I would to promote certain features/ values of my application throughout all its UI/ look and feel.

Edit: That is, through my application UI I want to place small hints that my company has certain values, let's say that it is a mature enterprise, etc.

I want to "paint" my interface with hints.

Are there any materials to help me on that quest? Books, tutorials, etc?

  • Welcome to UX.SE John! Could you please refine this question to be more descriptive? Dec 16 '11 at 19:07
  • Edited my answer. Hope it clarifies. I'm talking about generic values. Not "mature enterprise" in particular. Dec 16 '11 at 19:16

You're Designing the Invisible!

Just because the web removes that face-to-face interaction with your audience it doesn’t mean you can’t have a tone of voice.

The biggest thing here is the tone of voice your site shows; your tone of voice will indicate if your company is serious, a little silly, a little laid back, or a little aggressive.

This helps your brand show general things like how fun you are, how dedicated your are. If you want to include specific values (say you're against SOPA) you have to explicitly call attention to it. Hints are only hints after all; they set a tone, but not a subject.

If your company finds something particularly important (political position, belief, charity fundraising) and you feel your customers will identify with that, bring it up explicitly in an appropriate manner. This is often only appropriate; don't be preachy, it can drive customers off.

SOPA is a good example; many web sites brought up SOPA explicitly the past couple weeks, all explessing their opninion in their own way. Some insulted it, some encouraged rational, professional opposition. Note that the general tone (fun vs professional) permeates the explicit message here as well.

Designing For Emotion is also a wonderful resource for guidance and example of setting the tone and feel of your website, and should help you express the feel your company has about it's product; hopefully even giving your customers some of that feel as well.


What you're really looking for is brand design. Branding is about all aspects of how a product, service or company communicates with the world, and part of that communication is to embody values in the visual design, choice of language used to talk to the audience, and sometimes even explaining openly why some things are not done.

You'll only be able to promote those certain values and maturity holistically, so I'd look for books on branding. A classic resource is The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, it would be a good place to start, but don't expect quick fixes.


Well, I'd certainly split "value" and "feature" in two distinct categories.

A Value is something that IMHO can't and shouldn't be promoted in a product (be it a UI or something else). It must be represented by the whole brand or organization.
I'll use IBM as an example (this is not advertising, I do not work for IBM), see how the word "solid" is stamped everywhere. That's their value!

   IBM home page

Their choice for thick horizontal strips whenever appropriate, even their logo is made of horizontal lines in a bold, uppercase slab-serif. Can it get more "solid" than that?
Also note how they place "solutions" as the first button, right after their logo.
Note the hierarchy: IBM -> Solutions -> Services -> Products.

And it's not just in their website, all they do exhales the word "solid".

    Thinkpad Laptop

See how "rock solid" this laptop looks. It looks like you can fall off a cliff with it and use it to tweet about it. By the way, not only it looks like that. the mid- to high-range ThinkPads have water-proof keyboards that have special, sealed drainage channels running to the laptop's underside.
Rambo's laptop!

And see how this also relates to features. The solid look of their products give a hint that indeed they were built with that thinking in mind.

   Server design

That's how they embrace their values - through features that are consistent with the overall look of their products, be it on the UI of their website or their server's hull.

So when your product looks fun, people will expect fun, and be more inclined to expore that side of your product. When it looks smart, people will believe it is, unless the product disappoints them.
So basically you just have to make people expect something of your brand/organization/product, and then guide them towards the path that makes you different from the rest (e.g., more solid, more fun, smarter...).

Also see my comment on NGO examples in Alvin's question that focused on NGOs if that's your case.

  • @Kris What, because they're thick? ThickPads? I did not understand, shame on me. Dec 21 '11 at 10:57
  • @Kris oh sorry, didn't notice. Fixed. Dec 22 '11 at 3:45

For some inspiration I would look on how various NGOs solved it. For the most part NGOs are all about the values. So that should be their number one priority to communicate.

As an example: Red Cross, The Scout Movement, Doctors without border,

When it comes to values in general, most often they are not visible. Values become visible to us through actions and behavior. So the actions available in the GUI needs to reflect the values of the company.

Look at the Red Cross site for example. Just by looking at the menus, items such as volunteer, give blood, preparing and getting trained and Receive assistance. All of these gives me a hint of the values of the Red cross. I understand that they value helping, education and volunteering.

So if you want to communicate the value mature, actions such as "our history" becomes important. Instead of just showing your current products, show that your current products comes from a long line of products.

Go to IBM,and take a look at their drop down for languages. Being every where in the world is a behavior that signals international as a value. So what behaviors and action can you use to signal you companies values? Look at what you do currently and what values that reflect. Then take the best ones and make them visible in your GUI.

  • IMHO the NGO examples you chose were not very happy in their intent - I'd put those designs in the "FAIL" box. For a more up-to-date example that shows your idea in the whole design of the website, I'd think about BreadPig and Unscrew America. I mean nothing against the Red Cross, but the design makes me think "hey look we're the good guys okay here's the donate button". Dec 19 '11 at 8:07
  • @CamiloMartin IMHO you could post this as an answer (perhaps without reference to NGO examples).
    – Kris
    Dec 19 '11 at 10:37
  • Yeah not the best examples around. But those where the value based organizations off the top of my head. I was not looking for good designs, rather organizations that showed their values through behaviors and actions. Although something that combined these would have been best. On the red cross site I would say that the available actions shows the values of the organizations rather clearly. So more about the content than the design, which you quite accurate described.
    – Alvin
    Dec 19 '11 at 12:43
  • @Kris Doing that. Dec 20 '11 at 1:38

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