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design & marketing blog

Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

Frappe Free Web Design

December 11th, 2016

One of the biggest ROI killing design blunders for any product or publication is over complexity, and Websites seem to be one of the most common offenders.

The term usability is used in Web design jargon as the attribute of how easily understandable and navigable a site is, and how readily it meets its target visitors’ needs. Almost without exception, each of the millions of Web sites in cyberspace are designed for very specific tasks for a narrowly defined group of people.

Osterizer GalaxieYour primary goal as a site owner is to provide a completely intuitive experience for your visiting prospects. In spite of this obvious goal often simplicity becomes lost in unnecessary clutter. When this happens visitors become confused and confused visitors, according to research, tend to make a hasty retreat.

I ran across a great example of usability in design recently when my ancient Osterizer Galaxie Blender broke. While it had provided many years of satisfactory service, it was always a source of mystery and anxiety to me. I just needed it to perform one simple task—blend. But each time I went to use it I had to wonder at all the buttons on the front:

Chop (Off) – Grate (Off) – Grind (Off) – Stir – Puree – Whip – Mix – Blend – Frappe – Liquefy

Am I doing this wrong? Should I be Puree’ing or Frappé’ing this protein shake. And does it matter which off button I push, why are there three? Just for good measure, I would randomly use all the buttons on different
occasions—all with no noticeable difference to my concoction.

Osterizer BeehiveIn browsing for a replacement, I came across the polar opposite of the Osterizer  Galaxie—the Oster Classic Beehive. There’s just one switch on the whole thing and that tne switch does just what I need without having to stop and think about which button to push and why.

While blenders and Web sites don’t have much in common, the design principle illustrated by Osterizer’s two extremes make great litmus tests for the usability of our own sites.

Now the Beehive looks much cooler than my old Galaxie, I no longer have to hide my blender from guests come over. But the most important thing about well designed
products or Web sites is not looks (although good design naturally lends itself to better aesthetics) it’s about making the value you offer clear and easy to implement.

I mentioned Steve Krug probably too much, but I know of no who does a better job of explaining the foundational principles of usability and helping people really “get” what it takes (and doesn’t take) to create an effective revenue producing Web site. If you’re the owner, manager, or administrator of a site I implore you to get your hands on a copy of his classic book, Don’t Make Me Thinklink opens in new window.

Don’t add clutter to your Website!

August 6th, 2013

I want to point out a great post that Seth Godin made a couple years ago. It’s one of my favorite short articles to reference before starting a branding or design project —The inevitable decline due to clutter.

As is his gift, he does a great job of articulating minimalism; a principle of design and communication that has become critical for success in this age of massive information overload.

I’m having a hard time not quoting his whole post because it’s so good, but in the spirit of minimalism here are the best parts:

  • “As digital marketers seek to increase profits, they almost always make the same mistake. They continue to add more clutter, messaging and offers, because, hey, it’s free.”
  • “Once you overload the user, you train them not to pay attention.
  • “More is not always better. In fact, more is almost never better.

Website Content 101

September 7th, 2012

The content of your Web site is crucial and should be developed to quickly answer the basic questions and needs of your specific target visitors. Research shows that you only have a few seconds to entice your visitors to stay so it’s vital that you present obvious choices for them to find the information they need. In addition clear and compelling navigation options need to be present that allow your visitors to easily recognize where they should click to proceed through the sales/information process.

If your visitors become confused about what your site is about or how it applies to them, they are likely to just leave and look elsewhere. The goal of your front page is to allow visitors to qualify themselves as prospects for your business or organization and to proceed through the sales process by accepting a call to action that you offer. Call to actions can include purchasing online, contacting you for an appointment, subscribing to your newsletter/blog or whatever the specific next step is in your sales process.

The Essential Questions Visitors to Your Site Will Need Answered:

  • What do you do? One of the most common mistakes that sites make is not being clear on exactly what they are providing. The more complex of solution you offer the more important it is to provide this answer in easy-to-understand language. The essence of what you do should be the basis of your organization’s mission statement, but answering the “What you do” question will also include the specific products or services  you’re offering.
  • Why you do it? This is related to an organization’s vision statement but needs to be expressed in concise language free from industry jargon. Telling visitors “why you do it” is a means of establishing credibility and positioning yourself as an expert adviser for recommending a solution to their needs.
  • Why are you the best choice? This question is the most vital for new prospects and should be answered by your unique value proposition. Your unique value proposition is simply a concise statement of how you
    meet their need better than anyone else
    .  In addition to stating your unique value, you need to back it up with real-life examples. The most effective support will be testimonials, portfolio’s of your past work, and third party reviews or endorsements if available.
  • What can I do? This is the question you want most asked because it means your visitor is satisfied (or at least intrigued) with the answers to their first three questions. They are asking how to proceed through your sales process. This doesn’t mean they’re necessarily ready to buy, but they’re willing to take a step closer. Your site needs to present unambiguous action items for your customers to answer their question of “What can I do?” by providing conspicuous “call to action” links in the body of your front page and the navigation menu.

How To Provide the Answers

Here are a few key principles for answering your visitors’ questions :

  1. Be concise. Paragraphs of text on your front page will bury the answers to your visitors’ questions and result in a high abandon rate. Your front page, and navigation bar, should be thought of as a map that clearly directs people to more detailed information on the destination of their choice, without them having to think twice about their choices. While, supporting pages will provide more detailed answers the still must avoid verbosity to be effective.
  2. Communicate in layman’s terms and avoid your industry’s jargon. Realize that much of the internal language your organization uses may have no relevance for your visitors.
  3. Provide clear call-to-action choices for all types of visitors. The fundamental questions presented above provide answers for newly aware prospects through “trial” or first-time buyers. If you anticipate clients, customers with an ongoing relationship with your organization, to be frequent visitors you need to accommodate the needs of these visitors. Other visitor types can include press, investors or employers. The answers to each type of visitor questions need to be presented in proportion to the importance they have towards achieving the overall goals of your site.

See also: It’s Easy to Spot Amateur Copy

Using Conformity to Communicate The Uniquness of Your Company

August 8th, 2011
Baker Tilly Email Design

A great example of the the principles of consistency and conformity is the email template we designed for Baker Tilly. Compare the email design with the graphic identity of their existing Website.

Seth Godin’s blog posts are always profound, but his most recent post Bypassing the Leap is especially relevant to the services we provide. The gist of his post is that most of the time creativity is the act of reinterpreting and reassembling elements that are already well accepted and proven to work.

Effective branding and design services are based from this same perspective. While it may sound contradictory, quality creative products are almost always intentionally designed to conform within well established boundaries.

No matter how unique of graphic identity a corporation has, you’ll find the logo almost always in the upper left and the main site navigation in one of two locations. This is staying within the proven boundaries of usability. When Fortune 500 corporations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop their branding and identity all marketing publications will almost always have identical colors, layout and typeface. This is adhering to the core principle of graphic design—consistency. Corporations conform to the principles of usability and consistency because they know they’re the most effective way to communicate a credible message and the most effective way to persuade their customers to action.

Embracing conformity to communicate uniqueness is really the secret of success when it comes to marketing communication and application design. 

Many small and mid-sized companies don’t get this. Have you ever found a Website through Google that you thought might be a good solution for a need only to have second thoughts when their Website design looked dated, amateur or unclear?  No matter how unique and appealing their solution may be, if their graphic design and usability do not establish unwavering credibility you’re likely to just head back to Google to search for an alternative.

Small and mid-sized companies have a great opportunity to level the playing field against even massive competitors by communicating their unique value message by conforming to already accepted and proven principles.

Does your marketing communication produce credibility or doubt? Ask ten people outside your organization that you can trust to give you honest opinions about their impressions of your Website, emails or other marketing material. If you need an objective professional opinion let us know. The one thing you’ll get is honesty and there’s no obligation. If you do decide for yourself that your identity needs a makeover we provide consulting as well as in-house development and design services. You can call us at 866.770.7967 or through our online form.

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