When Copywriting and Graphics Need to Play Nice

As a writer, I have an innate appreciation for words, and this has always been so.  However, my career as a writer has landed me somewhere I never thought I would go – design.

Don’t get me wrong.  Anything I draw comes out looking like something straight out of tabletop time in a kindergarten class; you won’t see me on a corner drawing caricatures any time soon.  However, if you spend enough time with words, you can’t help but develop a certain fondness for the way they look on a page or a screen.

Design is incredibly important when it comes to content writing and maximizing conversions.  To illustrate, check out WordPress’ most basic theme, Sandbox.  Imagine reading a blog on that particular site.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with using the sandbox theme – it’s perfectly serviceable and will do what you need it to do.  However… no matter what sort of blog you’re looking at, the design would do nothing to enhance the content on the page.

In contrast, check out these many examples of themes that were built using the Sandbox theme as a template.  These pages all have very unique graphical elements, all of which are designed to give a certain look and feel.  The design of the website sets the tone for what your blog has to say.  After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, shouldn’t those words be speaking for your business?

Getting Started

The article 7 Blog Design Tips from a Content Strategist by Brad Shorr is a goldmine when you’re figuring out how to place graphics and use them to enhance the presence of a blog on your site.  Make sure that you check out this resource – the article may be from 2011, but the information in it is definitely evergreen.  Shorr makes the following points that I’d like to reiterate here (if you’re too lazy to click the link, which is understandable.  No doubt you’re a busy person):

Blog design should indicate what the blog is about right away. You want to make sure that your visitor gets a feel for what the blog is about by surrounding it with images that give indications.  For example, the design and feel of Web Designer Wall gives a clear indication about the content right when you hit the page.  The placement of the logo and the abstract and intricate design give off a feel of design mastery and artistic creation.  But you don’t need to be highly skilled in design to pull this off – the perennial Copyblogger features a blog that is minimalistic in design, but purposeful and eye-catching.

Don’t have “admin” writing all of your posts.  Even in the event that you are working with a content writing service and do indeed have somebody on the outside posting for you, don’t let the storied “admin” be the one responsible for your posts.  (We hear he’s a terrible writer.)  Blogs are supposed to be personal – even if you have to make up a name, this element of design will help make your blog much more personable, which is the point.

Put blog content on the left.  Assuming that you’re writing for an English-speaking audience, your readers are going to be working from left to right.  This means that the left side of the screen is going to get the lion’s share of attention: and if you don’t believe us, believe usability expert Jakob Nielsen, who can statistically tell you that people spend more than twice the time looking at the left side of the screen rather than the right.

Now, if you read Nielsen’s article a little more, he says that this means the navigation should be on the left side of the page.  While having the navigation here means that the user will certainly be paying attention to it, I’m going to respectfully disagree with Nielsen and say that you should put your blog content on the left, not your navigation.  No matter how you have your navigation set up (whether it’s on the top or the right or some other creative configuration), it should be obvious to your visitor.

Putting your blog content on the left side of the page plays to the natural reading inclinations of English-speaking people, and thus your blog should be the first thing your reader sees.  (Smashing Magazine, by the way, agrees with me.  Also, so does Apple, who has an iconic website with incredible, yet simple design.  Microsoft also goes for putting the navigation on top and the blog content on the left side.  So whether you prefer your OS to be named after fruit or household features, both companies agree that navigation is best up top.  So should you.)

Good design is essential to helping your copy stand out.  Make sure that when you’re building a content strategy that pictures aren’t left out of the equation.  After all, if you want to succeed with content marketing, you’ll need to put it in a place and give it the support it needs.  Graphic design is the key to making good content pop!

 In what ways do think graphics and content should get along?

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Laura Hancock is a co-owner of ContentEqualsMoney.com. She has also been a long time writer for us. She writes with a passion for accuracy and flow. While her administrative duties have grown, she is a still a big piece of our content writing services team! Currently pursuing a certification in Technical Writing at the University of Washington. She lives in Seattle. +Laura Hancock

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