Since we’ve been discussing web design the past week, I wanted to take a moment to introduce a trend that I’ve been seeing in the “emerging” media world related to web design. That trend is “microsites,” or a “site that is associated with an organization, but is on a separate domain and has its own navigation, design and content.”
Since we are specifically talking about design, microsites offer advantages to web designers. “For a start they provide the site owner with complete control over design. This allows them to tie the microsite in closely with the visual appearance of the marketing material being used on the associated campaign. This kind of flexibility is not something that is normally available if the microsite content was integrated into the main site.”
In addition, microsites offer the ability to focus specifically on the attractiveness of the site, without worrying about headers, footers, site navigation, etc. that can clutter a website. “Getting design and content working closely together (rather than content being dropped into a pre-defined template) is the level of art direction marketeers have come to expect.” With a microsite, “the user is focused purely on the campaign and associated calls to action.”
Another valuable aspect of a microsite is the ability to completely own the content. In social media environments, like Facebook, brands are basically just “renting social media space. Brands will always have more control over owned spaces than rented ones.” You can personalize your information on sites like Facebook, but you can’t design the look and feel of the overall site, which limits brands from really creating a cohesive experience for their consumers. Which is why many brands are leaning towards microsites to create a social environment that is of their own design.
One of my favorite microsites, www-southwest-heart.com, was recently launched after a complete re-brand of the Southwest Airlines livery including planes, website, marketing materials, etc. The re-brand focuses on the Southwest Heart image and is included across marketing platforms. The “heart” has always been a key part of the Southwest brand. “One point to that fact is that the airline was founded at Love Field in Dallas or that its stock ticker symbol is NYSE: LUV.” The Southwest Heart website is separate from the www.southwest.com website where you would go to book a flight. “This promotional website focuses on the concept of ‘heart’ to correspond with the rebrand.” Indeed, “the bolder colors, streamlined composition, and clever three-colored heart logo [present across the microsite] reflect recent developments at the company.”
The microsite “combines video, animation, and social media, pulling in tweets and Instagram posts that display Southwest’s new look and feel by showcasing its people and planes. This site is all about putting the brand’s core values front and center, and the interactivity of the design goes a long way toward making the effort feel authentic. There’s a nice balance of company-produced and consumer-generated media.”
What I really love about the microsite is the simple navigation, the large category headings and the interactivity of almost every element. Almost every graphic moves or rotates in some way adding to the excitement of the website. This site doesn’t try to be an airline booking site in addition to a marketing site; it is purely a site based on the brand and the brands commitment to the heart and soul of its people and customers.
Have you seen any other great microsites out there that complement a brand’s larger website?