Why visual counts so much
Think back to the first computer games ever created. As simple as the graphics were, they held an amazing appeal to the users. (yes, think old school Mario- doo dee doot dee doot )The fascination for visual affects has been growing ever since the computer technology began to advance with more colors and detailed graphics.
When Pixar featured the first ever computer generated film, Toy Story, in 1995, the applause was astounding. The hunger for more sophisticated computer graphics grew at an alarming rate, particularly for animated movies and computer games.
The visual appeal is clearly evident since vision is one of our major senses that we rely on for recognition of people and objects. We also use hand motions (umm, especially us Italians, lol) and facial expressions that are meant to visually convey messages to others in a more effective way, thus, eliminating the necessity of additional spoken words.
Because internet users are very drawn to visual stimulation, you have a great opportunity to appeal to your audience using photos and graphics for your own online business.
This post is geared to help you achieve positive results with your own visual marketing focus. Well-presented photos and graphics allow your business to communicate more effectively with your customers, as well as present your brand awareness in memorable way that will appeal to your targeted audience.
Building Your Brand Visually
What is a Brand? A brand identifies you to your customers. It tells your customers what is different about you and gives them a reason to buy from you. Determine what makes your business stand out from the rest and publicize it. A brand can instantly tell your customers it’s “You” and gives them reassurance that they can expect quality service and products.
What are some of the elements of a brand?
+Your USP (unique selling proposition)
+Your website and promotion material colors
+Your tag line
All of the above are part of your brand. Be consistent with images and colors that you use, thereby making it easy for people to identify you and your business. When they see your logo on your email newsletter, it will let them know it’s you right away. That will, hopefully, encourage them to read your emails when they recognize it’s from you.
Think about how you feel when you see a familiar brand, such as Reebok or Adidas. When you see their symbol, you instantly know the company and, if you like them, feel reassured you will be happy with their product.
Get the help of a graphic designer to help you create your brand materials. Work together to come up with a design and colors that complement your business. It may cost you some money, but you can benefit from the customer familiarity and the emotional feelings your brand produces, which in turn, can mean more loyal customers. Don’t skimp on this! Have a professional logo created and use it on all your materials – your website, business cards, flyers and brochures, and any other promotional material you use.
Many times the first thing that catches someone’s eye is your logo. They don’t have to read a word to know that it’s your business. In our “hurry up” world today, that’s important. We want to be able to be recognized as quickly as possible, so that we don’t let our customers move on to our competitors.
Choosing Colors for Your Website
The role of colors in your visual marketing can play a big part. Let’s talk about your website colors. Colors have the potential to keep prospective customers on your site or make them run. They can encourage feelings of reassurance and trust, excitement or stability.
Obviously, if you are trying to sell something on your website, you will want to pick colors that let your visitors know they can trust you and that they are buying from a reliable company.
Let’s look at some of the more common colors and the feelings they can produce.
With the wide range of colors you can choose from today, pick carefully so that you get the end result you are hoping for. Visual marketing and eye appeal are very important today!
Blue represents trust. It gives the visitor a feeling of peace and reassurance .
Red creates an excitement and power, but did you know it can also increase your appetite? Interesting! So, if you’re selling food on your site, it might be good to use some red coloring.
Green is connected with money and wealth, but also can give a feeling of stability. It is often used today for the “green sites” such as organic foods.
Yellow can produce happy feelings. It can also draw attention to something, as with yellow highlighting that has become common.
Orange is noted for energy and strength, and is also used to imply affordability. Many today are using orange backgrounds in payment buttons.
Purple can represent ambition and extravagance. It is also used to increase creativity.
White represents purity and simplicity. It also brings a crisp, clean look. When designing a website, it is a good idea to use a white background with black font for the text. It is an easy to read format for your visitors.
Black is a more formal and dignified color. As mentioned above, black font is the standard color for website text.
*Color information taken from http://www.psychicsoncam.com/meaning-of-colors.htm and http://zacjohnson.com/the-emotions-of-color-in-marketing.
Take some time to think about the emotions you want to create in your visitors. Do you want them to feel relaxed and reassured when they come to your website? If so, think about using blues and greens. If you want them to get excited about what you have to offer, consider using some reds, oranges or purples. The colors of your website may not make or break a sale, but they definitely have an influence on how your visitors feel when they get there and how long they stay.
Using Buttons & Icons
Text graphics are extremely useful and can visually help your website visitors navigate quickly throughout your site. Your main purpose with buttons and icons will be to increase the usability of your website, as well as guide your readers and potential customers to explore your content or take other suitable action.
The downside to buttons and icons is that you can easily overcrowd your site with them. If your site becomes cluttered with too many graphics, it can confuse your visitors, or worse, overwhelm them where they fail to take any action. Simplicity is going to be the key to helping your visitors stay focused and taking the action you desire. Strive to design your site so that it’s easy to scan and locate anything that your visitor may be looking to find within seconds. Failing to do so will decrease your conversion rates because visitors will become frustrated and quickly leave your site.
10 helpful tips for using buttons and icons:
1. Make sure your graphics and icons match your branding and your site’s theme. For instance, if you’re going to have a more formal business setting online, you would not want buttons and icons that are meant for casual type sites. The overall appearance of your site and graphics should easily blend well together with your theme.
2. Stay consistent and keep navigation buttons in the same location on all your pages. Otherwise, your visitors can become frustrated while hunting for their new locations. Failing to stay consistent with the location of your graphics can also make your site appear to be rotating around and become quite annoying to your visitors.
3. Use tabs instead of navigation buttons to simplify your site. Well-designed navigation buttons can be attractive, but if you’re already using a lot of buttons and graphics on your site, then use simple text tabs for assisting visitors to the main pages of your site. This will help your site have a clean appearance and avoid looking too busy.
4. Use text words on your graphics that are simple and direct. Make sure your graphics lead your website visitors to the proper pages and links, as nothing seems to aggravate users more than being led in circles or to dead end tracks.
5. Be sure to rename your graphics for what they represent and place “alt text” for users who may have the viewing of graphics turned off in their browsers.
6. Test your site’s loading time. Too many graphics can slow down the loading time. Converting your graphics to JPG can help “lighten” your graphics and allow them to load faster. Some quality is lost with this format, but it’s not a huge difference. So, unless your site is focusing on high quality photos, then use graphic formats that are easier for your server to load.
7. Vamp up your error pages with text graphics. Error pages are shown to your visitors when they are lead to a broken link or page that is no longer existent on your site. Most error pages are boring and can quickly lose your visitors interest and cause them to leave. Creating a customized error page which includes text graphics suggesting other suitable actions can encourage your visitors to stay longer on your site and browse other pages.
8. Test your website’s appearance in different browsers. You can insert your URL at http://browsershots.org to view your site’s appearance in different browsers. There’s also more sophisticated software available for more detailed results if needed.
9. Common buttons you should use: 1. Social media buttons that encourage your users to share your content with others in their social networks. 2. Subscribe buttons that encourage your readers to subscribe to your content. (Offer different icons to allow your readers to subscribe to your content in their own preferred ways such as email updates, Facebook updates, Twitter updates, alerts using RSS feed or other popular RSS readers.) 3. Graphic icons that allow readers to take action without additional reading. For example, you can use recognizable picture symbols for printing or downloading your content. 4. Sales graphics and arrows that draw your readers attention and encourages them to take immediate action.
10. Include a simple search box and site map on your site. Other means of browsing your site should be included for visitors who may not be visually enticed or for those who still may be having difficulty navigating through your site. Most internet users are very accustomed to using search engines, so a simple search box will assure that your visitors have an easy way to find products and information with ease.
Creating Infographics and Mindmaps
Infographics and mindmaps cater to the visual appeal online and have become very popular. What exactly are these?
Wikipedia defines these terms as such:
Infographics are “graphic visual representations of information, data, or knowledge” (for an example, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_graphics).
Mindmaps are, “diagrams used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea.” (for an example, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindmaps).
What’s so great about infographics for your business marketing is that such graphics can easily become viral when you allow your readers to share it with others in their social networks. As discussed earlier, social media buttons are great to add to your websites. They become even more important when you post content on your site with the goal to gain maximum exposure. The easier you make it for users to share your infographics and other content, the more likely they will share.
To become worthy of something that people would want to share, your infographics and mindmaps should be very useful and present itself as a helpful guide for readers. Infographics especially should offer eye-catching graphics and appealing colors. Mindmaps should be easy to follow, and again, it should serve as a useful purpose and guide.
Infographics and mindmaps can also be used to add value to information that you’re already selling. They make perfect bonuses and make the perception of value higher for your products.
There’s a few helpful resources online for creating your own infographics and mindmaps. If however, such a project is not something you want to take on, remember that you can always outsource it.
Here’s a few resources you might want to consider:
http://dailyinfographic.com (find ideas for infographics)
http://www.infographicsshowcase.com (ideas for infographics)
http://visual.ly (infographic creation tools)
http://vizify.com/tweetsheet (use your Twitter activity to create an instant infographic)
https://bubbl.us (create colorful mindmaps)
http://www.wordle.net (create visual word cloud)
http://www.snapfiles.com/get/FreeMind.html (mindmapping software)
http://www.snapfiles.com/featured/521760-112987.html (create mindmaps and diagrams)
Creating Videos and Slideshows
By creating videos and slideshows for your products, you can show people what you offer instead of just telling them. And that goes a long way in getting them to actually buy, which is the end goal.
You have some options when creating videos. You can present your products in the video, showcasing what you have. Or you can put yourself on video and let your prospective customers see you, thereby instilling trust and familiarity. That also helps in converting them to loyal customers.
Do you enjoy watching others on video and hearing their message? Does it give you a better sense of who they are and if you can trust them? Translate that to your own market and give them the same sense of reassurance by using videos in your marketing.
YouTube is the second largest search engine today. With so many visitors coming to YouTube, it makes sense that you should be promoting your business there.
Some useful resources:
Using Photos and Images
Using photos and images in your marketing efforts can add an extra “punch.” You have most likely heard the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words,” meaning that a picture can convey a message better and quicker than trying to do it with lots of text/words.
The same is true with your marketing. Adding photos to your articles, website or sales pages can help you get your message across. For example, let’s say you are selling a baby toy that has the potential to keep a baby happy for a long time. You can use words to tell about it, which is fine, but when you add an image of a happy baby holding the toy and smiling from ear to ear, you have just won over your audience.
People are so busy today, that most don’t have time to read a lot of information about a product. A picture can catch their interest instantly and encourage them to read some of the text written about the product. Images can make the difference between someone staying on your website long enough to find out about what you are offering, or clicking away when they see a mound of text that they don’t have time to read.
When you use images, instead of just hearing about something, now your market can “see” it. If you’re selling a product, try to show a photo of it being used by someone. If you’re selling a lifestyle, show some images that produce the emotion you are attempting to sell. For example, if you’re selling the freedom and flexibility of working from home, show people who are relaxed and happy.
Make sure your images are clear and professional looking. If you have a good camera, you can use some of your own photos if they fit the situation. If not, go to stock a image website and use some of theirs. Here’s a listing of some free image websites:
Pinterest, a photo sharing website, has become very big lately (pinterest.com) You can upload some of your images there and link them back to your website, giving you another way to let others know about your business.
If you don’t mind paying for some great images, try istockphoto.com – they charge for their pictures but the quality is very good.
If you need to resize your photos quickly, you can use http://www.resizeyourimage.com or http://www.webresizer.com. For other basic photo editing you can use http://fotoflexer.com/. I am totally in love with picmonkey.com For extra professional touch ups to your photos you can use a graphic editor such as Photoshop (quite pricey) or Gimp (a free version). Utilizing photo software may require a learning curve, but well worth it. If you’re not already, start using images in your marketing efforts!
Creating Visual Tutorials
Many people are visual learners. Offering “how to” information in step-by-step visual tutorials makes your information easier to understand and engages the reader in the overall process of using the information that you’re offering them.
A couple of useful ways to teach visually are:
Hand drawn Illustrations – Hand drawn illustrations have become quite useful online. Although they’re not equal to the fancy graphics created by graphic designers, they sort of give viewers the feeling of a “classroom setting”. A few resources you can use are: http://flockdraw.com/ and http://www.scriblink.com/ , http://sketchcast.com/
Using hand drawn illustrations is perfect if you’re positioning yourself as a “teacher” with eager “students” who desire to learn information you have to offer. You can easily demonstrate a few simple points without taking time to create fancy graphics. This is a more casual approach to offering visual stimulation without a lot of drudgery and expense.
Screenshots – Screenshots are another way to create visual tutorials. Screenshots are simply “snapshots” of your computer screen or browser. This is particularly useful for teaching others the more “technical” side of things that are computer or software related. You can take several snapshots and then create an informational step-by-step tutorial. You can also record your screen as you move from process to process. This is great for creating tutorial videos to share.
Here’s just a few helpful resources:
Microsoft’s Snipping Tool
Screenshot Captor http://www.donationcoder.com/Software/Mouser/screenshotcaptor/
Snap Draw http://www.crossgl.com/asc_overview.htm
*Screenbird http://screenbird.com/ (record your screen for a video tutorial)
Using Graphs, Tables, and Charts
Graphs, tables and charts are such useful tools to help readers quickly visualize similarities, differences or evaluate changes in the growth process, etc. Comparison charts are often used online to help visually demonstrate contrasts between a variety of features for a product or service, or other various aspects.
Utilizing graphs, tables and charts is a visually appealing way to portray your information online or offline. It’s also a much faster way for readers to comprehend, evaluate or compare the information that you’re sharing with them.
A few helpful resources are:
Here’s a tutorial on how to create a chart with Microsoft office:
This should get you moving toward some visual brand amazing-ness.