In this episode of Sites, I share with you a brilliant little essay that describes a few simple ways that great design can help your content marketing.
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Jerod Morris: Welcome to Sites, a podcast by the teams at StudioPress and Copyblogger. In this show, we deliver time-tested insight on the four pillars of a successful WordPress website: content, design, technology, and strategy. We want to help you get a little bit closer to reaching your online goals, one episode at a time.
I’m your host Jerod Morris.
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Hey there — it’s great to have you here again, for episode 2 of Sites.
If you missed episode 1, we discussed content. Specifically, we discussed Brian Clark’s simple three-step process for creating a winning content marketing strategy. Every fourth episode of Sites will be about content, and we’ll be diving into that three-step process in more depth … so be on the lookout for those episodes in the future.
This week, our topic is design — the second pillar of a successful WordPress website. Next week we’ll discuss technology, the week after that we’ll discuss strategy, and then we’re back to content, and then the rotation continues.
I have to admit: design has always been one of my least favorite parts of the web design process. Well, it was anyway.
I’m not a designer. I’m a writer, a podcaster … I’m a content guy. I like writing and speaking words. I like building digital products.
Colors? Font? Grids? Typefaces? They just weren’t my cup of tea.
But then I started working for Copyblogger / Rainmaker Digital … which meant that I got to work side-by-side with Rafal Tomal, our lead designer. And through web events we’ve hosted together, reading his blog, and even just the insightful comments he will make on our team calls, I feel like I’ve gotten a crash course in not only design fundamentals but, more importantly, WHY design matters … and why, in many ways, content IS design.
I mean, I could write the most useful words the world has ever seen, but if I slap them on a poorly designed website, I’m going to significantly inhibit the amount of people who will read them and be moved by them.
Design … it matters. A lot.
Take it from me. I’ve been converted.
In this episode of Sites, I’m pulling a classic post out of Rafal’s archive. It’s a brilliant little essay that describes a few simple ways that great design can help your content marketing.
Make sure you stick around for the calls to action at the end, too.
Here we go. Here is my reading of Rafal Tomal’s post:
How Can Great Design Help Your Content Marketing?
Some people say that they don’t need too much design because their blog is nothing more than just pure text.
What do they think web design is all about?
It’s not all about fancy graphics, textures, and flashy effects.
Design is every single character on your blog, a space between your paragraphs, an underlined link, or your background color. Design is both what you see and what you don’t see. Design evokes emotions and can create unforgettable user experiences.
Websites heavy with content, like blogs and online magazines, require more design and are more difficult to lay out than any other kind of website.
Let’s see how a good design can help you to spread your content, attract a larger audience, and improve the conversion — three crucial things for every content marketer.
1. Improve reading experience
You spend time and money on producing awesome content. You can write the most interesting articles on the web but nobody is going to read it if you use a light gray, 11-pixel font on a white background. It really hurts.
A good design can make reading your content a pleasurable experience and convince people to come back. Bigger font size, shorter paragraphs, and funny/interesting illustrations can pique your reader’s interest and they will be more likely to share it with others.
Have you ever read Jason Fried’s book Rework? You would probably be surprised how this book is designed. The chapters are very short and even the author admits that he removed a big part of the book content to make it as short as possible. Additionally, there are full-page, funny illustrations and a lot of whitespace around the text.
It made a lot of sense to me and that was one of the best book reading experiences I’ve ever had.
2. Increase the conversion rate
Whatever your conversion target is, a good design can help you achieve your goal or multiply the results.
If you want to get more subscribers to your email newsletter, there are many crucial design aspects that you may want to consider. Every little detail may improve your results. Think about the sign-up box’s layout, its size, its position and even its colors or other graphical elements.
Are you selling online products? You will need a good design to create promotional banners, landing pages, and even the product design itself. If it’s an ebook, focus on the cover design.
A lot of people make their decisions based on how the product’s box is presented. You definitely want to make a great first impression with your product.
3. Define your visual brand
Branding is not reserved only for big companies. You’re never too small to think about branding. You should keep a consistent look and feel between your blog, online products, and the email newsletter you regularly send out.
The brand is not merely a logo somewhere in the corner. A good brand should describe the type styles, colors, and even spacing between the elements.
Let your designer define your visual brand and use it everywhere. Be very specific. You don’t want to describe your brand color as ‘red’. Rather, use the exact hex decimal or RGB code that your designer can help you choose.
You might think: “It doesn’t matter, it’s just a red color.”
To which I say: “Erroneous! It all matters!”
If you change your brand colors from website to website and product to product, it will create an inconsistent look and won’t evoke the same brand-feeling effect that you want your visitors to feel on their very first impression.
Can you imagine the “red” color of Target to be in different shades in different locations? You would probably notice a change like that. However, it’s always the same and this is why you feel so familiar with it.
All of these small details might seem to be barely noticeable, but they create a consistent look and feel for your brand that visitors notice — both consciously and subconsciously. You want to make your colors and type styles easily recognizable.
So as you can see, design is much more than just pretty graphics. A well-designed blog can help you improve the reading experience and increase the conversion rate.
Moreover, you should look deeper and carefully design your own visual brand that will help you build trust and make your content recognizable.
Keep in mind that most people make their decisions based on their emotions and gut feelings. If you want them back, they need to feel good while they are using your website. You can achieve this by providing a great visual experience on your site and with your digital products.
Finally, here is what two well-known bloggers and content marketers have to say about how design helps them be successful:
Chris Garrett, at ChrisG.com (who hired Rafal to redesign his website):
Rafal’s new design, first of all, gave me a more modern, professional first-impression, which is vital if you want people to stick around and take you seriously. The second boost was to the number of people who join my email list, which is my main way of sharing exclusive content with readers. Email sign up forms were intentionally located and designed to be appealing and highly visible, and have been hugely successful.
The biggest reason a lot of writers cast aside web design or consider it “not important” is that they are under this false assumption that their blog is simply a collection of articles.
Your blog is a user-interface, one that all readers have to interact with if they are going to read your content and (hopefully) take actions to buy something from you or subscribe.
Your site’s design is thus much more important than being a book cover — as in “Don’t judge a book by its cover” — because it’s tied into how your content is read and interacted with.
And that concludes Rafal’s blog post.
Again, it’s titled How Can Great Design Help Your Content Marketing? And it was originally published at RafalTomal.com. I’ll have a link to the original post in the show notes, which you can always find at studiopress.blog.
Next week, we shift from design to technology. We’ll be talking about web hosting performance. I know, I know … not the sexiest topic, but it’s one of the most fundamental elements of your website that you need to get right.
One of the quickest ways to test the patience of visits and search engines is with a slow-loading website … and those are two audiences you do NOT want to make wait.
That’s next week, on Sites.
Now for this week’s calls to action:
1. Take out your sheet of paper, or open Evernote, or write yourself an email or text message — however you jot down important notes — and answer this question: What is one element of your design that you’re not satisfied with?
Maybe you don’t like your header. Maybe you think your sidebar is too cluttered. Maybe you feel like you don’t have enough white space on your content pages, making them hard to read. Well guess what? If you’re thinking that, your audience may well be thinking about it too.
Jot one or a couple of these elements down. And then consider what you could do about them. Even if you don’t know code, a lot of WordPress themes are fairly simple to manipulate with a little bit of online research, or with even a specific request to the team that supports your theme. Resolve this week to fix one small element of your design. It might just be a small change that has a huge impact.
2. Make sure you stay up to date and informed. Sign up for free podcast updates and our curated weekly email newsletter, Sites Weekly.
Each week, I find four links about content, design, technology, and strategy that you don’t want to miss and send them out on Wednesday afternoon. Reading this newsletter will help you make your website more powerful and successful.
3. And finally, if you enjoy the Sites podcast, please consider giving us a rating or a review over at Apple Podcasts — formerly known as iTunes.
One quick tip on that: to make the best use of your review, let me know something in particular you like about the show — that way I make sure not to remove it as the show evolves! To find us in Apple Podcasts, search for StudioPress Sites.
Thank you for listening to this episode of Sites. I appreciate you being here.
Join me next week, and let’s keep building powerful, successful websites together.
This episode of Sites was brought to you by StudioPress Sites, which was awarded “Fastest WordPress Hosting” of 2017 in an independent speed test. If you want to make WordPress fast, secure, and easy — and, I mean, why wouldn’t you — visit studiopress.com/sites today and see which plan fits your needs. That’s studiopress.com/sites.