Hear the beats? Can you identify the song? Maybe even sing along!
In a way, animated GIFs are the opposite of radio. Radio gave you the sound and you had to imagine the visuals; GIFs make you imagine the audio given only the visuals.
Visual media has taken over as the primarily consumed web content in the past few years. With improving internet speeds and connectivity, people prefer to watch a clip or scroll through an infographic rather than to read a 1800-word article covering the same topic.
These stats published by Hubspot make a far better point about the importance of visual content in drawing customer attention. Now that we have established visual appeal as the key to modern marketing, let’s have a look into what exactly falls within the sphere of content that could use some flair.
Types of visual content1. Images and photographs
The first one is pretty obvious. Photos are definitely the highest shared content on social media. With strictly image-sharing social networks like Instagram and Snapchat getting popular in the past few years, the volume is rising higher. Images load fast, can be absorbed even during a scroll-through and can convey the mood of the post in an instant.
Videos are great because they can go into full depth and don’t require accompanying text to convey information. You could show off your product, showcase its features and demonstrate how it works within minutes.
The most common use of screenshots are perhaps to share chat logs. Screenshots make it easier to comprehend app interfaces in the same way that it helps us follow a back-n-forth conversation better than a transcript can.
The surge in infographics shows how facts and figures laid out visually make them far more appealing and easier to consume. Information in a pictorial presentation is easy to absorb, gets shared more and deliver backlinks to your site.
5. Data visualization
Pie-charts, bar graphs and Venn diagrams make even office presentations easier to follow. So, it is no mystery why visual data is preferred over numbers on a sheet by web audience. Information backed by data makes it more credible and it’s easier to identify patterns in the data.
Who doesn’t love comics? Comics are great at projecting your brand personality, showing your fun side and capturing a social media following. Check out @browserling on Twitter who posts comics that relates to their product and dabbles in content which fits in with their audience.
GIFs or GIFs, however you pronounce it, doesn’t matter because these animated images don’t involve audio. The advantage of using GIFs over video is that they autoplay and immediately draw the viewer’s attention. A GIF of your product in action is way better at conveying what to expect out of it than putting together a tutorial. GIFs also work well in CTAs and outreach emails and a well-timed reaction GIF is a novelty of our times.
Now this is important because it is the clincher to visual appeal in text. Fonts are also an element of a consistent brand image. Use of a swanky font might grab attention but it is very distasteful in the body of your text. Aim for a clean, consistent look even in long-form content with headings and subheadings and the occasional change in style to convey tone. YEAH, it really works!
Visual appeal comes from the use of these elements that tie in well with the site and company’s profile. The Call-to-Action (CTA) boxes and featured images in posts should be eye-catching, use of colours should be consistent and the layout should have an order to it. All these make the content easy to absorb even in a scan-through.
Content Land: Find the Best Type of Visual for Your Objectives and Content
Figuring out your brand’s visual storyIf visual content is new to your marketing strategy, it’s best to start by being consistent in your approach. The content should be engaging to your target audience, not just the space their in. To figure out your brand’s visual story, try answering the following questions:
What is the goal your content is trying to achieve?
Who is your audience and what topics interest them?
What problems do you try to resolve?
What adjectives would best describe the look and feel you are trying to model?
How would you define your brand vision and what makes you unique?
Under what terms do you want to show up for in search engines?
Once you have a clear picture of how you want to present your brand or product, you should align your old content to suit the same brand story. It is also convenient to repurpose your previous written content into visuals. That would draw fresh attention to your stale content and make your business insights easier to take in.
The guide to visual designBefore you start though, it’s important to understand what makes some visuals more aesthetically pleasing than others. You won’t need a complex understanding of art psychology or design prowess to make your content eye-catching. Let’s start with some design patterns that occur in nature and appeal to us because of its symmetry in proportion.
The golden ratioThe Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers where the next number is the sum of the previous two.
Starting from 0, we get
0 + 1 = 1
1 + 1 = 2
1 + 2 = 3
2 + 3 = 5
3 + 5 = 8
5 + 8 = 13 (you get the idea)
So the sequence is
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34…
But why are we talking math when I said ‘nature’? Because Fibonacci numbers appear all around us in naturally occurring patterns.
Bear with the math for just a bit longer.
Now, when a number in the Fibonacci sequence is divided by the one before it, it gives you the golden number Phi (Φ).
The golden ratio is the visual representation of the golden number.
How do you apply this golden ratio to your visuals?
Using the golden ratio, the ratio of the smaller segment to the larger is equal to the ratio of the larger segment to the sum of both segments.
So in the context of designing a feature image of height 445 pixels, the width should be
445 x 1.618 = 720 pixels (The sum of both sides 720 + 445 = 1165 divided by the larger side 720 gives 1.618).
The ratio can be used to create other golden shapes as well. You could read more about using the golden ratio in design in this guide.
The Rule of ThirdsOne of the principal rules in Photography, the Rule of Thirds, makes elements sync up in our sight and therefore, easier to grasp. You have divide the image in a grid of thirds and line up key elements with the intersections.
Color psychologyColors have deep emotional associations. Take some time to figure out which colors represent your brand values best and pick a palette to match. Maintain a consistent color palette across your site and shared visuals on social media.
Tasteful textPeople don’t want to invest time in reading something they might not finish. So, your articles must have a balanced spacious feel to invite them in. Visual content is about using images, videos and GIFs to break apart blocks of text and keep the audience going.
Rule of thumb here is to have, at least, one image every 350 words or so. A few things to keep in mind when picking these visuals:
Emotionally compliments the text
Consistency of style and color
Readers don’t go through every word on the page. They scan through to get a gist of the idea, which is why it is important to have headlines and subheadings to guide their attention. In fact, they absorb only the first three and the last three words in a headline as they glance over to decide which post deserves a click. Do you remember the title of this post ( barring the “How to” and “draw more traffic” bits)?
So draw them in with a headline and provide subheadings to help the reader subconsciously follow the text.
Some other elements that help break down the wall-of-text effect are:
Lists - bullets or numbers (see what I did there?)
Text styles (bold, italics, etc.)
It’s good to have a voice in your writing that can hook the reader’s attention as well (yeah, you!).
Hierarchy of designDesign can be used to guide focus to the important elements first and trail on to the other elements. Our mind follows a pattern when taking in information.
People take in images before text
The larger elements draw more attention
Colorful elements are where the eye instantly drifts
Images of people grip attention better than generic images
So figure out the important elements on your site (a CTA, offers etc) and use what you’ve learnt to emphasize those elements to new visitors.
Emotional strings through visualsVisuals are great at conveying emotions. Also, making an emotional connection is really vital in retaining the engagement made with the customer. At first, identify the emotion you want to instil
as your brand identity. The images you use should align with these emotions across all of your marketing media.
Your brand’s official social media profiles are a good place to show off your brand image. Plus fan engagement over social media helps build a dedicated customer base. Post customer images featuring your product, retweet and share content with them on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat with fresh visuals regularly.
Create visible visualsFor maximum visibility across search engine results, optimize your visuals using these SEO tactics.
Go for fast loading images that maintain quality
Use unique images that relate to the text on a context through which Google can relate the two
Use labels. You should fill in alt attributes, title tags and image names when you post
Use schema markups on your images so that Google can recognize the information within
Resources and toolsSo here’s a quick list of resources to get you started on your visual content creation.
Snapseed (mobile app for edits on the go)
Charts and infographics:
Camtasia (my go-to video editor)
Instagram Stories, Snapchat and Periscope
Type Genius (find a font for your designs)
Pictaculous (generate color palettes)
ColorZilla (browser extension color picker)
Free Stock photos:
Perks of visual contentIn studies that look at the correlation between the human brain, visuality and learning, NYU psychologist Jerome Bruner found that people only remember 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they read, but about 80% of what they see.
That’s a significant difference. Visual content also has three major advantages over other forms of content.
AppealInformation presented through design is stimulating, attractive and engaging.
ComprehensionThe human brain interprets visual information faster and more efficiently than it processes other communication
RetentionOur visual processing system serves long term memory better, connecting visual data to previous information stored in our brain. This means visual content is more retainable.
42 Experts Tips for Creating Stand-Out Visual Content
Augustus Franklin is the founder and CEO of CallHub, a California based Voice and SMS service company. He has worked in internet software, high-availability clusters, monitoring systems and security software at startups and at Sun Microsystems and Yahoo. When he is not working, he is either making toys with his kids or training for a marathon.