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    The word “design” is strongly associated with art and creativity, so it’s no surprise that people see design as a way to “make things pretty.” However, I connect  design with problem solving more than art. Admittedly, I am not a great artist, but that doesn’t stop me from doing my job as a designer. While it’s true that we do make things pretty, design plays a much larger role in the success of your digital marketing efforts.

    Design is your first impression

    Attention is one of the most valuable things on the internet, right after Twitter followers and Reddit karma. Design can be used to capture an audience as soon as they land on a page. That’s why you have been seeing so many large homepage videos pop up recently—they are visually compelling. Eventually, these homepage videos will become so common that they  lose that engagement factor and a new attention-grabbing trend will emerge. Point is, an engaged user is much more susceptible to your messaging.

    This is also where design goes to work establishing your credibility. If I walk into a restaurant that’s dirty and cluttered, I’m less inclined to eat there. So what if they have the best breakfast burrito in town—I might not stick around to try it. That’s how users feel when you have a cluttered, inconsistent, or just plain ugly site. Design works on a subconscious level, where people are making assumptions about your company without even realizing it. An outdated design can make your entire company feel outdated, even if you’re working on innovative, cutting-edge technology.

    Okay, so now that we’ve avoided sending your users running, let’s set the perfect mood. Before your users read a word or take a single action, design will set the initial tone for their entire experience. Let’s say you run an emergency care clinic. Your audience is typically going to be anxious and frantically seeking the information they need. Knowing this, you could use a soothing color palette with very prominent calls to action to reduce stress and create the best experience possible.

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    Design impacts your bottom line

    Design plays a key role in usability, from creating a compelling visual hierarchy to delivering an intuitive navigation structure. Good usability keeps your users happy and makes it easy for them to find the information they’re looking for. I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that a happy, informed user is more likely to convert.

    If you’re not convinced that usability drives conversions let’s take a look at conversion optimization. There are a ton of great tools that let us analyze and improve the effectiveness of our work. Through A/B testing, heatmap tracking, and user testing, we can gain insights on our  users’ behaviors and struggles. Whether making a large change to correct a common user error or a small tweak discovered in an A/B test, these insights let us fine-tune a design and turn it into a well-oiled, conversion-driving machine. You’d be surprised what changing a button from blue to red can do.

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    Design for your audience

    jimmy_smithYou might think this is an obvious one but in the middle of a large design project the client and the design team can lose track of it. The first step is to create solid personas that can be used throughout the project. Keep these personas alive by referring back to them for every decision. It’s a great feeling when we are halfway through a project and our client says something like, “I’m not sure if Jimmy Smith would be looking for that information” during a design review.

    Design is subjective. Remember, your opinions on design as a client might not always match up with those of your audience. You need to be able to trust your design team and know that they are creating what is best for your users.

    Do not underestimate the power of design

    Design is your first impression that captures your audience and sets the tone for their entire experience. Design can help your users find what they’re looking for and increase conversions along the way. Next time you have a problem to solve, bring a designer to the conversation, they may approach it from a new angle.