Design helps to achieve strategic and operational goals. I will show you what contribution visual design can make using the example of a fictional value chain.
© Easton Oliver – Unsplash
Content design can make an essential contribution along the value chain. I deliberately do not say “customer journey” or “funnel” because neither of the two terms are exact.
Two factors have a direct influence on the growth of a company: sales and costs. Positive growth can be achieved by increasing sales or reducing costs. To illustrate, I will use the following driver tree as an example:
In this example, the growth results from the increase in sales through the acquisition of new customers. The main driver for this is the lead generation (for example, with the help of content), which is fueled by Facebook Ads.
As I said, growth can have different drivers or, remain in the metaphor of the tree, different drives. An alternative tree could also start with search engine optimization, increase sales by upselling instead of winning new customers, or amount to cost reduction.
What the growth paths outlined, however, have in common is the strong omnipresent influence of visual (and psychological) design – what Ben Harmanus and I call “content design” in our book.
Design tricks to attract the attention of the target groups
We humans react strongly to visual stimuli. We can take advantage of this in marketing to draw users’ attention to some aspects through targeted visual design.
The simplest method is the targeted use of typical style elements to highlight particularly important information. Text-related tricks are, for example, underlining or boldface, deliberately changing the font size or colour in the body text, using headings and subheadings or loosening / summarizing a long text using shortlists. A practical “side effect” of the optimized design is improved usability and user experience.
Content design is even more exciting about images and entire “systems”, such as websites or apps. Because here we can apply countless tricks for conversion optimization far beyond the basics of the gestalt laws, for example:
- People perceive images or image content with high variations more strongly than pictures with low contrast. The meaning of “black on white” is no accident. To do this, it is enough to make sure that the respective photo is exposed correctly when choosing the image material. That does not mean that we have to change our corporate design and work with neon colours from now on, but the goal is to stand out.
- (Picture) Sizes
- Large pictures catch the eye rather than small images – that shouldn’t come as a particular surprise. Against this background, the redesign of large news portals such as the Süddeutsche Zeitung is understandable. But such “trends” are only slowly becoming established – perhaps because the effect, or let’s call it potential, is not known to everyone. It is not only the size that is important, but also what is to be communicated through a picture, but it helps to make the reader/viewer aware of this powerful message. This is very clear on mashable.com (see image below) – the image size creates a hierarchy in attention and thus influences the probabilities with which the individual articles are clicked.
- The motif should, of course, fit the message, but in general, it can be said that an image with an empty office next to a copy of the same size, on which a crowd can be recognized, receives significantly less attention. Why? Because “living” visual elements are naturally more interesting for us. Isn’t it fascinating to discover the many different details on a site like lingscars.com (see picture below)
- By the way: Contrary to the spontaneously negative evaluation by pretty much every visitor, the operator of this site is hugely successful with her car leasing company.
- The shape of a picture also influences the perception of your target group. Texts are usually square elements. Round elements automatically form a contrast to this shape and thus automatically attract attention.
When designing websites, landing pages, blogs and content in general, the focus is always on the target group. After all, it’s about the customer experience – that is, the Customer Experience (CX). CX Design helps create the best possible (visual) customer experience. You can do this if …
- you directly satisfy the needs of the consumer,
- you make the consumption or use as simple as possible,
- you enjoy using it,
- you emphasize the authority of the sender (ergo your person or your brand).
With the user-centred design, you go one step further by continually asking yourself what your customer (user) wants. Use the opportunity to involve customers in your plan or content process. In an active exchange with your target group, you can best find out which needs have to be met and how content design can help you.
The art of conversion-centred design
Targeted design is just as crucial for “conversion” as the visual design is for generating attention. What else do we make awareness for when we don’t want to use it for our purposes? Through targeted content design, we can guide the user through our content – from the first contact to the conclusion.
Generate attention through design
Ideally, each website has exactly one goal. Navigation, information or transaction. The homepage, for example, often only serves as an orientation point – instead of trying to generate leads here, the focus is more on redirecting the user to individual content pages. On the other hand, on “Sales Pages”, which I now also include product pages in the online shop, the focus is more on getting users to buy. Navigational or informational content that has no influence on the purchase decision is somewhat counterproductive. At Keller Sports, for example, the focus is on the product image, created visually by dominance in size, and the accompanying shopping cart button, which stands out due to its color. In the best case, “the first glance” is enough to get the user to make a (purchase) decision.
Offer structure through design
Without a bright and transparent structure, you will rarely reach your goal. Use graphic elements to point out important information and support your users with a visually clear framework. It is no coincidence that almost every website consists of a header, main and footer and in many cases, there is also a sidebar. We, as users, are familiar with this structure and find it easy to find our way around. The same applies to the recognizable separation of “product information” on the left or in the central area and “purchase information” in the right area of online shops. This arrangement follows our natural reading behaviour from left to right and provides us with the information relevant to the decision in turn (What’s this? What does this cost? How can I buy it? ).
Also make sure that your target group is evident at all times about where they are (e.g. using a page title or breadcrumb navigation, see Keller Sports) and what options are available to them – using elements such as navigation menus, buttons, forms, links etc.
Communicate clearly through the design
Content and design are always based on your goal – whether it’s a “click through”, filling out a form or completing a purchase. The question of what users already know and what other information they need to make a decision is also crucial for the design. Because only with this knowledge can corresponding elements be visually emphasized and put in the correct order.
In this example, Keller Sports trusts that the user is already familiar with running watches and can directly decide on a product. If this is not the case, they offer additional information as the page progresses. Since the user is now in a vertical movement, they place the call to act appropriately at the foot of the page. This integrates the conversion into the flow of the user.
Move to action through design
A request for work (call-to-action, CTA for short ) must not be missing on either side. What goes without saying in online shops also applies to blog articles and other content pages. It is the next logical step that a user should take with a view of the value chain. Too often, however, the CTA is forgotten, so that users only consume the content and then leave the page again. That is wasted potential. Only those who tell their users what to do can count on them to do just that.
Holistic content design is not just there to generate more leads and increase the number of customers. The good content design also increases the use of the content for readers and user or customer satisfaction overall and is, therefore, a good investment in the future.