Many of us design our own marketing materials, ads, e-covers, articles, sales pages, etc . . . because we can’t justify the expense of using a custom graphic designer. It’s not that we really want to be DIY (do-it-yourself) designers – we just don’t have a choice given our marketing budgets.
I’m an Internet marketer, business owner, web designer, product creator, writer – sort of a solo IM “jack of all trades” like many of you. But I have spent a fair amount of time studying graphic design because I want to. I like the subject matter. I like to think I have a fairly good graphic sense and an eye for proper design.
Maybe that’s why I cringe, gasp, and choke at so many of the DIY designs that I see online marketers using to sell their products and establish their brands. Just as bad are designs that have no graphic direction or visual appeal at all.
Good graphic design makes a difference in the “sale-ability” of your products and services. Most people, while not designers themselves, have a sense for “nice looking” presentations of ads and products. Often, DIY design is notable because it stands out as amateurish, confusing, hard to look at, and just plain butt ugly!
I’d like to suggest twelve (12) very common design mistakes that I see marketers making regularly that are easily avoided or fixed and that will make any presentation, ad, web site, sales letter, logo, or ebook a much more pleasing, visually enticing and a more professional product representing your business and brand! Products that are professional looking reduce the risk of a bad purchase in the mind of the prospect.
Not in any particular order . . .
1. Don’t explicitly copy others – especially those in your same niche. “Joe’s selling stuff in my niche and he’s doing well so I think I’ll copy what he’s doing.” No, no, no, don’t do it. You should be building your own brand and positioning your products and marketing in your own unique way. You can’t differentiate yourself from others if you copy them. Study the competition, yes, then do things differently. Your goal is to stand out but not stick out. Make sense?
2. Don’t use low quality raster graphics and low resolution images or photography. We’ve all seen web sites and ebook covers with pixelated graphics that resulted from small images being enlarged beyond 100%. Instead, use vector graphics where possible, especially in branding materials like logos that need to look good at both very small and very large resolution.
3. Speaking of logos, don’t display yours so large that it becomes the focal point of anything – web page, squeeze page, report or book title page, sales page, you name it. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the smaller your logo is, the more established your brand will appear. People care about what you’re selling – not so much about who sells it. You need vector graphics to make a small little logo look great.
4. I see it all the time – marketers using their logo in body copy and even headlines. Don’t make that mistake – it’s so telling that this is a DIY job. Professional designers don’t do it. If you need to refer to your company or brand in your copy, write out the name of your business in text.
5. Don’t try to be cool by adding every font possible into your marketing materials. I was looking at a report cover this morning and it displayed six different fonts. What’s the point? Good graphic designers don’t do that! Limit the number of fonts used in any design piece to three – and actually two is probably better in most cases. If you want some variety or distinction in your type, use “italic” or “bold” or different font sizes (of the same typeface) or even different weights (narrow, medium, heavy, etc) of the same font.
6. Don’t try to reduce or conserve the number of pages with design. White space is important – it’s pleasing to the eye – it’s your friend. If you don’t want a bloated ebook, cut down on your text to just what is necessary and dump the fluff. Narrow margins, tiny font sizes, and cramped line spacing all contribute to poor design. If anything, err on the side of too much white space. “Open and comfortable” beats out “confined and cramped” every day of the week!
7. Have a design purpose with the colors you choose. Here’s a good read for all you design DIYers. Color: Messages and Meanings by Leatrice Eiseman. Colors can create moods, emotions and certain feelings in the consumer. Colors can follow trends. Your brand is impacted for good or not by the colors you choose to use. Colors can be rich, sentimental, earthy, zesty, restful, assertive, mysterious, complex, intimate, provocative, invigorating, exotic, etc. . . Even though you may think you are not affected by color – design experts know better.
8. Don’t bore the consumer with long paragraph after paragraph of straight text. I’ve witnessed some sales letters that, if they were copied and pasted into a word processor, would be longer than the product they were trying to sell! Break up your text with spaces, blank lines, bullet points, numbered lists, graphic images, etc. Unless it’s a gripping story, long text is tiring and it becomes monotonous very quickly.
9. Watch out for redundancy. Saying the same word, phrase, cliche, technical term, company name, even product name over and over and over again is to be avoided. Aren’t there enough words in the English language that you can use a few different ones in your presentation?
10. Stop using animated GIFs, spinning wheels, flashing gizmos, and whirligigs on your web site. As cool as you thought those distractions were in the 1990s, they aren’t seen as being anything but a nuisance today. DIYers sometimes have a hard time letting bad design habits go.
11. Most consumers don’t care about product details; they want to see the benefits that a product, service, or training will give them. Yes, this is a common principle that marketers should know and live by; however, I see this advice being trampled all the time. Design your copy, your headline (sometimes), your bullet points, and your call to action around the benefits to the buyer. WIIFM (“what’s in it for me”) is what they’re after!
12. Most DIY designers don’t establish consistent brands. They either don’t have a brand at all (a tagline is not a brand) or they are “all over the place” in how they portray their brand from product to product and promotion to promotion. Design consistency will help you to establish your brand. Tastefully using consistent colors, typefaces, formats, a tag line, logo and other elements in your marketing will help to establish and solidify your brand. People in the niche will recognize your consistency and will be able to spot your brand’s marketing materials quickly and easily. Customers buy from people they know and trust.
There are a lot more abuses to marketing design than what I’ve mentioned. Evaluate your own marketing designs using these simple design principles as a starting point. Incorporating just these twelve ideas will go a long way toward helping your brand stand out and not stick out!
To your online business success,