Mar 7

When talking minimalism, simpler does not mean easier. In fact, it is extremely challenging to create great interactive web design with all the functionality users need and few extra elements, which is what minimalism strives toward. The great Antoine De Saint-Exuprery put it perfectly when he said “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away,” and the team at Oblique’s web design firm couldn’t agree more. We want to guide you through the primary elements of minimalism and what to remember when it comes to color, typography and whitespace. To get you in the right mindset, here is an example of how Apple masters minimalism.

 

Make Color Meaningful Again

When deciding on colors to use for your design, first decide what color means in this medium. Is it to draw attention to something? Is it meant to create a particular mood? Will the target audience relate to this color well? These will help you use the chosen colors consistently in the right location without overuse or confusion.

Color can also help create hierarchy without using additional visual hints. Try using a bold but simplified color scheme that will both accentuate the design’s intention and also blend well in the background. Be careful not to include too much color or create something too bold, it will take away from the design’s intent and can mask the content. It should be about finding a balance. Instead of using only black and white, think about  adding just the amount of color that the design requires.

Choose your Words Wisely

Minimalist philosophy centers on the idea that you must design around the content: content is king, and visual layout salutes the king. Minimalism is about using only what is essential to the design, so the words in the design are just as important as the typeface that they’re in. If the design is bold and simple, the copywriting should be as well. It should be clear what the user is supposed to do, where to do it and how to do it.

From there, readability and legibility are the most important. By all means, go forth and be bold, but do so with meaning and intent. For example, avoid using too many typefaces because the design can become cluttered. Instead, create consistency throughout the design with typography that relates each piece back to the same core.

Less, but Better

If you didn’t know already, whitespace is absolutely key to minimalist design. Through abundant space, the design can organize elements in a comprehensive order. It can also allow the design to guide the viewer toward the most important content. Just as with color and typography, there must always be intent and meaning behind every bit of empty space.

A grid system is the best tool to create spatial relationships and find the right balance between too much space and just enough space. It gives the eye a path to follow through the  content while also being visually pleasing. This should not be confused with adding “mystery” to the design, there should always be clarity, accessibility and functionality through every placement. Whitespace is an art on it’s own and takes practice to master. For more info and tips, check out The Next Web’s free ebook.

To Wrap Up

Don’t forget that the goal of minimalism is to only use elements that contribute to readability and usability. Using meaningful color, bold typography and consistent whitespace are all important pillars of the minimal technique and using these incorrectly can lead to over-designing and ultimately a dysfunctional design. Minimalism is not an easy task, but when mastered, it can lead to thoughtful, beautiful and rooted design, which is something every designer should strive for.

Feb 14

Packaging design might just be one of our most favorite areas of expertise here at Oblique. We wanted to share a few of our (not so secret) secrets on how we approach and execute package design. Everyone knows when it comes to packaging design, it must be eye catching and appealing. Food products need to make consumers salivate, beauty products should be desirable and healthcare products need to look trustworthy and safe. But there are other details that should to be taken into consideration when creating a new package, no matter what what category it falls under. Here at Oblique, we look past the obvious and into the details.

Here are just a few more details we think about when it comes to packaging design:

Packaging Tips:

It’s not just a barcode, it’s a blank canvas:

It’s not entirely a new concept, but it may be for some. Morphing barcodes into illustrations is becoming the trendy new fad when it comes to packaging. In the past, adding that dreadful, bulky barcode to a beautifully designed package was deflating to a designer. Now the barcode can be part of the overall design, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. Businesses may be skeptical as whether or not to take this artistic leap. “What if the barcode won’t scan due to the artwork surrounding it?” In reality, you only need a very small area to actually scan the barcode. That leaves a lot of room for artistic interpretation on our end.

Here are a few of our favorite barcode designs out there:

Use sustainable products (think of the future):

Each year, over 33.6 million tons of plastic are discarded into waste landfill sites across the United States. Using recycled materials for packaging, therefore is needed for both our environment and to start seeing savings across manufacturing industries. Recycling materials actually helps to stimulate more economic growth in the long run for your business, and for those across the country. Using recycled products also tends to cost less in packaging, so there is very little reason not to start using recycled materials now. We are happy to announce that our “Love the Wild” packaging is completely made from recycled materials. Not only is the box recyclable, but the sauce trays within the packaging are also recyclable. View our “Love the Wild” packaging project here.

Don’t limit yourself to 1 design:

At Oblique, we always over deliver. Just ask any of our clients. Packaging needs to really stand out against competitors, because it’s always going to be surrounded by other great or terrible packaging.Below are just two examples of how diligent we are about showing multiple design directions for our clients:

Barology:  ranging from photography to vector illustrations
Power Plant:  ranging from organic farm stand designs to modern pop

Dec 2

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Think your site might need a facelift? Before you call your web design firm, first ask yourself what your current site is lacking, what is working and what isn’t. Some say that you must update your website every three to five years. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing, depending on your users and your company. A redesign could attract new customers and increase conversions, but it can also put off current customers that are comfortable and familiar with your site. Let’s be honest, most users hate change.

For a redesign to be effective, you must first have an understanding of what does and doesn’t work on the current website, and how the user’s needs have changed since the last redesign.

“When people visit your site, they see it as a reflection of your organization. If your site looks professional and is loaded with useful information readers will see you as an authority…if the site looks poorly designed and structured and/or out-of-date they’ll make the same assumptions about your company. The website should highlight your product and/or service and the layout should look harmonious and consistent.” – Granite5

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:

Never forget Mobile:
To simply think to yourself, “No one will ever visit my website on a mobile device” is far from the truth. Mobile Internet usage is on the rise and it’s not going to stop anytime soon. Most developers plead designers to think of mobile design before designing for desktops, basically working backwards. “According to SimilarWeb’s State of Mobile Web US 2015 report, roughly 56 percent of consumer traffic to the leading US websites is now from mobile devices. Mobile traffic in Q4 was roughly 49 percent, on average, for these top sites.”

Be Responsive:
Just as mobile website design is necessary, don’t forget the tablet users. Your website should look (and work) flawless across all devices. What device will come out next that we will have to take into consideration in the next 5 years? Let’s worry about that when it happens.

Know your Audience:
Are you selling to consumers, other businesses or is your website purely informational? What is your target demographic age, gender, or location? You must take everything into consideration, as it can drastically alter the functionality and look of your entire website. If you are catering to an older demographic, you wouldn’t use small body copy or have fancy bells and whistles that could confuse them, thus losing interest in your website completely.

Online Marketing:
What is the point of having a killer site if no one ever finds it? Understanding how search engine optimization works can be frustrating. If you’re not familiar with SEM and SEO, we recommend starting here:

Google Webmaster Guidelines
How Google Search Works

SEO = Earning traffic through unpaid channels like Google.
SEM = Buying traffic using digital advertising.

It’s important to keep in mind that a complete overhaul of your website can be quite costly. Do your due diligence when searching for the right web design firm. Ask questions, ask for references and review their portfolio. Having a great relationship and communicating clearly with your interactive design agency is very important. It’s vital that they understand your needs—and the needs of your users–in order to achieve the exact redesign you are expecting. Below are the steps for a full web redesign:

1 – Research Audience
2 – Copywriting
3 – UX / Wireframes
4 – UI / Design
5 – Mobile Design
6 – SEO
7 – Programming
8 – Q/A testing
9 – Launch

The website redesign process won’t happen overnight. A completed website can take months, depending on the size of the site, but don’t get discouraged! A website redesign that begins with a thorough examination of changes and a clear understanding of how your site should represent your company can lead to strong improvements in how the website contributes to your bottom line. An informed, professional approach to a website redesign is one that’s likely to end successfully.

Nov 11

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There has been a lot of talk inside the creative design team at Oblique about the idea of inspiration. Who and what inspires us? Why is inspiration important? Where do you find inspiration?

We realized that although everyone is different in their tastes and origin of inspiration, we all agree that it is very important as a creative to feel inspired by what others are doing around us. At Oblique, we want to be both inspiring and inspired by those around us.

Who inspires us?

Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo has once stated that when she needs to make the right decision, she likes to “surround myself with the smartest people who challenge you to think about things in new ways, and do something you are not ready to do so you can learn the most.”

Marissa’s idea speaks directly to us here at Oblique. The main source of our inspiration and mentors that we look up to are those who are challenging the status quo and not afraid to do so (or even if they are afraid, they are still brave enough to do it anyway). Those who have the passion and motivation to create the world they want to be a part of are the people and projects we at Oblique most gravitate towards.

The experience levels may be different here at Oblique, but it has been interesting to see over the last few years how much all of us inspire each other. One of the perks of being in a small agency is that we have the flexibility with our design thinking, and we have the ability to be creatively agile with our clients. We can experiment with inspiration more than a larger agency might because they tend to have more boundaries and guidelines to follow.

We asked Oblique’s Kelsey (Designer) and Natalie (Senior Designer) to name a few other people they are inspired by:

Natalie: “I was more drawn to past artists that I consider to be designers – I was obsessed with Russian constructivism and their poster art as well as Bauhaus when I was first getting into design. But recently I’ve been really inspired by designers like Mike Perry, Jacob Eisinger or the designers of LAND, who are all absolutely brilliant.”

Kelsey: “There are so many people that have inspired me over the years. But to name a few, Tina Roth Eisenburg (aka swiss-miss) has always been someone I look up to and was someone who inspired me to push outside of my comfort zone when I was first getting started. I’m also a HUGE Aaron Draplin, Jessica Hische, and Gemma Obrien fan. All brilliant designers and people that have always motivated me to work as hard as I possibly can and to always push the status quo of design.”

What inspires our creative design agency as a whole?

 While inspiration is extremely subjective,. we found that very commonly we are inspired by certain projects, websites, packaging, etc. not only because they are beautifully designed, but more importantly because they are creating a new solution that has never been done before. We are drawn to People in the design world who are creating a movement with their innovative thinking. Even though we might not have the freedom to be as experimental as we would like with certain clients, revolutionary creative solutions pushes us to think outside of the trends and norms and to always try something different.

Where and when do we find inspiration?

 If you ask any creative where they find inspiration, you won’t find a clear answer. Inspiration is absolutely everywhere and cannot be defined. We decided here at Oblique that it doesn’t matter where or when you find inspiration, but it’s important to always be looking for it and to be open to it. The more places we can pull inspiration from, whether that be different cultures, different industries, or even different mediums, the more rounded and unique designers we can become and the better solutions we can create.

How to be inspired and how to inspire others:  

Oblique tends to be inspired by being as open minded as possible. It seems so obvious, but with so much access to so much information, we sometimes find ourselves digging through the same design themes or same inspiration boards.

In order to combat this, we suggest being very conscious about accepting opportunities to be inspired by others. We found that the easiest way to do this is to get involved, wherever you are. Get to know the world that surrounds you. Go to lectures in your community, visit art galleries, talk to companies and people who are making a difference. Surround yourself with those smarter than you and become what we call a “learn-it-all.” Learn everything you can about what motivates and pushes you (and others) to be better designers, and then communicate and share those ideas and experiences. The things you share with those around you is what in turn, inspires others.

Oct 19

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Parallax scrolling is a technique in computer graphics and web design, where background images move by the camera slower than foreground images, creating an illusion of depth in a 2D scene and adding to the immersion. Interactive design companies began incorporating parallax scrolling around 2011, using HTML5 and CSS3. While some people may be on the endless scrolling bandwagon, others are bored and ready to get off.

With everything, there is a right way and a wrong way of approaching things. If your website has over 6 pages and tons of useful information to get across to the user, parallax scrolling is not the best solution. There are many pros and cons that can be argued, though the list of cons can be quite lengthy.

First of all, everyone knows that it’s terrible for SEO, it’s a nightmare on mobile and not suitable for text heavy or ecommerce sites. Yet, captivating imagery and beautiful, tasteful typography merged together seamlessly can create the most memorable and mesmerizing site. Advocates argue it is a simple way to embrace the fluidity of the Web. Proponents use parallax backgrounds as a tool to better engage users and improve the overall experience that a website provides. However, a Purdue University study published in 2013, revealed the following findings:

“Although parallax scrolling enhanced certain aspects of the user experience, it did not necessarily improve the overall user experience.”

Here are some reasons to use a parallax scrolling site:

– Introduce a Product or Cause

– Highlight Your Portfolio or Mission

– Tell a Story

So is the parallax site a burnt out trend or are we just starting to see the beginning of something evolving into what might turn into something entirely unique? At Oblique the interactive design team agreed that we are just on the cusp of the parallax evolution. There is a time to incorporate parallax scrolling and a time to avoid it all together. If your company is seeking to visually tell a story or present a marketing campaign, parallax scrolling can be your best friend and best solution. Some of the most memorable sites we have come across happen to consist of mainly parallax scrolling sites. Here are a few amazing sites that do it right:

http://porschevolution. com/

http://special.bose.eu/fr/

Aug 26

Brand_Naming_blog

In many ways, naming your brand is just like naming a person. A name is what introduces someone to the world – it’s the title that will be with them through every endeavor they take on in life.

At the same time, naming a brand is even harder than naming a person. A person can become whoever they want to be, while a company has a defined goal from the start and its name is the foundation of its entire brand identity. Choosing a brand name can be much more challenging.

Let’s stop here to revisit the first (and only) rule when it comes to naming your brand: it has to be legal. In layman’s terms, you can’t infringe on anyone else’s brand name, and it’s a good idea to make sure no one can infringe on yours. Speaking to an intellectual property lawyer is the most foolproof way to protect yourself from any legal trouble down the road, but there are other, less costly ways to ensure your name is unique in the marketplace. Here at Oblique Design, we start by scouring the web for any red flags when we search for the name itself, and then we search it with any and all key industry words. Even when we are confident we have a unique brand name, we run it by our fellow WBENC member and trusted intellectual property lawyer, Lisa Dunner and her team at Dunner Law, just to be sure.

There are a few distinct categories of brand names. We’ll name just a few to give examples. When you sit down with your branding company these name archetypes will hopefully help you define the kind of name you want for your company, you can also ignore them all and start from scratch! Naming is an art, not a science, after all.

The Legacy Name

Behind every brand is a story. Even if that story seems vanilla, no brand just “happens.” Where and why your brand started are the very foundation of who you are, so why not start the naming process there? Charles Schwab (yes, he’s a person), Larabar, Nordstrom, Seattle’s Best Coffee, L.L. Bean and Boston Market all capture their legacy in their name, and it’s a badge that won’t wear with time. Meaningful? Check. Unlikely to offend? Check. Easily unique in the marketplace (read: easy to protect)? Check. On the downside, they can be less captivating, so it takes more branding and advertising to make the name come alive.

The Obvious Name

If telling the market what you do is your priority, then an obvious name is a no fuss solution. If you are a smoothie shop, then naming your store “The Smoothie Shop” guarantees no one will ever be confused about what you do.  However, there are two very strong reasons that there aren’t many brands out there with this type of name. First, it’s extremely hard to protect or defend in a lawsuit. After all, you can’t protect the word “smoothie.” Second, if you ever want to venture into other areas of business, your name can easily become confusing. If “The Smoothie Shop” wants to start serving salads, it will be difficult to attract the salad market.

The Clever Name

The Clever name is your answer to the downsides of the obvious name. When you still want people to know exactly what you do, a play on your goods or services can make for an effective name. By taking an obvious name and putting a spin on it, you make your name more unique (again, read: protectable). Many brands do this; Bed Bath and Beyond, Burger King and Steak-n-Shake are great examples. The truth is, any brand strives for a name that says what they do. The hard part is making it unique and ownable.

The Out-Of-Left-Field Name

To find this name, you may find yourself speaking in gibberish or exploring exotic species of birds. We all are scrambling to find this name; the name that will have people saying, “how on earth did they think of that?” Welcome to Google, Yahoo, Nike, Adidas and Twitter. They are words you’ve never heard of, perhaps never existed before and have seemingly nothing to do with their respective brands. These names are unique, extremely protectable, and can be easier for your branding firm to work with, as you’re starting with a word that seems to have no meaning.. The truth, however, is that there is usually some meaning behind these names, and they didn’t come out of thin air. Apple, for example, seems to have no relevant meaning to the computers they sell. But, it is said that Steve Jobs came up with the name after visiting a macintosh apple farm in Washington, and felt the name was “trustworthy and non-intimidating.” The out-of-left field name is the gold standard of brand naming, but it has to be done in a way that won’t leave your audience offended, excluded or confused.

The Timeless Name

The good news is that you don’t have to worry about choosing a name that’s timeless – at least for right now. Timeless names take years to come to fruition and they live on, sometimes longer than their brands do. Timeless names develop as the brand builds recognition, familiarity, trust and reputation. They are the names of a brand that’s grown into itself, and the only effort that takes is to bring the brand to life and give it staying power (cake, right?) Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Ford, AT&T, Warner Brothers, and many other brands started in the archetypes above, and after years of life, crossed into the branding-elite, “Timeless” name category.

Let’s not try to hide it: while deciding on your brand name, you may feel like a parent flipping through baby name books or find yourself learning a new language because seemingly every English word is taken. But, to avoid pulling ALL of your hair out (you still might lose some), it’s important to sit down and truly discover who your brand is first. You should know your brand as if it is your oldest friend, and only then can you hone in on what kind of name it should embody. When a name is right, it will feel like that was its name all along.

If you’re struggling with any aspect of a branding (or rebranding) effort, get in touch. Our Colorado branding agency team has helped companies of all sizes define and create branding and collateral; they’re ready to help.

Jul 1

Hamburger_Blog_img

No, we’re not talking about the McDonald’s kind of hamburger. You might not have heard of a hamburger menu before in the context of interactive web design, but you’ve almost certainly used one. The three-line symbol that you often see in the upper right or upper left of a website has come to be known in website design as the “hamburger menu” is now almost universally recognized as a navigation menu.

A hamburger menu is really a method of hiding your navigation for clean website design. It was once reserved for small screens and apps, where space was limited,  but has recently made the leap onto desktop sites. Hidden navigation is trending in website design, and even Beyonce is a fan.

A lot has been written and studied about the hamburger menu. Generally speaking, UI/UX experts aren’t impressed at it’s performance. When it comes to finding your site menu, it turns out users are looking for the word ‘menu.’ In tests, users are much more likely to click on the word ‘menu,’ or at least on hamburger navigation paired with the word ‘menu.’

But that doesn’t mean that there’s no place for a hamburger menu on a desktop screen. When it comes to simplicity, no other navigation design compares. If your homepage is centered around visual or interactive content, hamburger navigation offers a solution that’s functional without being distracting. A conceptual home page for a younger target market begs for strong visual content that has them diving in for more – and a hamburger menu can get them there.

Hamburger navigation creates extra real estate, too. By hiding your navigation using a hamburger icon, you buy yourself extra pixels when the menu expands. Some sites (like that of our current advertising agency crush Brave People) use the entire browser window for the navigation, creating what is almost a two-part home page. Your menu items don’t have to be the only content in your hidden navigation; you can engage with social media icons, copy, photography or video. More information, less cluster.

That said, there’s plenty of reasons hamburger navigation might not be right for your brand. Bottom line, no matter how trendy or sleek it is, a hidden navigation means more clicks. And, although it’s recognizable, hamburger navigation doesn’t fare well in user testing. If the goal of your website is to provide important information quickly and without fluff, a readily seen navigation will make more sense.

If you’re digging the perks of a hidden navigation but are unsure about the actual hamburger symbol itself, there are other ways to hide it. Pardon our french, but the film Le Linge Rouge beautifully hides their navigation behind their own logo atop the word “menu.” The result is a homepage that’s captivating yet functional. It is perfect for a film, where content is king but the audience might not be tech savvy enough to appreciate a hamburger navigation symbol.

Here at Oblique Design, we’re all about daring, innovative design. But, when it comes to websites, the most important thing is that the user gets from point A to point B without a headache. We are always mindful of how a user will explore a website. For us; as a Colorado interactive design company, a website can look superb, but it has to work even better.

A hamburger menu on desktop screens allow a brand’s content to shine. But, when it comes to the most user friendly website design, nothing gets the job done like a traditional website navigation bar.  

May 23

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Have you ever walked into a grocery store and been completely bombarded by hundreds of cereal box options? Us too. Many times, it’s the packaging design that catches our eye and helps make the final decision.

Over the past few years, packaging design has become incredibly important for companies as they realize that good design translates to increased sales. Think about it; when you are at a grocery store, picking up a pack of delicious Jerky, don’t you find yourself drawn to some packaging designs over others? That’s no mistake.

In most cases, packaging is a consumer’s first point of contact with the product.  A creative, eye-catching package design may entice someone to try a product line they’ve never heard of, just because it stands out among others. Especially when it comes to new product launches, package design is one of the most important elements for a successful market entry. No matter how good the product itself is, poor packaging can drastically affect sales. Here are some important questions that should be addressed for a successful custom packaging design

1. How should the packaging represent the brand?

All successful brands think about brand identity and the way they want their message to be conveyed to the target market. Brands communicate by use of color, fonts and textures. The aim here is to project a brand’s story, where every detail on the packaging is part of the consumer’s experience.

2. What is the desired price point for this product?

Research has shown that we make assumptions on a product’s price before we even see the actual price tag. Sometimes a package design is so over designed and sophisticated in appearance, that the consumer will think it is too expensive. On the other hand, if the design seems too generic and unappealing, the audience will think it is low quality. Therefore, it is important that the design is communicating the right price direction for the customer.

3. What types of materials should you use?

How durable does your package have to be? How long does it stay intact before a consumer uses it? How will the consumer handle the packaging? Does it need to be waterproof? Does is have to be shipped? Is it organic or sustainably sourced? These are only a few of the many questions that should be addressed when deciding which material would best fit your product.

4. How well do you know your audience?

Knowing your target audience plays a vital role when designing packaging. Your intended consumer needs to relate to the product. Factors such as their socioeconomic situation, gender, race, and personality traits within this defined group, play a key role when establishing a suitable design for your product. Studying your target group of customers is one of the most critical aspects of any product launch or redesign – if you know exactly who you’re talking to, it is easier to communicate your message effectively.

Regardless of whether you’re getting ready to launch a new food, beverage or a line of medical devices it pays to bring in a team that specializes in not just graphic design or retail marketing, but custom packaging design. The best packaging design is a combination of branding, messaging and design in a way that speaks to your target audience.

If you’re looking for help with packaging design, get in touch, we’d be happy to help.

Apr 13

 

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As creatives, we all know that User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design is vital to creating a successful web presence, as well as creating successful business growth for our clients. Like any design function, UX and UI design takes time, practice and understanding in order to achieve optimal results. Here at Oblique Design, we have been working to understand our design practice when it comes to successful User Experience and have broken it down to two simple concepts; understanding the users and shaping the content and design to be as clear as possible. This post will walk you through what we have found to be successful in expanding our philosophy of UI and UX design.

 

Understanding your User

Analysis of your user is fundamental to the process of successful UX design and is necessary to define the right direction for the design. Setting clear goals is a crucial step to defining what the interface should include and function as. Some questions to ask could include:’

– What would a user want the interface to accomplish?

– How comfortable is the user with technology?

– How would a user engage with the interface in the normal course of their visit?

Understanding the user doesn’t end with the launch of your project. Even after establishing goals and doing thorough research, the process of understanding user behavior is ongoing. By leveraging the data in your analytics account (keywords, user paths, successful interactions) and gathering solicited feedback (staff interviews, visitor surveys, social media) you can continue to adjust your content and remove barriers to success.

 

Clarity is Key

As designers, it is very easy to get caught up in designing a web page using a designer’s point of view. We sometimes get too absorbed in our own creative process and forget that this site is not necessarily meant for us. The interface needs to be creative, yes, but more importantly, it needs to be functional. Here are a few things to remember:

User Outcomes Need to be Intuitive

Navigation of information should be essentially invisible to the visitor. If the goal is to get the visitor to complete a task (which it usually is), they shouldn’t have to solve a puzzle to do so. As humans, we ignore things we don’t understand, meaning that viewers will most likely neglect items or content with an unclear purpose. This is especially important when creating a UI for mobile devices.

Information served via a mobile interface needs to be even more streamlined and intuitive because it is a completely different experience for the user. Testing your mobile UI with several different tools (https://crossbrowsertesting.com is one example) to confirm its functionality works as you planned. Also, keep in mind your page loading time, call to action features as well as how you are utilizing the smaller screen resolution.

Clear Trumps Clever

It’s important to avoid being “clever” and vague, rather than clear. This concept can be applied through the entire site, but should be taken into consideration especially for the homepage and the navigation. The homepage should explicitly state the company’s main value proposition, quickly communicating the purpose to the visitor. Further, the navigation should be perceptive and easy to follow. Consistency is key for UX and UI design. When the visitor sees features more than once, they will begin to understand how to interact with it.

The point of having a clear and intuitive interface is to simply allow the user to have a comfortable and positive experience using the site. Trends and technology may change, but the human brain does not. Keeping a tight grip on the psychological tendencies of your target users will allow for smarter design and better conversions.

Now that you’re armed with some new UX and UI design insight, we hope you can incorporate some of these tips into creating a better and more efficient experience for your users!

Feb 19

ContentMarketing_Blog

Ahh, content marketing. One of the buzziest of buzz words to hit the industry circa five years ago. Its right up there with ‘ROI,’ ‘value proposition,’ and the King of buzz ‘social.’

… If I had a dollar every time I’ve heard a fellow marketer say, ‘integrate social’ I’d be on a beach somewhere instead of writing this post …

Anyway, now content marketing is an essential (and relatively easy) component in the ever-evolving marketing mix. The beauty of content marketing is that every brand has a story to tell — and instead of paid or earned media — content marketing provides an authentic way to weave a multimedia story that provides industry value and brand personality.

In true Buzzfeed style, here the 5 essential elements to a good content marketing strategy.

1. Know Your Audience

As marketers, we’ve all heard it before, ‘Who’s your target audience?’But seriously, who are they? How old? Do they typically have kids? What’s their level of education? What are there likes and dislikes? The more detailed the better. A good content strategy means knowing who you’re talking to and why they would care about your content.HubSpot is an awesome resource for creating detailed personas. Check out this blog post on the subject complete with a Persona Template.

2. Provide Value

The internet is simultaneously awesome and horrible because of the sheer volume of information. As such, we’ve been trained to constantly scan, search and refine based on our needs and wants.There are also enough remarketing, banner and display ads in our digital lives that we instantly (at least most) discount spammy, over-aggressive advertising.Providing value means giving away free information and helping your users solve a problem. Not selling immediately, but proving good information that your users can use. It has real (or at least perceived) value to them. Check out this blog post by Conversion Champs about providing real value.

3. Understand your conversion

What’s the goal of your content? If someone interacts with it, what would you like them to do? An example of a successful conversion is filling out a landing page form to receive an eBook you’d like them to read.Understanding your conversion is essential to content marketing. Why? Because the action you’d like your users to complete will dictate the content type, or vice versa.Content should be defined by purpose (or intended conversion), format and topic. Once you understand your conversion, pick the content format that will resonate most with your persona (this is why detailed personas are muy importante). The topic is equally important because it will communicate the perceived or intended value you would like to provide.

See, it’s almost like it’s all connected. Radical.

Take a look at this SlideShare deck on the 7 Rules of Conversion-Friendly Content Marketing Design.

4. Analyze and Nimble

One of the biggest gaffes in content marketing is pushing something out into the interwebs and not analyzing its efficacy. Why would you do that? You wouldn’t because you’re smart.It’s like a baker not measuring the ingredients of a cake, throwing it in the oven and wondering why it doesn’t taste good. Well, not exactly … but you get the point.Understanding why a specific piece of content is not performing is less important than knowing it’s not and quickly iterating. Try new things and go out on a limb. Testing different content types to increase conversion rates is part of the game.

The beauty of self-publishing is that the cost of failure is typically just time, effort and ego. Learning from content mistakes could lead you to your next big win, great client or increase in sales.

See the article 7 Tips We Learned Analyzing 75 Content Marketing Examples by the Content Marketing Institute.

5. As with any Product, Distribution is Key

Your new content is beautiful. You’ve worked so hard. Agonized over every word. It’s a valuable piece of sticky content that your customers can’t wait to consume.As a rule of thumb, you should spend just as much time distributing content as you did creating it. It’s important!So, wait – how do you push it out?

That’s a more nuanced answer. The distribution method should be consistent with your personas (and how they prefer to receive content), where they reside in the buyers journey (or funnel) and the intended conversion. It should also align with your editorial calendar and overall content strategy … but that’s blog post or eBook in its own merit.

In general though, here are a few examples of ways to distribute content:

– Webpages;
– Business Blog;
– Landing Pages;
– Social Channels;
– Calls-to-Action;
– Marketing Emails; and
– Display, PPC, SEM Campaigns

For more ideas on how to boost your distribution, read this blog from the competent folks over at Hootsuite.
And don’t be afraid to recycle, segment and increase the shelf life of your content. Like with this post, I could post one essential element a week for 5 weeks … flex that content!

Closing thoughts: Content marketing doesn’t have to be hard, it just needs to be constant. Empower everyone at your company to create, to provide value and unleash the storyteller within. If everyone did this, we’d all win!

Oblique is full-service Boulder creative agency serving Colorado and beyond. We help our clients achieve their business objectives by creating well-designed and effective communications. We do this through smart thinking, impeccable craft and client relationships based on high levels of trust and respect. Our team of talented and passionate individuals work together to create consistently great results.