Leanne Hayes on What Makes a Good Website and Great Branding | MP 48

Why is brand consistency important for building trust between the company and its audience? Are there pillars of web design to make sure to keep in mind when you create your website? Why should you stay away from design trends when building your brand?

In this podcast episode, Sam Carvalho speaks with Leanne Hayes about what makes a good website and great branding.

Podcast Sponsor

While there may still be a lot of uncertainty about what this year will have in store, there’s one thing we know for sure – your services as a therapist have never been more essential, making it the perfect time to ensure that your private practice website attracts your best-fit clients and gets them to call you.

Whether you’re a seasoned clinician with a website in need of a refresh, or you’re fresh out of school needing your very first therapist website, Brighter Vision is the perfect solution. During the month of January, they’re running their biggest sale of the year!

From now, until the end of the month, they’re completely waiving all setup fees and only charging $39/month for your entire first year of a new website! Head on over to brightervision.com/joe to learn more.

Meet Leanne Hayes

Vanilla Hayes is a creative design studio specializing in brand identity for small to medium businesses, graphic design for print, packaging, and signage, website design, and bespoke wedding stationery.

What started as a solo side hustle has organically grown into a small team of five designers working collaboratively in a central office space. Based in sunny Marlborough, New Zealand; they enjoy delivering effective, affordable design and quality printed goods to showcase your brand and ensure you’re noticed by your ideal audience for all the right reasons.

Visit her website, connect on Facebook and Instagram. Email Leanne at leanne@vanillahayes.co.nz

In This Podcast


  • 3 suggestions for brand improvement
  • Recommended 5 tips for great web design
  • Some of the common branding and web design mistakes that businesses make

3 suggestions for brand improvement

  1. Audit the touchpoints between your clients and your business: It is all in the detail, from how you answer the phone to responding to emails to what your business card looks like. Go through each of these things to see where you can improve them, make them more concise, attractive, and in touch with your brand.
  2. Be consistent: You can build trust with your audience by maintaining consistency in your points of contact with them. Maintain a similar feeling between the business card to the website to increase brand recognition.
  3. Branding has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the customer: Every decision you make about your branding should be made with the customer in mind. What is important to them, what services do they need and what values do they share with your brand?

Recommended 5 tips for great web design

  1. Make it as easy as possible for customers to do business with you. Build a clear menu so that clients can see instantly how to contact you or where to go to purchase your products.
  2. Make the answers accessible. Visitors to your website will come with questions, so make answers clear and easy to find to help them get to what they are looking for.
  3. Invest in some professional photography if the budget allows. It makes a big impact on having unique, quality images to showcase your products or the vision behind your branding.
  4. Make sure your website functions well and looks good on every device. Check that your website displays all the information and graphics without being obscured if the website is being viewed on a cellphone compared to viewing it on a computer.
  5. Do not underestimate your about page. Give a bit of background to your clients about who you are, what you are about, and why you offer the services that you do to provide your clients with authenticity, and a more personalized approach.

Some of the common branding and web design mistakes that businesses make

  • When businesses only work with a logo and consider that is all the branding they need. You need to remain consistent between your font, color, and even your choice of paper because they all tie into your brand scheme. Every small detail sends suggestions to your customers, therefore they are not decisions to make lightly.
  • Try to avoid the mistake of giving yourself a temporary visual identity while you are setting your business up. Take the time you need and consider biting the bullet to make the investment into building a worthwhile brand from the beginning, so that you have a strong enough foundation to build on from instead of starting over when you design in earnest.
  • Do not get caught up in design trends. This makes it difficult to stand out when you look like everyone else, and when the trend passes your brand will look more obviously dated than if you were to create your own unique style.
  • Make sure your file formats are correct, and know which file formats you need to make your documents for them to function well in their purpose.

Useful Links:

Meet Sam Carvalho

Samantha Carvalho DesignSam Carvalho is a graphic designer living in Cape Town, South Africa, with over five years of experience in both design and marketing, with a special interest and experience in the start-up environment.

She has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016 and has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs take their practices to the next level by enhancing their visual branding. She loves working with a variety of clients on design-intensive tasks and is always up for a challenge!

Follow Sam on Instagram to see some of her work. To work with Sam, head on over to www.practiceofthepractice.com/branding.

Thanks For Listening!

Feel free to leave a comment below or share this podcast on social media by clicking on one of the social media links below! Alternatively, leave a review on iTunes and subscribe!

Podcast Transcription

Well, we did it, 2020 has finally come to an end and we have made it to the other side. And while there may still be a lot of uncertainty about what this year will have in store, there’s one thing we know for sure, your services as a therapist have never been more essential, making it the perfect time to ensure your private practice website tracks your best fit clients and get them to call you. Whether you’re a seasoned clinician with the website in need of a refresh, or you’re fresh out of school needing your very first therapist’s website, Brighter Vision is the perfect solution. And, during the entire month of January, they’re running their biggest sale of the year. From now until the end of the month, they’re completely waiving all setup fees and only charging $39 a month for your entire first year of a new website. That’s a savings of $240 for your first year of website service with Brighter Vision. All you have to do is go to brightervision.com/Joe to learn more and take advantage of this great deal. That’s brightervision.com/Joe. Welcome to the Marketing a Practice podcast with me, Sam Carvalho, where you’ll discover everything you need to know about marketing and branding your business. To find out more about how I can help you brand new business, visit www.practiceofthepractice.com/branding. And if you’d like to see some examples of my design work, be sure to follow me on Instagram @samanthacarvalhodesign. Hi there. Thanks so much for joining me today on the Marketing a Practice podcast. Today we have Leanne Hayes joining us. Leanne is the owner of Vanilla Hayes, which is a creative design studio specializing in brand identity for small to medium business, graphic design for print, packaging and signage, web design and bespoke wedding stationery. What started as a solo side hustle, has organically grown into a small team of five designers working collaboratively in a central office space. Based in sunny Marlborough, New Zealand, we enjoy delivering effective affordable design and quality printed goods to showcase your brand and ensure you’re noticed by your ideal audience for all the right reasons. Hi, Leanne. Thanks so much for joining us today. [LEANNE]:
I’m happy to be here. Thank you. [SAM]:
So, can you tell us a bit about your story and how you ended up in design and branding and starting Vanilla Hayes? [LEANNE]:
Yeah, sure. Creativity is something I’ve always been drawn to from a young age, whether it’s been through writing, or crafts, or drawing. And so, after studying design through college and university here, I started a job in a printing firm, and worked as a pre press designer for a few years gaining a great understanding of the complete printing process, really. So, following that, I had a couple of roles in advertising and marketing and started Vanilla Hayes back in January 2011 when I was at home with a three month old baby. And it’s just kind of grown from there over nearly a decade now. Yeah, I just it’s a great industry to be in. [SAM]:
That’s amazing. So, you started it out when you were a new mom? [LEANNE]:
Yeah. It was great to actually have the time I guess, to you know, figure out what I really wanted to do and create a job style I wanted for our family. [SAM]:
Yes, that’s awesome. So, what is it that you love most about what you do now? [LEANNE]:
What do I love most? Um, two things really, number one being the variety. So, our team gets to work with a great range of customers and businesses from a [inaudible], we get to work with a lot of different applications really. So, we could be going from one day we’re working on putting together a recipe book or something to the next day, we’re doing designs to go on a racing plane or a train carriage. So, it’s quite exciting. And the second thing would be the challenge, I guess, of creating something visual to represent the essence and the values at the core of each brand. So, it’s about extracting the right information from a business to truly understand them, their products or their service, and their purpose but, most importantly, their customers and turn something visual to communicate that in an effective way. [SAM]:
That’s awesome. And so, given your kind of experience, obviously you mentioned that you’ve been running Vanilla Hayes for almost a decade now and your kind of design experience and marketing experience before that. If a business was looking To improve their branding, what would be your top three suggestions for them? [LEANNE]:
Yeah, sure. Um, I guess this one’s quite broad, but I would suggest that you audit every touch point. It’s all in the details, really. So if branding, in a nutshell, is the sum of every touch point with your customer, and their touch points they have with your business. And this is everything from the way you answer the phone, and how quick you respond to emails, to what your business card looks like, your office decor, your building signage. And so it’s just going through each of those things and seeing where you can make improvements, which kind of leads on to the second point, really, which is to be consistent. You want to build trust with your audience so you need that consistency. If a business was to compare what their website looks like to their business card, to their social media profile, you know, is it really obvious that they’re all from the same business? Do they use the same color palettes, the same fonts that are consistent, tone of voice, do your logos create a cohesive visual to really increase your brand recognition? And my third suggestion, would be to keep in mind that branding really has nothing to do with you sometimes and everything to do with your customer and your audience. So, every decision that you make about your branding should be made with your customer in mind, you know, what appeals to them? What is important to them? And what values do they share with your brand? [SAM]:
Absolutely, I think, yeah, of any of the points you could have gathered for your top three, I think those are three excellent ones. We’ve also mentioned often on this podcast, your point, your first points about the touch points and maintaining that consistency across all of them. And I think a lot of times, clients will maybe put too much, how can I say like too much responsibility on designers to create the brand when actually it filters into their customer service, their interior design, all sorts of things? [LEANNE]:
Absolutely. Yeah, the best logo in the world is not going to achieve all of those things for you. [SAM]:
Yes. And on your points on consistency, I know another thing that I punt a lot on the podcast is a brand style guide. And I think it’s also something that’s so often overlooked, but, to your points and consistency, if you do happen to change designers over time, or you decide to do it for yourself for a while, having that brand style guide as a guide as to what color scheme to stick to and what fonts to continue to use is so important. [LEANNE]:
Absolutely, we actually work with a lot of businesses that have maybe had their branding done by another designer in the past. And when they’ve got that style guide there, it’s so quick for us to get on the same page and to just, you know, carry on with that consistency that’s been built with them, that it’s all right there and it’s so easy to just dive right in. [SAM]:
Yes, it definitely makes our job as designers a lot easier. I know I also always appreciate it when they send a brand style guide along. [LEANNE]:
Do a little dance. [SAM]:
Yeah, so my job is already done for me. So, can you share with us, I know that a big portion of what Vanilla Hayes focuses on is web design in particular and I’ve done a few episodes on it but I’d love to kind of drill into what your top five tips are for great web design. [LEANNE]:
Yeah, sure. So, the web design side of things kind of eventuated for us when my husband joined the team, and he kind of heads that side of the business with another designer in that sector for us. So, we have a great crossover between our design team and the website side of things. So, some of these things may seem really obvious, but I think they’re all really important. So, number one would be to make it as easy as possible for customers to do business with you. So, you can do this by having a really clear menu so they can see in an instant exactly where they need to go to find the information they want, to have your contact details front and center. Quite often people are visiting a website just so they can get in touch with you and so, if you’ve got that in a really clear and easy place, that’s going to help you out a lot. And yeah, just make it really easy for them to navigate your site as a whole. Number two would be the visitors coming to your website because they have questions. So, make sure that they’re going to find the answers they’re looking for. So, what is it that your customers want to know? Is it more about your services you offer? Is it your opening hours? Is it how to book with you? Is it more about your credentials? So, just really put yourself in the mind of your customers or your client and make sure that they’re going to find what they’re looking for. Or if it’s not there that you know they need explaining, that they need to get in touch with you to gain access to that information. [SAM]:
On that point, I always find it interesting, if I’ve designed a website or had any interaction with the website, I often ask people around me to go on to the website and to browse it, and I kind of actually just watch where they go. And it’s so interesting that something you would have never thought of, a pathway you would have never thought of is the one that they choose to go to and that then just makes you realize maybe where you’re missing some vital information, or where you should maybe put a button or things like that. So, I think that’s also a handy tip for people, if you are not sure about the navigation of your website, just get a few people around you to go through it and to kind of show you how they interact with it. [LEANNE]:
Absolutely. And you’re not often going to get a kind of one size fits all, you know, so it’s great to be able to cater to a few different types of viewers and visitors to your site. [SAM]:
Yes, absolutely. [LEANNE]:
My third tip would be to invest in some professional photography, if possible. Even if it’s just a handful of photos, and especially if you can repurpose them for other marketing or your social media or anything, it makes such a huge difference, just having these unique quality images. Just to make such a great first impression. [SAM]:
Such a great tip, I think we’re all sick of seeing the standard stock images. [LEANNE]:
And you’re like, Oh, not that image again! Number four would be to really make sure that your website looks great on every device. So, you know, your desktop, a tablet, and mobile. So many people are viewing websites on mobile. But for those that do visit it on a desktop or something, does it still display and work just as well for them. [SAM]:
Absolutely. And I think I mean, these days, I should hope that most kind of companies that are handling web design will include that in their package, but it is definitely something to kind of just check in the beginning, if you aren’t sure. Make sure that they are designing your website for mobile as well. Because as you said, I mean, I think the stats are like 60 or 70% of people are viewing websites on mobile now, so it’s super important. [LEANNE]:
Yeah. And I think especially where you might have like really long form copy or something, what that looks like on a desktop compared to how much scrolling you’ve gotta do on a mobile to kind of get through it, you know, can really put off some readers if it just goes on for too long. [SAM]:
Absolutely. And I think, there’s also this trend that I’ve noticed nowadays where many people want kind of a one page website, and they want everything on that home page, which looks really nice on desktop, because it’s kind of minimalistic and simple. But again, I think they often forget the mobile consideration of how much scrolling that’s going to entail. [LEANNE]:
Yeah, and in that instance, I would recommend, even if that was something you really wanted to do, I would recommend having anchor points in your menu, so at least you could kind of jump to those points down the page as, you know, and keep that hamburger icon at the top so you can go back to that at any point. [SAM]:
Yes. So, I think that was tip number four, what is your last tip with regards to great web design? [LEANNE]:
So, number five kind of goes back to what you were talking about before is when it’s really interesting where people navigate to and what they’re interested in on a website. So number five would be don’t underestimate your about page. You know, people buy from people, so let them know who they’re considering supporting and buying from and just give them a bit of background. Some people will not be interested in this at all but I think a growing number of people really are drawn to this, to find out more. [SAM]:
Absolutely. And we actually did an episode recently with someone who specializes in storytelling and it was so interesting chatting about how that’s become such an important component of marketing. And I think people like you said, want that authenticity and they want to know the person behind the brand. And that can only aid you in your marketing and in attracting your ideal clients. [LEANNE]:
Absolutely. Yeah, no, I 100% agree with that. [SAM]:
So, kind of on the flip side of what we were just speaking about, what do you think are some of the biggest branding or design mistakes that businesses make? Whether it be print or digital? [LEANNE]:
Yeah, sure. I’ve listed down quite a few things here, so I’ll just kind of gloss over a few things, but I think simply get, when businesses simply get a logo and think that that’s branding their business. And I think, you know, if you take, for example, a brochure, if you’re putting together that for your business, and you need to also have certain types of fonts, certain colors, even the paper choice that you choose to print it on, are all decisions that are sending a message to your customer. And, you know, the fonts you choose, is that something that is really modern and professional or something? Or is it something that’s, you know, more casual or more formal? Or just all those little things, send these suggestions to mind, really? So, just not taking those decisions lightly I think. [SAM]:
Yeah, I think that’s really good. We’ve listened spoken previously of just yeah, putting thoughts and consideration into everything. I’ve done entire episodes on color theory and typography. So yeah, I think, as you said, all sends a message. [LEANNE]:
Yeah. And I think, another point there is that obviously when businesses and practices are starting out, quite often people will be inclined to give themselves a temporary visual identity just while they’re getting going. And sometimes this can really work against you, if it’s something that you’ve just kind of made decisions about so flippantly. [SAM]:
Absolutely, and I think also, kind of biting the bullet and giving that initial investment, even if it might be over budget, but knowing that it’s going to be long term, and it’s going to be, it’s going to result in a quality brand. [LEANNE]:
Yeah. And I think if you’ve got that great branding from the start, it makes every step after that so much easier, because you’ve really front loaded that whole decision making process. [SAM]:
Yes. And, as you said earlier, you can start building on that consistency and gaining that brand loyalty from the very beginning. [LEANNE]:
Yeah. And I think especially with branding these days, where it is, it’s both visual and non visual, that there’s so much strategy involved in that first part, that businesses gain a lot of clarity during that process. [SAM]:
Yes, I’ve often found that as well when I, I’ve got a little questionnaire that I send people specifically around logo design. And they often say in the beginning that it’s not, they’re not sure what they want but then once they’ve answered the questions, they actually find that they have a much clearer idea of what they like and what they don’t like, and what they want to communicate and who their target audience is almost like they just need to be forced to sit down and think about those things. [LEANNE]:
Yeah, and I think that gives them great confidence as well going forward. [SAM]:
Absolutely. So, are there any other branding or design mistakes that you’ve come across? [LEANNE]:
Yeah, I think don’t follow design trends. You know, and just don’t follow these trends just because you can see what’s popular and you want to be popular, so you do what everyone else is doing. And it’s very hard to stand out if you look like everyone else. And not only that, but if it’s a trend, you may end up having to kind of redo this whole process again in a very short period of time because trends, as we know, come and go. [SAM]:
Couldn’t agree more. [LEANNE]:
Yeah. And that kind of leads on as well I guess to when you’re working on a brand or even just a logo, or anything, making sure that you are designing for your customer not for yourself, unless you plan on being your only client then, yeah, you definitely need to keep that full audience in mind. [SAM]:
Yeah, I think in line with that as well, what I’ve also seen some customers do, which I think is a good idea is kind of, in the branding process, they will include their customers in it. So, once a designer has maybe sent them three logo variations for example, then they’ll put that on their Facebook page and they’ll include their customers in choosing which logo design they like. And I think that’s such a smart way not only to engage with your customers but, as you said, to ensure that you are designing for them. [LEANNE]:
And sometimes you can be really surprised. [SAM]:
Yes exactly, you may have preferred one design and they’ll pick another one entirely. [LEANNE]:
Yeah. So then I guess you can look at, am I attracting the right kind of people with this, you know, where I was really hitting with this, or is it you know me that’s maybe not quite aligning that, you know, not your brand personality is not necessarily your personal personality as well. They can be two very separate things. [SAM]:
Yes. Yeah, I agree. Any other branding or design mistakes that our audience should know about? [LEANNE]:
Heaps. Just little things really, I guess. Making sure you’re using the right file formats and things. Quite often we’ll see, you know, print advertisements and stuff that just have awful pixelated logos and things, you know, whether they worked with the designer that hasn’t given them the high res files, or whether they just were unsure which one to send for different things. I think that goes back again to the brand style guide, which generally outlines all that, what formats used for what purpose? But I, yeah, it’s just a reoccurring thing that I would just always see, and I just kind of cringe a little bit because it’s something that can so easily be fixed for businesses. [SAM]:
Absolutely. Or when social media profile images are cut off? Yes, yeah, all of that. [LEANNE]:
Yeah, just just kind of cropped in the wrong place and kind of loses its impact. [SAM]:
Absolutely. But again, just to my audience, I’d encourage you guys to just ask your designers about all these things. And, it’s very easy for them to send you, for example, an image of your logo that is sized perfectly for social media, that has enough wide space around it, so nothing gets cut off. And so yeah, really just chat to them about that. And make sure that you’re getting your logo and all your other design items in the correct format. So Leanne, if people wanted to get in touch with you, what would be the best way for them to do that? [LEANNE]:
Well, you can send us a direct message through our Instagram accounts, which is just vanillahayes. Or, you can visit our website, which is www.vanillahayes.co.nz. Or you can reach out to me on email, which is Leanne@vanillahayes.co.nz. [SAM]:
Great. And for those of you in the audience who have an appreciation for design, I would really encourage you to go and follow Leanne on Instagram, that’s actually how we connected and, you know, I love your posts, and I love seeing the work that you’re doing. [LEANNE]:
Oh, thank you. [SAM]:
And for those of you who have been on the move during this episode, as usual, you can go check out the show notes for all the points that she shared afterwards. But Leanne, if every private practice owner were listening right now, what would you want them to know? [LEANNE]:
This may have been something that’s mentioned in a previous episode, but it’s to paraphrase Seth Godin, it’s no longer about the product or service you sell, but the story you tell. So, if you don’t tell your customers who you are as a brand, how you’re different, and why they need you in their life, then they’re gonna fill in those blanks for you. So, whether you have consciously created a brand and put a visual identity out into the world or not, you have a brand by how you’ve been showing up visually and non visually already. So yeah, it’s definitely a great thing to really put some consideration into that and tell that story how you want it to be told. [SAM]:
Awesome, and that’s a great quote to end on. Leanne, thanks so much for joining us today on the Marketing a Practice podcast. [LEANNE]:
Oh, you’re very welcome, thanks for having me. [SAM]:
Thanks for listening to the Marketing a Practice podcast. If you need help with branding your business, whether it be a new logo, rebrand, or you simply want a print flyer designed, head on over to www.practiceofthepractice.com/branding. And, if you’d like to see some examples of my design work be sure to follow me on Instagram @samanthacarvalhodesign. Finally, please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast on iTunes if you like what you’ve heard. Talk to you soon. This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or any other professional information. If you want a professional you should find one.

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