Which of the following is not true about graphic design?

  • Your business needs a logo
  • Ugly websites convert better than well-designed websites
  • Custom work is looked upon more favorably than stock art
  • Graphics can improve SEO value of your website
  • Quality graphics improve advertising efforts

Many business owners make the mistake of thinking aesthetic design and conversion tactics are separate entities. They compartmentalize lead generation and logo design as separate, unrelated tasks. The truth is, that’s not the case at all.

Shape and color are proven to stimulate the mind. Moving users through the funnel, at any stage, greatly benefits from high-quality creative. There have been numerous studies showing the value (and conversion increases) associated with branded infographics.

The problem is when users attempt to misuse or abuse this technique.

On a core level, we all understand how bad design can lose business.

Outdated logos, cheesy 90’s web design, or a general look that suggests “we don’t care” is an easy way to get any savvy prospect to pursue other options. Disjointed or misaligned creatives only exaggerate this problem.

And it’s not exactly a problem that needs to be exaggerated: we’ve all Googled something, clicked on a search result, and immediately left because the page design was an eyesore.

“There’s no way these guys are good,” you might think to yourself, as you tab over to the next potential option. Lack of quality design shows a brand does not take itself seriously. So why should you?

Here are some of the ways design can help emphasize and increase your digital marketing efforts:

 

The Traditional Basics: People Compare

In the previous generation of advertising, there was good reason companies were willing to pay exorbitant prices to network television. Appearing (and appearing consistently) on these networks yielded high brand authority and inspired purchases. At a certain point in the past, TV advertisements were the strongest option marketers had available.

However, there was a significant “barrier of entry” required to afford these network spots (as well as produce the commercials).

Not only did you need to afford an expensive advertising placement. You also had to be able to afford to produce a commercial that matched the level of the others. Otherwise, you would be tuned out as “noise” and ignored.

If you failed to match the baseline quality of the other commercials, just like in our  example with web results, you would say to yourself “there’s no way this product can be good,” and move on.

You’d buy from the other brand with a $50,000 filming budget, who hired well-speaking actors, and improved upon their footage in post-production. Why? It “looked like the good one.” Sometimes, this is entirely subconscious. People notice and are attracted to impressive aesthetics.

On the other side of the equation, take a moment to think about local TV networks. What kind of advertisement placements do you see on them? Used car dealerships, local lawyers, etc. They all have a distinct lower quality in their content – and as a result, weather consciously or unconsciously, they are taken less seriously. There’s a simple explanation for that.

On a core level, people understand how much effort you’ve put into something. And while the well-meaning local dentist likely spent a good amount of time (and money) putting their television ad together, it’s nowhere near comparable to the average network placement.

When compared to the holy grail of television advertising, the Superbowl, the difference is even more striking. These are the glossiest, highest production ads ever made – and that’s because this is arguably the most expensive television ad placement you can possibly purchase. It’s “go big, or go home!”

The bottom line is this: content has to be competitive with the content it’s being presented against. And while the core service can have the same quality – that is, what the customer is truly getting — is of comparable value, it’s necessary for presentation of the product or service to reflect that as well.

Otherwise, we lose the prospect’s trust before the real competition even begins.

Great design and branding, in the modern landscape, is the equivalent of having the viable quality needed for network TV placements of yesteryear. The modern “network” is the internet (it’s even in the name). You’re fighting the same battle on every webpage, social media post, and advertising graphic. Make no mistake.

Your online presentation – that is to say, your website, your logo, your general design aesthetic and media assets – all have to match the level of quality of the other search results in your industry. If not, the user will naturally gravitate towards the handful of best designed sites, and begin their consideration process with those options alone. You won’t even be in the running.

This provides significant opportunity. Many business owners are behind the times in this regard. They’ll say things like “just put something up,” or “we’ve had that logo for 50 years.” That’s all well and good when you’re the well-established, local hot spot in your town. However, that’s just not how things work online. The moment you want to expand, open a second location, or make sure you appear next to the other local businesses you just know you outdo, you’re going to have to face the reality of the current landscape.

Every time a user visits your website, or comes across a piece of your content, it’s an “audition” to win their purchasing power. You want your business to radiate quality at all times, wherever they come across you. The goal is to secure as many of these auditions as possible, and inevitably win more purchases in the process.

 

The New Basics: Integrated Branding Matters

At the heart of this is another marketing truth: consumers value consistency. It builds trust.

We don’t want to have to think about a decision twice – once our min is made up, it’s most convenient for us to go on autopilot. Having to re-think important decisions takes us out of our comfort zone.

In the business world, this becomes repeat transaction or the lifetime value (LTV) of the customer. As any business owner worth their salt will tell you, that’s where the majority of money is made. Repeat business is everything!

Consistency across every point of brand contact is crucial in developing trust in the mind of your prospects. Design is one more forefront where that must be accomplished.

At first glance, your design must be comparable to the pool of alternatives your client is likely to come into contact with. Ideally, you have the best design, and gain a slight degree of preference from the beginning.

Once you have this set in stone, it’s important to never forget repetition in graphic design matters! Using established brand colors (your business has a specific hex code of it’s flagship color, right?), connecting aesthetic concepts, and finding new ways to incorporate your signature brad elements are now all standard practice.

Our NYC locals are all to familiar with our consistent MTA branding, for example. They have a color system for the subway, and aren’t shy to bring those colored circles into announcements of posters. The update being shared doesn’t necessarily tie to the 4 train itself, but the green circle and combination of a few together let you know at first glance, “this is an MTA poster.” They extend beyond a navigation system and become brand symbols for the organization. That’s exactly what we’re talking about here.

 

But Wait – I Heard Ugly Websites Convert!

There is an often-repeated myth that “ugly landing pages convert better.” While there is a grain of truth to this sentiment, the conclusion drawn from it is ultimately misinformed.

What you want to avoid is over-designing. A landing page, or a “Squeeze Page,” is designed to present an offering and drive users to purchase or signup. That’s it.

Too often, digital marketing agencies attempt to reinvent the wheel on landing pages – destroying conversion rates in the process. They over-communicate the value proposition, which results in increasing the complexity of the page.

Landing Pages need to be simple, sleek, and effective. It’s not so much that ‘ugly’ pages work better, so much as that including an entire sales brochure on this style of page repels users.

A “learn more” button or link taking you to such materials wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. However, it’s 2021 – no one wants to watch a full video presentation before committing to a purchase. If they’re viewing the landing page, it’s likely they were already sold on your product or services. Businesses over-explaining or over-selling their value when the user is already at the purchase page are shooting themselves in the foot. The phrase “I don’t need the hard sell” comes to mind!

So then, what written content is optimal for you landing page?

A quick blurb to highlight key value propositions is the go-to, and is very effective. One of the reasons we often see marketers move against this is that they want to avoid “thin” content. Thin Content are short pages looked upon unfavorably by Google for search engine optimization purposes.

However, each individual page of a website page, and each individual marketing objective have their own goals. Believe it or not, a landing page does not need to be the highest-ranking SEO page for it’s target keywords! That’s best saved for your cornerstone content and high-wordcount articles.

Too often, SEO-focused agencies load up their landing pages with all of the different reasons their client’s solution is top-notch. All this does is drive the conversion rate down. It’s a case of “wrong time, wrong place.”

When it comes to landing pages, follow KISS (keep it simple stupid)! The user is visiting a landing page for only one reason: to consider a purchase. When they’re doing research, they’re viewing entirely different types of content.

Treat the landing page for what it truly is. You do not need to elicit additional interest if they are already considering the purchase. The user will do that on their own during the research phase.

And if your user stumbles onto your landing page, out of all the pages on the internet, when trying to do their preliminary research… they’re not ready to buy! Save you and the user the trouble. They’re not going to fall for the hard sell. In fact, they’re going to get annoyed and consider the other 3-4 tabs they no doubt opened at the same time. By optimizing for the wrong objective, you’ve missed the opportunity.

There is a time and place for informational, SEO-optimized content. The landing page is not one of those places. Anything other than the minimal essentials needed to buy is a distraction. Users find this confusing, and are more likely to leave without making the decision your page was designed to guide them towards: redeeming an offer.

When customers are in a buying mindset, they are not in a learning mindset. Those are two very different functions of the brain (and entirely separate stages of the consideration process).

Too much information can cause “decision paralysis” and cause a potential buyer to give up on making a purchasing process for the day altogether. They’re more likely to throw their hands up in the air, cry “not sure yet,” and go order a pizza. Maybe they’ll try again tomorrow.

When they do attempt their search again, it will be with a slightly different query to get to what they wanted all along – options for purchase, and perhaps short affirmations on why this is the “right choice.” These new results will no longer include your landing page. By optimizing for the wrong objective, you have lost the opportunity.

Designers on some level always understand this. Good designers know how to creatively use their space. They do not fill space for the sake of it. They’re wary of making things look too “busy.” Aesthetics can guide user’s eyes towards key areas, such as a contact form.

Ugly websites will convert! That’s because most landing pages do convert some percent of the time. That does not, however, make them the optimal choice.

A more accurate sentiment would be “ugly websites convert more than over-designed ones.” Simplicity is key – but you can have superiorly designed, simple pages. And guess what? They’re going to convert better than the ugly ones, hosting a long-form sales letter or un-skippable video.

 

Dialed In

Quality graphic design can assist your audience targeting efforts. This will actually result in increasing conversion rates due to your aesthetic choices.

The color schemes that gamers find attractive are a lot more active and “loud,” when compared to the color schemes when shopping for an interior designer.

The best designs allow you to convey one extra layer of “understanding” the prospect. When properly aligned with marketing goals, and the strategic value of a given digital asset, it can be used to heighten the original message so that it’s understood at a quick glance.

Have you ever looked at one option while shopping, and thought “I think this one is it?” This is exactly why. The message was crafted with one more layer of specificity to radiate in your mind as the solution.

It can be tricky to tie direct ROI to graphic design, however, there is significant value in presenting your business in the bets light possible. Visual elements are a great way to demonstrate your understanding of an audience, subculture, or niche on sight.