It’s 2015, and the average attention span of an adult human is eight seconds – less than that of a goldfish. This is hardly a shock. I mean, think of all the things we have to distract us, like that thing called The Internet with its one billion-plus websites, and watches telling us when we get an email. We basically live in an online arms race of increasingly shiny objects, so is it really any surprise that our attention span is a measly eight seconds? So, how can you capture the stubborn attention of humans these days and avoid website abandonment? With good visual content, that’s how. However, as simple as that concept is, it’s just as easy to take good visual content and destroy its potential. Here’s how you can avoid the four most common flaws in the world of visual content marketing. Just to clarify before we get started, “visual content” refers to anything piece of visual content marketing; this could be infographics, slideshows, videos, and more.
1. Information Overload
Like those books in school you dreaded reading (and probably didn’t finish). If your goal is to shoo away as many viewers as possible, then, by all means, go ahead and load up your infographic with an obscene amount of text. And ‘m not alone in feeling this way – visuals get 94% more views than text-based information without visuals. So, if there’s a way to visualize chunks of copy in a creative way, do it! For example, try to visualize percentages and fractions. If you can’t figure out a way to do so, give it a supporting visual of some sort – eye candy is better than nothing. Reading multiple long lines of text can cause eye fatigue, which will ultimately cause your viewer to abandon the content and possibly look for a different, more concise source. Research shows that optimal readability is between 45-75 characters, including spaces. Speaking of text, another easy fix and easy pitfall of a piece of content that I see often is poor kerning. Looking out for this is mainly a designer’s job, but just so you know, kerning is simply the space between characters in a word. Poor kerning (particularly where characters are too close to each other) can completely ruin a perfect piece of content – even if you did everything else right. If it’s too hard to read, then I’m not going to read it, and neither will a majority of other viewers. Proper kerning will aid in creating a clean, visually organized pieces of text throughout the content.
You see, as humans, we want things visualized because it’s simply easier to process images than text. In fact, the human brain processes visual information 60,000x faster than text. Say exactly what you need to in as few characters and lines of text as you can and support it with interesting visuals. Remember, you can always address and expand more on a point within the write-up surrounding an infographic.
2. No Strategy
“This is cool, but aside from hoping I’ll share it on Facebook, why are you telling me this?” If I’m going to read through an entire graphic or slideshow, there better be a reason I did! A piece of content isn’t worth much if I’m not prompted to take some sort of action at the end, which will lead me to share it for others to learn from it as I did. Therefore, don’t create a piece just because you want “likes” and “shares.” Create a piece that has a strategy and goal. Say your company sells products that support green energy – you want to create an infographic about the benefits of solar panels. Your goal is more than likely to gain traffic and more sales. But, what is your strategy? Why are you telling us this? Because green energy is “in” right now? Because electricity prices are rising? Or is it both? The good answer would be in regards to the electricity prices rising, but the better answer would be both. You don’t only want to create a piece of content that is trendy and current, you also should want it to grab attention by increasing awareness, providing value, and speaking directly to the pain points of your audience. In return, your audience will gain trust and loyalty to your brand, which will lead to a successful piece.
“Why is AARP on Tumblr?” No, I’m serious. AARP has a Tumblr. If you don’t know what Tumblr is, it’s a blogging platform, but mostly a visual dump for millennials. And trust me, no one who actually needs AARP uses Tumblr. If you take a look at their Tumblr, you’ll find some of their posts have thousands of notes (‘notes’ are the Tumblr version of Facebook shares/likes)… but the posts that have decent traction aren’t original to AARP. Now, the posts that AARP published themselves… I can count the amount of notes they have on one hand. As to why – well, the answer is simple: their audience isn’t on Tumblr. Tumblr is too young. AARP posting content to Tumblr is equivalent to the mock company that sells green energy products I mentioned before posting content on a site dedicated to people who think Global Warming is a hoax. Fixing this issue is easy, because it’s a matter of common sense. Place your content where your viewers are and don’t bother placing it where they aren’t.
4. Visual Quick Fixes
Or “how to know if you need a new designer”. If you aren’t super knowledgeable about the design industry, then there are many small, easily-made and easily-avoidable visual content mistakes that your designer could be making. Simply making yourself more aware of them is all you need to avoid them next time your designer sends you a draft of your content piece.
- Don’t cut corners: work with a good designer Sure, what makes a “good designer” is a matter of opinion, and a lot goes into the qualifications for being “good.” But, to make a complex statement simple: Find a designer with the experience you need, a strong portfolio, and an ability to adapt to whatever aesthetic you’re going after.
- Image quality Image quality is related to finding a good designer. If your designer can’t deliver you a crisp image, then that’s a bigger problem. Avoid posting visual content that is low resolution – it’s just plain sloppy and will aid in a content failure.
- Too many fonts and no color system/too many colors If your designers use too many fonts and sporadic colors for your content piece, then you need to put your foot down because those two mistakes have the biggest potential to ruin your piece. No one wants to attempt reading an ugly piece of visual content. A good rule of thumb is no more than three fonts, and in my opinion, three is pushing it. A good designer will also choose fonts that complement each other. If you see a disconnect between fonts, address your concerns with your designer. He or she could better explain their methodology behind using them. And if not, simply suggest a change of fonts. As for colors. Woof. This mistake has the potential to become ugly very quickly. There should be some sort of color palette and system throughout the piece, which will give it a consistent, well-rounded aesthetic. A color palette typically consists of four to five colors: two primary colors and two to three secondary colors. And beyond a palette, it’s important it has a system – which is what completes the goal of consistency. Look for inconsistencies in a design, like: Did the designer make all stats a certain color in the beginning of an infographic, but as you scrolled stats ended up having no color treatment? Tiny mistakes like that should raise red flags for you. Certainly, bring them up to your designer and ask if there’s a reason behind it. If there’s not a valid reason, have them change it.
It takes two to tango. As you can see, it’s not just design that can make or break a piece. The people behind the initial idea, copywriting, and management of the content have just as much responsibility on their plate. A successful piece is born when all sides collaborate and work together on avoiding potential content pitfalls. If everyone collaborating is aware of mistakes to avoid, big or small, then you’ll end up with a solid piece that has strategy, purpose, proper placement, great design and writing – which will ultimately lead you to the results you like to see. Creating visual content is one of the best ways to earn placements on top-tier publications.