It’s science fair season around here and yesterday my son won “best real world application” for his project at our district’s fair. WAIT! Don’t go, I have not made the leap to mommy blogger, I really have a point. Stay with me.
Here’s how it worked. He took a couple of bars of chocolate chopped into squares. Half of it was wrapped in gold foil, presented on a fancy plate and advertised with an elaborate sign labeling it “Swiss Chocolate”. The other half was chopped irregularly, dumped in a pile on a tinfoil tray and labeled “Chocolate” on a very basic sign. Kids were asked to taste test and fill out a survey to give their opinions.
The “Swiss Chocolate” was perceived to taste better and have more value than the exact same chocolate presented in a less than professional manner.
Science proves design matters. Clearly, this applies to business too. Your look is directly related to the perception of your value.
Your business is telling a story and your visual identity is the cover, the table of contents and the binding. People hire businesses who reflect where they want to be, or that they consider on an equivalent market footing to themselves. If you want to promote yourself as a change-making professional, charging higher prices and working with savvier clients, your look needs to live up to expectations.
So what do you do when annoying things like “budgets”, and “need to make some sales first”, routinely get in the way?
I’ve written about the best way to DIY before. But in case you’re strapped for time (and who isn’t?), here are my top three most important visual strategies to get right, presented in order.
- Brand comes first. I feel like I’m constantly preaching about this but if you don’t know why you’re in business, what’s important to you, and how you want people to feel when they encounter you, no amount of fancy parallax scrolley website bling is going to save you. If you can only afford to do ONE THING, this is it.
- Professional photography. If you run a personality-based business, where people are coming to your site to hire you personally, you absolutely need professional photographs. There are an awful lot of people who love Kris Carr’s website. Can you imagine if she used photos taken in her living room, with an awful flash and a cluttered background? The perception of value would be drastically reduced. Pro photography is an investment, but no one ever said, “Oh damn, I have too many great photos of myself.”
- Neutralize. In a world full of easy access to design software, it’s tempting to go a bit nuts. When you’re offered opportunities to add shapes, and drop shadows, and rainbow-coloured gradients, well, it can be like the proverbial candy store. If you are DIYing your design, please, step away from the effects. Trust me, nothing says “amateur” like a boatload of effects added for the sake of adding effects. The phrase “less is more” was invented for this situation.
Your turn! What is the biggest design change you’ve made that impacted your business? What are you planning to do next? Tell us in the comments.