The Psychology of Design in Content Marketing

by | Dec 27, 2017 | Content Strategy

Content marketing involves much more than words — the key is leveraging proper design psychology to guide users to the decision you want them to make.

In fact, researchers at MIT dis­cov­ered that the brain process­es images in as quick­ly as 13 mil­lisec­onds

To grab your audience’s atten­tion, who­ev­er they may be, you need to evoke a vis­cer­al reac­tion. This requires antic­i­pat­ing how your read­ers will react to var­i­ous design tac­tics, and then using that knowl­edge to your advan­tage. What moti­vates some­one to buy your prod­uct or use your ser­vice? How do var­i­ous col­ors or lay­outs affect their moods and their decision-making?

To answer these and oth­er crit­i­cal ques­tions, here are design prin­ci­ples to guide your con­tent mar­ket­ing efforts.

Content Marketing and Design: Think Visually

Hav­ing a dom­i­nant col­or in your con­tent makes your mes­sage more rec­og­niz­able. Choose that col­or care­ful­ly, though—you want a col­or palette that res­onates with your desired audi­ence, and cer­tain col­ors are known to evoke spe­cif­ic emo­tions. Red, for exam­ple, is asso­ci­at­ed with dan­ger in col­or the­o­ry, while cer­tain shades of green bring feel­ings of trust and accep­tance. Excep­tions to these rules abound, and your brand’s col­or palette will need to be con­sid­ered in any­thing you pro­duce. Research the col­or con­no­ta­tions in your area as well. What local brands and com­mon adver­tise­ments are asso­ci­at­ed with the emo­tions you want to inspire in your audience?

Sim­i­lar­ly, choos­ing the right font for your con­tent is a tricky process. How easy is it to read your cho­sen font on a com­put­er screen vs. a bill­board? Leg­i­bil­i­ty should be the top fac­tor in your font deci­sion-mak­ing. Cer­tain font choic­es also evoke emo­tion in a sim­i­lar way to colors.

A serif font con­veys a sense of tra­di­tion and reli­a­bil­i­ty, while script fonts may high­light cre­ativ­i­ty. To give you a head start, here are some free fonts from Hub­spot.

Design-based think­ing can also help com­press large amounts of data into some­thing more digestible. Info­graph­ics can turn a slew of stats into an instant­ly rec­og­niz­able and mem­o­rable piece of con­tent. If you have a lot to say, don’t rely sole­ly on text to get the infor­ma­tion across.

Too Many Choices

British psy­chol­o­gist William Edmund Hick devel­oped a the­o­ry that the more choic­es some­one has, the longer it takes them to make a deci­sion. Cus­tomers get over­whelmed with deci­sion fatigue if there are too many options to choose from, and they’re a lot more like­ly to sim­ply walk away from any choice. Sim­ply put: more choic­es mean few­er conversions.

Whether you’re design­ing land­ing pages, direct mail­ers or whole mag­a­zines, stick with the “one page, one goal” when it comes to any calls to action. What is the one most impor­tant deci­sion you want a poten­tial cus­tomer to make based on your con­tent? Focus on that. Min­i­mize the amount of form fields and social net­work share but­tons on dig­i­tal con­tent, and keep the call to action to one phone num­ber and one URL on print mate­ri­als. More than that can become visu­al­ly dis­tract­ing and con­tribute to men­tal fatigue.

Test and Learn…then Tweak Again

Of course, none of this advice is one-size-fits-all. Best prac­tices vary based on your indus­try and your tar­get audi­ence. As with any mar­ket­ing deci­sion, A/B test­ing is your best friend. Try a dif­fer­ent col­or for that CTA but­ton! Play with a dif­fer­ent font choice.

The bot­tom line: You have a world of choic­es in design—be smart about it, and you’ll reap the benefits.

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