Content is king, but if the king looks like a toad, no one will know he’s royalty.
On the one hand, your blog theme might be drop-dead gorgeous. But if your writing isn’t compelling, readers won’t stick around to read it.
Even worse, your writing might be fantastic . . . but if your design doesn’t stop web surfers long enough to read the first few sentences, you’re doomed.
Great design makes good copy sing. Everything you write becomes clearer, easier to navigate, and friendlier on the eyes.
Bad design doesn’t do your writing justice. The words you work so hard to string together might as well be written in the clouds: they disappear before they’re noticed.
Graphic and content design
First, let’s be clear about one thing. “Design” isn’t just your logo, the header on your WordPress theme, or the typeface you pick. Those things matter, but they’re just a small part of design.
Design is also about how you put your content together. How you structure it. How you choose to present and write it. That’s why this post is about visual design, but it’s also about content and copy design. They go hand-in-hand.
If you avoid the five problems below, you’ll improve the chances that your blog and marketing materials will be given the royal treatment: readers who pay attention and stay engaged.
Dumb mistake #1: It’s delirious and incoherent
- Be clear about the audience you write for. Find out what they struggle with. Create content that meets their needs.
- Speak to one person in that audience. Visualize that person as you’re writing. Doing this will help your ideal customer know she’s in the right place.
- Keep it brief. People are busy.
Dumb mistake #2: It’s hard to read
- Break up large blocks of text with bulleted lists, call outs, or sidebars. Call outs, where you pull out a sentence or two and make it larger, help readers hit your copy highlights. Sidebars are stories within the main story, and add nuance to your topic.
- Use high-contrast type. Typically, that means a dark color on a very light background. Don’t make readers work too hard. Light type on a dark ground or dark type on a colored background can cause eye fatigue. Also, make sure the type size is large enough to read easily!
- Pick highly readable typefaces and stick to one or two. Variety is the spice of life, but too many different spices will give your readers indigestion. Use no more than two main “spices” when it comes to picking typefaces.
Dumb mistake #3: It’s dull and not engaging
- Write magnetic headlines to pull people in. Remember, the purpose of a headline is to move the reader to read the first line of your copy.
- Set your headlines and subheads larger and darker or in a different color. Use visual contrast to differentiate your headline type from your body copy.
- Pick the most interesting ideas and make them your subheads or call outs. Many people scan before they dive in and read, especially online. Well-written subheads and call outs pull in more readers.
Dumb mistake #4: It’s decorative to a fault
- Keep colors to a minimum. Emphasize one or two and use any additional colors as accents only. Having a strong, obvious color palette invites visitors into a “world” you’ve created.
- Don’t overuse drop shadows. They make shapes and text fuzzy, dark, and hard to read.
- Keep design elements to a minimum. Less is more: always go for readability.
Dumb mistake #5: It’s not believable
- Create trust with consistency of design and tone. Decide on a “look” and use it for everything you create, now and into the future.
- Don’t try too hard. Using every graphic trick in the book only makes your pages hard to decipher.
- Nix the yellow highlighter and screaming red headlines. They might, for some markets, work on a sales page, but they don’t belong in your content marketing. Let your terrific content, not the ugliness of your design, capture the prospect’s attention.
To get readers to give your site the respect it’s due, use both good visual design and solid content design. You can have one without the other, but when you have them both, your blog and marketing will reign over the rest. The red carpet will be laid before you, your readers will bow before your great content, and you and your blog will live happily ever after.
About the Author: Pamela Wilson helps people give their business marketing the royal treatment at the Big Brand System blog.