Let’s face it, no one likes ugly looking things. That’s why the web is awash with cat photos and very few photos of slugs. This is especially true when it comes to using designs for your brand and in your content.
People make visual assessments of quality at a subconscious level. And they will make assumptions about the value your brand can bring them based on your use of design, as we shall soon see.
What is beauty? It’s a philosophical question that can be hard to answer. But here’s a question that’s not so hard: what is ugly? The thing is, whilst it’s hard to convey what’s beautiful or attractive, we’re pretty good as humans at noticing when things are bad, shabby, ill-conceived, lazy… put simply, unattractive.
Attractiveness bias in marketing is based on a wealth of research that shows that people are more likely to attribute positive characteristics to attractive things.
According to Adobe’s State of Create report, businesses that invest in design are 80% more likely to have satisfied customers than those that don’t. And 70% of people like brands who deliver them a well designed customer experience. There’s also plenty of evidence that companies that invest in creativity in general perform better on a range of metrics.
This is particularly important in the content creation field, where most creators tend to have access to the similar information, meaning that how brands present information creatively is really crucial.
The State of Create report also demonstrates that consumers are willing to pay more for brands that have great designs, and 70% of people say design helps create a strong brand experience.
And here’s another fact-attack for you: a majority of people are more likely to buy from brands that bring creativity to their marketing. Now that’s attractiveness bias in action!
Not only do consumers trust creative marketing, there’s concrete evidence to show how well designed marketing shapes public opinion across a wide range of industries.
So it’s important to get your designs right, lest you be judged…
It’s incredible that so many brands still treat design like it’s an optional extra. In fact, good design is an essential facet of your business, just like your product quality or customer experience. In fact, good design can be make-or-break in terms of people choosing your brand over your competitors. People are just drawn to more attractive things. It’s a fact.
Sony is a company that understands the value of design. Sony always assume that their competitors have the same products as they do, so they focus on perfecting their designs. This attention to design comes across in how they present their products as well as the design of those products themselves.
Image Source: Sony
Sony have some really attractive design touches on their site, like the “support” drop down box with icons representing different sections of their site.
How many successful and influential content creators do you know who have shoddy design? Probably none. Take a look at the best performing creators in your niche and compare your design to theirs.
Who wins? This may seem like an unfair question because you’re probably thinking, but they can afford to invest more money in design that I can!
Whilst it is true the the big hitting content creators can afford to pay for designers, video editors, camera and video operators and so on, it’s also a big reason as to why they’re successful in the first place.
And if you choose the right design agency you will be investing in getting big returns from leveraging the attractiveness bias in your content.
Design doesn’t have to be showy and slick, it can be composed of simple but well chosen elements.
Look at Seth Godin, for example.
Image Source: Seth's Blog
His blog has a very simple design. But notice these things:
The design highlights his short articles so the eye is quickly drawn to what he has to say. The fact that his posts don’t contain images is a design choice; he’s showing how his insight is so powerful he doesn't need pictures to jazz things up.
But also notice his avatar in the top left corner. It’s a very stylised head shot in a pear shaped cutout. This clearly isn’t a generic avatar box from a website template, it’s been attractively designed by pros.
Notice how well shot the headshot is; the carefully chosen, slightly quirky suit, the black and white image with his iconic glasses picked out in yellow. A lot of work has gone into this deceptively simple design element.
Now take a look at his altMBA web course:
We have the same stark black and white design elements we saw on his blog, the same block caps text and a video play screen showcasing Seth (note the yellow glasses again) and some text hooking you into pressing play.
And it surely doesn't hurt that he includes attractive photos of alumni of his course:
Image Source: Alumni Spotlight
Now compare and contrast with another content marketer who has a much more snazzy design aesthetic (remember, it’s about what works for your brand image). Here’s digital marketer Neil Patel:
Image Source: Neil Patel
Patel’s site is designed in a more familiar SaaS/marketing design style, with bright hero shots, lots of white space, and a striking color pallette. This is an extremely attractive design and it’s a big reason he’s such a successful marketer in a world that is as much about image as it is insight.
Neil Patel uses design to demonstrate the value his audience are going to get out of his content.
There are lots of competitors who offer similar insights and experiences as Neil does, but he uses design to set himself apart from the rest.
Look at the design for his CTA button on his landing page:
The bright colour of his site’s distinctive orange hue, the readable and visually appealing font he uses, and the simple contrasting lines of the CTA button all make it more likely people will go deeper into his sales funnel.
And look at the design work that goes into his blog:
Image Source: Neil Patel's Blog
Each post has its own branded thumbnail, using Neil’s distinctive aesthetic and color scheme. Consistency of design is so essential to branding, especially when you have content on multiple channels.
You have lots of opportunities to design your website, but when it comes to platforms like YouTube there’s less customizability. This means you should make the most of design where you can, like Neil Patel does on his channel.
Image Source: Neil Patel YouTube Chanel
As soon as you search for Neil Patel, you see his latest videos, each with an attractively designed thumbnail.
Neil takes every opportunity to inject his fresh and visually appealing designs into his content because he knows it makes people much more likely to trust him and see him as an authoritative voice in a crowded niche.
Entrepreneur Syed Balkhi created successful online brands like OptinMonster and WPBeginner. He gets over 400 million people visiting his sites each month. It’s no coincidence that he’s also a design whizz, regularly using tools like Photoshop, InstaQuote and Unsplash to furnish his content with compelling visual appeal.
This strong focus on design comes across in his SaaS products:
Image Source: OptinMonster
OptinMonster uses illustrations and friendly design to show rather than tell how effective his products are.
We’ve written about I Will Teach You To Be Rich (IWT) in our article on auditing your brand voice, and it’s worth returning to Ramit Sethi’s wealth coaching business again.
Now, it doesn’t hurt that Ramit is himself a very attractive man (they call it attractiveness bias for a reason!), but the way he presents himself - clean shaven, business haircut, smart suit with a loose necked, maverick feel - contributes to the sense of personal goodwill and confidence his audience see in him.
That’s why he features as a massive cut-out on the landing page of his site (notice how he fixes you with a confident look? Notice the knowing smile?). All these details help nurture the emotional responses that underpin the strength of his brand and the extent to which people will trust him to help grow their wealth.
You should think of your design elements in your content as another form of social proof; the evidence people look for that you are what you say you are and that you will deliver what you say you will.
This kind of validation is important to Ramit’s brand. He clearly sees being pictured next to Warren Buffet as more important than being featured in the Wall Street Journal and CNBC.
Image Source: About Ramit
He even features a before and after shot of himself that illustrates the visual and design transformation he went through from being a student to a multi-million dollar wealth coach.
Image Source: About Ramit
One of the keys to using attractiveness bias in your designs is to focus on mastering the small touches that really make your brand stand out in the eyes of your audience.
IWT’s site is full of these small touches that make all the difference. On his product page, each course has its own icon. They’re simple but really nicely designed with a coherent and recognisable aesthetic.
Image Source: I Will Teach You To Be Rich
To illustrate how these touches matter, let’s take a look at another personal finance blog I found on page 5 of the Google search results page, Personal Finance King.
Image Source: Personal Finance King
I’m sure the content is very good, but they’re missing opportunities to leverage attractiveness bias. The logo has some nice ideas in it (a kingly piggy bank is a nice touch and resonates with the target audience of the blog). But the design does leave something to be desired.
The black border to the image is too harsh and makes the content appear squashed. And the off-white background of the logo clashes with the white background of the site. There’s also a lot going on in the logo that’s all crammed into too small a space.
Contrast this with the logo from popular finance blog The Penny Hoarder which has a cutout logo and the blog title placed against the web page background. It’s much easier on the eye and it blends much more seamlessly with the site design:
Image Source: The Penny Hoarder
Now look at the way the thumbnails in Finance King are out of line on the page. This is disruptive to the user experience.
Notice also how the images chosen don’t exactly pop, and they don’t tell us much about what we will get out of this site. Unfortunately, there’s a reason sites like this turn up on page 5 of Google and not page one.
However, the Fianance King site could easily be made very attractive with a few simple changes to the logo design, layout and image choice. A design agency would be able to advise them on how to make those changes and begin to climb up the Google rankings.
Let’s look at a different content niche now… travel vlogs. Look at the video thumbnails that come up first when I enter the term ‘travel vlog’:
Image Source: YouTube
Is it a coincidence that each search result has a well designed, attractive thumbnail? No, because attractiveness bias means those videos get clicked on more so YouTube ranks them higher.
What do you reckon we’ll see when I click on the channel of the top result, well designed or poorly designed content? Well let’s see…
Image Source: Tess Christine
What a surprise! Tess Christine’s top-ranking channel for ‘travel vlog’ is well designed! She has a nicely designed channel art that showcases her and her boyfriend (these are pretty attractive people, it needn’t go unsaid) and shows her in a range of travel scenes that make her lifestyle look diverse and attractive (just like her content).
Social media strategist Peg Fitzpatrick makes excellent use of designs in her Facebook content as a way to encourage people to visit her blog.
Her branded designs add interest to her posts and indicate how she can help her audience become more visible online.
Image Source: Peg Fitzpatrick
We’ve seen hard evidence that great design is essential to the growth of your content creation brand, and learnt how important design is to appealing to consumers and distinguishing yourself from your competition.
The next step is to explore what opportunities you have to improve your designs and boost your performance. Creating a brand profile can be a powerful way to ensure you get designs that fit your brand, so check out our article on the subject here.
Danni is a freelance writer based in glorious Glasgow, Scotland. She writes about web design, SEO, digital marketing, and advice for freelancers and small businesses. When not writing she plays fingerstyle guitar and learns to code.
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