Your website is an opportunity for you to make a good impression and help existing and potential customers decide whether or not they should do business with you.  Even if your business is mostly offline (i.e. you don’t have an ecommerce site), you should still be very worried about the impression you are making online.  The majority of consumers now use the web to research everything from the new restaurant that opened downtown to the accounting firm they are considering bringing business to next year.  Even if their purchase or business transaction will happen in the “real” world, their decision is often made before you even get to meet your potential customer.

You only get one chance to make a good first impression, so avoid these common pitfalls at all costs! […]

May 25, 2012

QR Codes with Style

We have all seen these new little bar codes invading all forms of printed and online marketing materials. QR (Quick Response) codes are a two dimensional bar code originally developed by Denso Wave (a subsidiary of Toyota) in 1994 to track vehicles during manufacturing. They can hold a relatively large amount of data and can be scanned at high speeds. In terms of practical marketing use, they have proven somewhat underwhelming in the United States, but I believe with a little style tweak via Adobe Photoshop, QR Codes can be a nice addition for re-enforcing your branding efforts. Keep in mind that 50.4% of the US population now has a QR Scanner in the form of a smartphone on them at all times (Source: http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/?p=31688). […]

When a website represents your business online, you can’t really afford for it to have bad photos running around scaring away your customers. Hiring a professional photographer for your business images is the best solution, but it’s not always practical for everybody. So a lot of website owners resort to taking their own photos, or having somebody on their staff with a decent camera do the job for them. […]

I hope you’re not superstitious, because if you are, you may not like this post.  I’m not superstitious, although I am writing this blog post on the 13th of January – and it is a Friday.

Friday the 13th is a scary day to many people, but not to me.  However, what IS scary to me is the concept of “design by committee.”  I get chills down my spine whenever a client or potential client refers to needing to have their committee review all design layouts.  I’m going into my 13th year with NetSource, and in all of these years of experience in the development of hundreds of website projects, I have never seen a project benefit from “design by committee.” […]

Online review sites are becoming more and more vital to consumers as they research businesses and products online.  Sites like Yelp and Google Local allow customers to post their reviews for others to read, making them a powerful influence in consumer buying decisions. According to the MIT Technology Review, for every one dollar U.S. consumers spend online, another five or six are going to off-line purchases that are influenced by online research. In fact, 97% of Internet users in the U.S. gather shopping information online. Yet many business owners still have not ventured into the world of online reviews, even though their customers are researching them and making purchasing decisions based on the online reviews they find.

Here are some tips to help you get started and take control of your online reviews: […]

If you’re serious about online marketing, and you’ve already crafted a solid search engine optimization strategy, launched a Pay-Per-Click campaign, and undertaken a link building campaign, your next step just might be a display ad campaign (or banner ads).  However, knowing the lingo and technical jargon can mean the difference between the success and failure of your ad campaign. […]

I will freely admit my bias towards icons upfront, I believe that just about every design can benefit from their use. What exactly is an icon you might ask? For design purposes, icons are simplistic representations of a concept. Take something big and grand, like the Earth, and reduce it down to a it’s most basic but identifiable depiction. […]

In this article we will take a look at creating some great looking product photos on a budget. We will outline how to shoot a basic product shot. The emphasis will be on background, lighting, and the positioning of the product itself. You can use any small object to shoot that offers a great example to highlight the basics of lighting and shooting an isolated product photo. I have chosen a small friendly shaped incense burner. […]

Feb 2, 2010

What is Whitespace?

Whitespace—or, negative space—is the open space between elements in a design. The space can be a color other than white, as long as the area is void of elements.

whitespace

It’s common for whitespace to be seen as “wasted space,” especially when you are working with a limited area. After all, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of every inch of space in your advertisement / brochure / website?

You may be surprised to know that the space that is empty is just as influential as the space that is filled with text and photos.

Using Whitespace to Your Advantage

When there are too many elements in a design—whether those elements are photos, fonts, or headlines—it appears cluttered and crowded. Imagine a room filled with people that are talking at the same time. Would you know who to listen to first? How long would you stay?

Removing unnecessary elements in your materials not only de-clutters the design, but it also places more emphasis on the most important message.

One company that has learned this lesson is Apple. Their advertisements are famous for their simplicity and use of whitespace. Take a look at their homepage from October 2009:

apple-screenshot

Immediately, you are presented with three things: An interesting image that grabs your attention, a short explanation of their latest product, and their call to action, “Watch the iMac video.” They are using whitespace to direct their customers to the most important information within seconds, and to show them where to click next.

Now, Apple has the advantage of being a household name with millions of fans worldwide who are already familiar with their products. Most businesses will probably need to present a bit more information, in order to convince potential customers that their products or services are worth the price. However, the same concept still holds true — adding unnecessary information only distracts from the goal you have set; whether that goal is to click on a link, call your phone number, visit your website, or buy your latest product.

Why Simplicity is Important

Billboards are an example of one medium where a simple message is absolutely necessary. Drivers are — hopefully — concentrating on the road, and only glancing up at signs and billboards for just a few seconds. If you can’t condense your advertisement into 6 words or less, then the driver won’t have enough time to read your entire message.

Designing for websites is similar. The average user will decide whether to stay or leave your website within just a few seconds. That means you need to immediately grab their attention, reassure them that your website has the information that they are looking for, and convince them to stay on your website a little longer.

The only way you can accomplish all this is to decide on the most important information, make it the most prominent part of your marketing piece, and get rid of anything that is a distraction. By de-cluttering your designs, you are able to guide your potential customers to the information that you want them to read, and create truly effective promotional pieces.

Some Tips for Reducing Clutter

  • Use headlines and sub-headlines to break up large areas of text. This allows the reader to quickly scan the text to get a summary, and to skip to the section that interests them.
  • Use simple language. Make your text easy to read and understand, and avoid overly technical language that would be overwhelming and confusing. If your text looks like a lot of work to read, your readers will simply go elsewhere.
  • Create a focal point. If you have several images on a page, your viewers won’t know where to look first. Make one or two of your images more prominent, and place your call-to-action nearby.
  • Create Relationships. Group related items (like a photo, description, and link) together so they are seen as one element instead of three. You can do this by making the space between these elements smaller than the space that surrounds them.
  • Add Whitespace. Make sure there is enough space in your margins, between paragraphs, and around your elements so the overall design is clear and easy to understand.