What’s in an image? You don’t have to search particularly far or wide to find articles heralding the importance of using images in your marketing content. Visual information plays a much bigger role in our lives that it did even just five years ago.
Articles like infographics have seen huge surges in popularity, thanks to their ability to parade facts and statistics in appealing, easily-digestible format. But the term ‘image’ can mean much more than just adding pictures to your blogs or tweets – Ernest Dichter calls the concept of an image as one that describes not individual traits or qualities, but the total impression an entity makes on the minds of others.
“It is a most powerful influence in the way people perceive things, and should be a crucial concept in shaping our marketing and communications efforts”
Much like an image, as Dichter puts it, considers the total impression over individual qualities, your blog content cannot rely too heavily on one medium, but should consider the bigger picture. Designing a blog posts shouldn’t be a singular column of text on a plain background, nor should they be clogged with irrelevant images or overbearing charts that mask the actual point you’re trying to make.
To give your blog posts the perfect total impression requires equal acknowledgement of four key principles. In today’s post, we’ll explore these principles; identifying what they entail and how they can boost the readability and engagement of your blog posts.
Four quarters to a wholly engaging blog
Increasingly, audiences are scanning web content rather than reading word-for-word, as our collective online attention span is on the decline. To combat this, you need to ensure your blog post is formatted as such that it’s as attractive as it is easy to read. Correctly formatted text will offer your reader visual cues for where they should pay attention, making them less likely to drift off… or worse still, leave the page.
Headers and sub-headers are rule 101 for organising the text of your post. They’re great for breaking up your content as well as informing the reader of the direction the post is heading. Choosing eye-catching or thought-provoking headers – especially the title of the post – are important for drawing the reader in. Asking a question and using alliteration or sibilance are good methods of doing so.
Your audience might not be facing life or death, but choosing one product over another could have a serious impact on their career. Offer them a solution – via your white paper – which will help them understand more about the world, more about your market and more about the options out there.
- Write down in free form who you think your audience is. Where are they from? What does s/he look like? What is s/he worried about?
- Also scribble down some ideas about what your reader is looking for. Do they want simple how-to steps, or do they want a detailed technical guide?
This is an incredibly simple and effective method for improving your blog’s readability. Wide columns of text are harder to read and give the impression of there being more text on the page. Keep your column width to around 100 characters or less, including spaces.
Shorter attention spans have resulted in shorter paragraphs. Break your text into as small and as manageable pieces as possible without losing the flow of the post. Avoid conveying multiple ideas in the same paragraph, and try not to go over 5-6 sentences.
As a general rule, sans-serif fonts are easier to read on-screen than serif fonts. In terms of size: bigger is better (within reason, of course!) When it comes to accenting your text, make sure you don’t go overboard – use bold text to highlight important sentences, but using it too much will dampen its effectiveness.
Information overload is a very real thing. Make sure your blog doesn’t have too much going on at once, as a plethora of images, charts, text, colours and the like can quickly overwhelm your reader.
Headers part II
The visual equivalent of a text headline is a header image or banner. Particularly useful as a backdrop to your post title, header images are a must in modern blog posts, and come with their own set of rules for making sure you choose the right one.
Sidebars help provide additional content for the reader to navigate elsewhere when they’re finished with the post at hand. Previous blog posts, information on the author or contact details are good options to further your reader’s journey on your site. Plus, they can automatically shrink the column width for the body of your post to improve readability.
There is a lot of ‘research’ that claims specific colours can evoke certain emotions in people, but in truth colour is too dependent on personal experience to be universally translated to specific feelings. There is no doubt, however, that they can evoke a reaction. Choosing a pastel palette – pale blues, greens or yellows, for example – for the background of your post can look good while avoiding the formality (and glare) of a plain white background.
A similar but more direct version of sidebar content, calls to action guide your readers along the next steps to take, which path to travel through your website or where to find further information. CTAs have taken the marketing world by storm, with marketers voicing the numerous benefits they can have on your conversion rates, click-through rates, and overall lead generation. Typical examples include links through to additional blogs or whitepapers – “read more about X” – or asking the reader to “sign up to our webinar to find out more”.
So, how you can implement great aesthetics in in your blog posts? We process visual information roughly 60,000 times faster than the time it takes us to decode text. That’s the science behind the power of visuals – simply put, images are a necessity in modern blog content rather than a preference.
So, posts with images are all but guaranteed to perform better than mere walls of text. However, choosing to use images is only as useful as choosing the right ones. When writing for the ‘business world’, there are a multitude of cliché ‘business style’ images to choose from, most of which provide no context or add anything to the text. The trick is balancing relevancy and originality in your images.
Illustrations or photography: which one do you go for? Photography can give your piece style, and – if using an internal photographer – is the perfect means for originality, but illustrations are often easier to gather and can be applied on a broader scale. Both have their advantages when used correctly.
So, why not both? This is something that is not often seen, so a combination of photography and illustrations can give your post a unique feel and help it stand out.
Infographics have proved to be an extremely effective method of influencing audiences. Combining statistical figures, images, colour and text, they can express findings in an easily-digestible, attractive and enjoyable format, and are well worth investing in if you have a design team at hand – which is why we’ve incorporated our own infographic elements in this blog post!