of a few ways. The main way is to accidentally clone a patented control scheme, though this is rarer than you’d think. Chances are if you’ve seen this control scheme in multiple places, you’ll be okay.
Another way this can happen is that you accidentally design an interface that looks like a blatant copy of a highly identified one. For example, making a custom art program wherein the interface looks identical to Flash, this is treading upon branding grounds.
To avoid these issues, simply pay attention to where you’ve seen schemes, and identify which schemes and control concepts seem common and standard. From here, pick a standard layout that you think works best, and from here, add your personal touch to it to give it the identity it needs.
The other time you mainly need to worry is when you’re trying to establish a UX brand yourself. In this scenario, you have to watch standards to avoid wrongfully claiming to own the standard, while simultaneously not copycatting someone else’s branded UX. This is tricky. The best way to determine if a new idea is truly new is to consult designers and programmers and ask them if they had ever encountered it, and if they’d find it valuable to be developed. Consulting this field is the only way to efficiently gage this, sadly.
Now, one thing that I want to impress above all else is that while identity is important, and identity being the primary motive behind UX branding, a few things should never suffer for its sake. Never allow efficiency, practicality and functionality suffer just to artistically contribute to the brand and identity of a UX. A lot of companies make this mistake and it’s actually annoying to users when the overly pretty UX design bogs things down or becomes chintzy to look at over time.
So, the most important thing, beyond avoiding stepping on others’ toes, is to make sure that your branding works with your design, not against it in effectiveness and in efficiency.
If you follow these rules, you’ll do fine in obeying or defining user experience branding without much worry. It’s an unusual concept, but it’s pretty easy to demystify, I think.