It’s not often that we see “user interface” and “brand” in the same sentence, but these two concepts are more intertwined than you may believe.

When people think about brand they usually envision a logo or slogan. In reality, brand is a person’s gut feeling about a service, product or organization. Brand experiences are interactions that influence perceptions about an organization’s brand. Almost any interaction has the power to shape someone’s perception of a brand.

When I walk into a beautiful hotel lobby, it influences my impressions of the hotel brand. All of us make assumptions about quality, price, history and service just by walking into a physical space:

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Receiving terrible customer service during check-in impacts my view of the hotel brand as well—this time in a very negative way.

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Experiences are very powerful in shaping people’s perceptions of brand. A good logo won’t make up for bad customer service. That’s why a Forbes.com article on higher education recently exclaimed, “the entire institution needs to live the brand.”

The entire institution. This extends beyond physical space and into the digital world. A user interface can shape one’s feelings about brand every bit as much as customer service interactions or a picturesque lobby.

Institutions improved their websites over the last ten years, but how many of us still have at least one web application that’s painful and cumbersome to use? A website we cringe when we think about? Most of us still have one or two (or more) of these applications, and many of them are important enterprise systems.

Forcing an audience to use a clunky website diminishes their positive feelings about the organization. The negative experience associated with a confusing and poorly designed web application isn’t just bad for the user—it’s bad for the brand.

User experience and brand experience are two sides of the same coin. Bad user experiences are also bad brand experiences. Organizations that understand this connection will flourish as more of our interactions move to the web. Institutions that believe they can fill the lobby with fancy furniture without investing in digital infrastructure will learn a hard lesson.

About the Author

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Joel Pattison is the Director of Web Communications for the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce and a member of the edUi Executive Planning Team.

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