The Psychology of Design in Content Marketing

by Hannah Stuart, Copywriter - 12/27/17

Working on responsive website design

Content marketing involves much more than words. In fact, researchers at MIT discovered that the brain processes images in as quickly as 13 milliseconds. The key is leveraging proper design psychology to guide users to the decision you want them to make.

To grab your audience’s attention, whoever they may be, you need to evoke a visceral reaction. This requires anticipating how your readers will react to various design tactics, and then using that knowledge to your advantage. What motivates someone to buy your product or use your service? How do various colors or layouts affect their moods and their decision-making?

To answer these and other critical questions, here are design principles to guide your content marketing efforts.

Think Visually

Having a dominant color in your content makes your message more recognizable. Choose that color carefully, though—you want a color palette that resonates with your desired audience, and certain colors are known to evoke specific emotions. Red, for example, is associated with danger in color theory, while certain shades of green bring feelings of trust and acceptance. Exceptions to these rules abound, and your brand’s color palette will need to be considered in anything you produce. Research the color connotations in your area as well. What local brands and common advertisements are associated with the emotions you want to inspire in your audience?

Similarly, choosing the right font for your content is a tricky process. How easy is it to read your chosen font on a computer screen vs. a billboard? Legibility should be the top factor in your font decision-making. Certain font choices also evoke emotion in a similar way to colors.

A serif font conveys a sense of tradition and reliability, while script fonts may highlight creativity. To give you a head start, here are some free fonts from Hubspot.

Design-based thinking can also help compress large amounts of data into something more digestible. Infographics can turn a slew of stats into an instantly recognizable and memorable piece of content. If you have a lot to say, don’t rely solely on text to get the information across.

Too Many Choices

British psychologist William Edmund Hick developed a theory that the more choices someone has, the longer it takes them to make a decision. Customers get overwhelmed with decision fatigue if there are too many options to choose from, and they’re a lot more likely to simply walk away from any choice. Simply put: more choices mean fewer conversions.

Whether you’re designing landing pages, direct mailers or whole magazines, stick with the “one page, one goal” when it comes to any calls to action. What is the one most important decision you want a potential customer to make based on your content? Focus on that. Minimize the amount of form fields and social network share buttons on digital content, and keep the call to action to one phone number and one URL on print materials. More than that can become visually distracting and contribute to mental fatigue.

Test and Learn...then Tweak Again

Of course, none of this advice is one-size-fits-all. Best practices vary based on your industry and your target audience. As with any marketing decision, A/B testing is your best friend. Try a different color for that CTA button! Play with a different font choice.

The bottom line: You have a world of choices in design—be smart about it, and you’ll reap the benefits.

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Topics: Content Marketing, Digital Marketing

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