These days when brands talk about web design and their marketing strategies, the phrase “immersive experience” seems to constantly come up. But what is immersive experience? The immersive experience is about crafting an engaging brand experience for consumers through visual and interactive storytelling. Brands compete for consumers’ attention using a highly visual—and often social—web environment on their websites. Different brands have different business methods, but they all have at least one goal in common: to engage audiences effectively while telling a story. Today’s brands want to beat the competition by getting consumers to enjoy products in innovative ways.
Immersive web designs usually have an image or video as the entire background, completely absorbing your attention. Once the site loads, you’re immediately submerged in the subject matter, hence the term “immersive.” Burberry provides an immersive experience with the ‘Bespoke’ tab on its site, allowing you to design a personalized version of the company’s iconic trench coat. You instantly feel like you’re part of something. Real life is merged with the virtual.
These types of interactive web environments likely borrow concepts we typically attribute to video games, film and TV—which, when successful, can make you forget you’re looking at a screen at all. In fact, “immersion” is a term often used with virtual reality. Control Films, for instance, is a boutique production company that showcases a beautiful, imaginative site with a focus on video. As we become increasingly visual consumers, combined with the endless exposure to content on the Internet vying for our attention, immersive experiences are arguably becoming a necessity to catch our eye, regardless of the type of company.
Now, thanks to new tools like HTML5 and responsive design, immersive online environments are more widespread than ever, heightening user experiences across the web. Another example of a website that creates a successful immersive experience is the Google Cultural Institute, which aims to preserve and promote culture online. Its immersive experience brings global storytelling to a new level. The viewer enters the site and can instantly take a virtual journey through the events leading up to D-Day (June 5, 1944). This exhibition provides the viewer with visual artifacts from the events, from an image of members of the WAAF packing parachutes for use during the Normandy invasion to video footage from an American-commentated account of the Normandy landings. The viewer gains a clearer understanding of the events, thereby achieving the Institute’s goal, through this visually enlightening interactive web experience.
Web design is an extremely useful tool for developing a brand’s voice and purpose. Two components of an effective brand story are rich detail and engagement. A brand’s website must not only contain visual and visceral stimuli, but also hold the attention of the consumer and induce participation. Everyone wants to be immersed in interesting web content, and brands are quickly learning how to use that to their advantage. But simply throwing big, eye-catching pictures onto a website doesn’t mean you will create an immersive experience. To succeed, it has to be done well. Add text to go along with the background image so that the viewer associates meaning with the image and understands the message that your brand is sending. Using captivating sounds, videos and images will certainly help merge real life with the virtual and create an immersive brand experience for the viewer.