There’s no doubt that the majority of content today is being created and consumed in the digital space. But what exactly are the best practices for designing your digital publication?
Regardless of whether you’re using digital publishing software or posting your content on a content management system like WordPress, it’s important to ensure that your content is fully optimized for the digital world. Let’s take a look at a few design-focused best practices for digital content engagement.
You have the perfect content…
But now you need the perfect design and delivery. It’s easy to get lost in the hype of your content, but how you design and deliver your message is just as important as what you’re saying. Digital users have high expectations. A report by Google revealed that 78 percent of consumers leave a site when content isn’t digitally friendly. It also showed that 61 percent of users are unlikely to return if content isn’t optimized for mobile. Consequently, the key to creating engaging digital content is to keep your audience in mind as you design, thinking about how they consume content and how you can grab their attention at first glance.
A recent study by Poynter Institute identified that tablet users prefer to read content in landscape mode. While print content is generally read in a portrait position (think newspaper columns), tablet readers have an “overwhelming instinct to swipe horizontally.” The bottom line is that to create an ideal digital page turn experience, create your content spreads in landscape mode.
In addition, your digital content should not use more than three columns per page. Jose Sanchez, Communications and Design Specialist at Uberflip, explains, “Readers’ attention spans are lower for digital content versus print. Consequently, it’s important that your content doesn’t look cluttered or overwhelming, otherwise you risk losing your audience.”
Lastly, it’s imperative that the experience you provide for your digital content is highly visual, rather than a flat, text-based experience. Here are a few strategies for easily turning your content into a visual paradise:
Elements to consider include:
- Bullet points
- Different font styles (for example, bold or italicize important parts of your content)
2. Visual hierarchy
Visual hierarchy is the order in which our brain perceives and categorizes content. Creating visual hierarchy is an important element in content design and can be achieved by creating visual contrast between different elements on a page. Consider the following image:
It’s evident that the image on the right is less overwhelming than the image on the left. Incorporating visual hierarchy into your content’s design will increase the likelihood that readers can quickly extract your main message and continue reading if they’re interested. Visual hierarchy can be achieved by:
- Breaking up your content into different sections
- Using visuals
- Including spaces between paragraphs
3. Font style and font size
One of the most common pitfalls that content creators fall into is the use of font sizes that are too small. With the multitude of different devices and screen sizes for consumers’ digital devices, it’s important to use a font style and size that your audience can easily read on any device. Consider the following two images:
Regardless of the device you’re currently using, the second image is clearer and easier to read. As a general rule of thumb, use font sizes that are 16 point or larger, depending on the boldness and size of your font style.
4. Negative space
I like to think of negative space as providing “a visual break” for your reader — it makes your content more appealing and less daunting. Negative space also emphasizes your content and visuals by contrasting them against blank space. Think of your content as a photograph — although it’s text-based, the design of your entire piece should be as aesthetically appealing as a well-taken photo. Negative space will help achieve this effect. Check out the excerpt below from a G-Adventures’ brochure for a good example of the use of negative space:
As you design your content for digital, also consider leaving ample space for enhancements, such as photo galleries, videos, audio, and social media widgets. To maximize engagement, try to complement your content with these enhancements, whenever possible. For example, if you’re writing a piece about the new features of the iPad Mini, include a photo gallery that showcases these features. One of the biggest differentiators between print and digital content is the ability to include fun and engaging enhancements, so make sure you leave enough space for this in your design.
Colors also play a significant role in the overall design of your content. The best colors for digital are RGB, which is a palette of colors that are optimized for digital. Non-RBG colors might look dull when viewed across digital devices.
You can also make colors vibrant by slightly increasing their saturation and contrast. This allows content to look sharp on any screen — even those with lower resolution. Playing with the color saturation/contrast are simple techniques to ensure that your content looks crisp on every device.
For inspiration on creating your best digital content, check out Computerworld’s magazine. They’ve won two digital publishing awards for their fantastic page turn experience by making use of these simple best practices.
Are there any other components of designing digital content that you’d like us to cover? Let us know in the comments!
For more inspiring best practice examples, read our Ultimate eBook: 100 Content Marketing Examples.