Nearly every business is aware of the importance of content marketing, so each pulls out all the stops. The problem, though, is that just as many businesses feel like the campaigns barely made any impact.
In the State of Content Marketing 2022 report, around eight out of ten business owners surveyed said the success of their content marketing campaigns last year ranged between unsuccessful and moderately successful. The rest said that their campaign had achieved its goals and attributed its success to improving content quality, SEO, and making more visual content (e.g., videos).
Yet for 35% of respondents, website optimization was integral to making their campaigns work. This approach entails improving loading speed and adapting the website for mobile—basically among the core tenets of web design. While it may seem that web design and content marketing are worlds apart, the former exerts considerable influence over the latter in several ways. Read on for more.
How important is readability in content marketing? As one 2013 study outlined, it affected many people in the Netherlands because their government provided content that was two levels higher on Europe’s reading comprehension scale than the national average. In other words, the content reads more like a formal whitepaper than a blog post that everyone can understand.
If people can’t get anything useful out of a piece of content, it has failed in content marketing. The effect worsens if the website happens to be the leading authority on a specific subject, as visitors will be at a loss moving forward.
You might wonder what readability has to do with web design. You can create quality content, but it won’t matter if the body font choice is poor and the formatting is all over the place. Sure, Times New Roman or Helvetica may look dull, but at least they don’t hurt one’s eyes like the more amusing ones.
Another fact worth noting is that few people read content word-for-word. According to a Nielsen study, the majority are only interested in reading the information they’re looking for, so they tend to read less than 30% of a page’s word count. While SEO favors content which word count is by the thousands, ensuring conciseness in a blog post is equally crucial.
Making content readable all boils down to three principles: audience-focused, infotainment, and simplicity. Whether in creating content or designing a website:
- Always consider the audience every step of the way.
- Entertain readers as much as you educate them.
- Follow Kelly Johnson’s advice: ‘Keep it simple.’
Not getting anything helpful from a blog post or video is a bad sign, but at least that’s the lesser evil. Nothing’s probably worse than visitors being unable to find the content, let alone find their way around the website.
Web designers like Smartly Done understand this more than anyone else. Success won’t come to a business if its website requires visitors to go through too many pages to reach the content they want. More importantly, in this smartphone-driven era, forcing visitors to read shrunken text due to a design unoptimized for mobile is just as bad.
The primary effect of poor design on a website is the bounce rate. This metric determines the rate of visitors accessing the website but not doing anything else (known as a one-page visit) relative to the number of visits it gets. The ideal bounce rate depends on the industry, but the sweet spot is between 26% and 70%.
A bounce rate lower than 26% usually signifies an issue with the website’s code or third-party apps. However, one that’s 71% and higher can point to multiple design problems, such as, but not limited to:
- Pages taking longer than four seconds to load
- Metadata not matching the actual content
- Blank, 404, or improperly-loading pages
- Referring links sending questionable traffic
- Google Analytics tags not working as intended
It’s easy to see why these problems can push anyone away, specifically longer loading times. These days, users expect to gain access to convenience as quickly and efficiently as possible. Making them wait is a great way to give competitor sites a chance to get a paying customer. Also, a visitor who ‘bounces’ is less likely to have seen the content.
There are several ways to optimize a website’s performance, including:
- Choosing the right website hosting service
- Reducing the file size of assets (e.g., images, codes)
- Hosting videos with an external service (e.g., YouTube)
- Removing plugins that serve little to no purpose
You may think that judging a book by its cover is wrong—and you’d be right. The problem is that most people do it in spite of this famous mantra, websites being no exception. The statistical information below, collated by Hubspot, proves this.
- Roughly 80% of consumers value images and colors in a website the most
- Around 85% of consumers believe a crowded web design is a huge mistake
- A website with an outdated design makes two out of five consumers leave
- Among first-time visitors, 38% judge the website’s layout and navigational links
No matter how well-planned, any content marketing strategy will falter under an unattractive site for the same reason as an inaccessible one. Most people won’t give such a website a chance to peruse its content, regardless of quality, believing it might be as disorderly as the landing page. They can arrive at this conclusion in just 5/100ths of a second, per a 2011 study.
First impressions matter; you wouldn’t show up at a meeting of investors in your PJs because that would be disrespectful. For people to access its content, the website’s landing page has to keep them for at least 2.6 seconds. That long is enough to eye a part of the page that shapes a visitor’s first impression.
One analysis of a law school’s website found that visitors spent the longest looking at six areas of interest. In descending order, these include:
- The business or organization’s logo – 6.48 seconds
- The navigation menu – 6.44 seconds
- The search bar – over 6.00 seconds
- The homepage’s banner image – 5.94 seconds
- The homepage’s written content – 5.59 seconds
- The footer – 5.25 seconds
Keep in mind this rule of thumb: design first, content second. Most users reject a website over design and interface issues. But once past that first impression hurdle, they’ll check out the site’s content. That said, it doesn’t imply favoring one over the other; both must possess equal quality.
Tips And Tricks
As discussed so far, poor web design can prevent consumers from viewing a website’s content. Here are some tips to get fewer bouncing visitors.
1. Give Pages Some Elbow Room
They say that ‘anything worth doing is worth overdoing,’ but that doesn’t apply to proper web design. Images and art designs are incredible, but too many will make pages appear cluttered. These needless assets are only good for distracting visitors from searching for valuable content on the website.
Pages should be allowed to breathe, and one practical approach involves effectively using whitespace. By leaving spaces in images, lines of text, and other assets, a page can appear more streamlined. It’ll also help prevent cognitive fatigue.
2. Limit To Two Typefaces
Some web design experts may say the maximum is three, but two is the magic number for typefaces. Any more than that increases the risk of visitors getting disoriented by the sheer variety of fonts in use.
For the choice of typefaces, experts suggest sticking with web-safe fonts such as Arial, Times New Roman, and Courier New. Sure, they may look dull, but:
- They work on most web browsers and devices
- Most people are familiar with their appearances
- They won’t appear bunched up when next to each other
3. Make Good First Impressions Above The Fold
The ‘fold’ refers to an imaginary line in a website located at the bottom edge of the screen. People wanting to see anything below the fold have to scroll down, so the immediate view they get is above the fold.
The page’s design above the fold can make or break a website. In another Nielsen research paper, visitors spent over half of their time viewing above the fold. At most, they’ll scroll down to the second screenful before losing interest. This information becomes essential in writing content, so a content’s headline and introduction must be catchy.
4. Don’t Bother With Animated Features
Accordions, carousels, and sliders may seemingly add some pizazz to the website, but they hardly do anything to promote its content. Most users will click on the first image and ignore the rest.
Experts recommend slapping everything in a piece of content into a long page. Contrary to common sense, this approach can help increase conversions. It shows that users don’t mind long-form content as much as low-quality content.
Even if they’re two distinct disciplines, web design and content marketing go hand in hand. The former provides the first impression to visitors, while the latter proves they were right to explore deeper. Fall short in either aspect and any content marketing strategy will fail before it gets the chance to see the light of day.