The ways customers consume media are continually evolving, forcing us to constantly evolve our tactics for executing visual content as well. If we look at today’s hyper-connected environment, where gaining exposure for any type of content becomes a challenge compounded by market saturation and dwindling human attention spans, there is little time to develop visual content and an even smaller margin of error for implementation.
Make sure you’re not overlooking certain key elements that could derail the development of your visual content. The following will help shed some light on the fundamentals of a strong visual communication strategy.
Know Your Audience
To some, this may seem obvious, but just knowing who you’re marketing to isn’t enough. There are three main points you should consider when developing visual content for your target demographic:
- What content subjects are they actively seeking online?
- What sources do they use to consume content (newsletters, blogs, forums, etc.)?
- What is their preferred method for consuming the content (infographic, blog post, ebook, etc.)?
By narrowing your focus down to what content your audience likes, where they like to consume it, and the medium in which they like to consume, building a custom visual strategy just a matter of filling in the gaps.
The medium in which you present your visual content — infographics, ebooks, white papers, case studies, etc. — will more or less be dictated by the amount of content you’re trying to visualize. Note that the main goal with any visual communication strategy is to present your audience with enough information so that they walk away with a feeling of having learned enough on the subject to either make an informed decision or seek more information on the subject vertical.
But beware: you don’t want to overwhelm your audience with too much information. Doing so can result in confusion and overall disinterest in your content. Our suggestion? Make the content easy — easy to read, easy to understand, easy to share.
A quick method for finding the right length is to break the textual content down into bullet points on a standard 8.5×11 document — one data point per bullet. If the amount of bullet points exceeds two pages, you have content fit for a longer form media like white papers or eooks. If the bullet points cover 1 to 1.5 pages, you’re looking at a standard long-scroll infographic. Anything under half of a page can be turned into a mini infographic (about half the size of a standard infographic) or other forms of micro-content.
Researching and vetting all content is key for developing a strong visual asset. Make sure the information you’re putting your brand behind is reputable, accurate, and timely. Any third-party data or information should come from accredited sources and the source material should be no more than 2 years old, with the exception of certain pieces of periodically released research.
Visual Accuracy and Flow
The manner in which you decide to visualize information is vital for accurate reader interpretation and overall user experience.
Data should be visualized whenever possible. Deciding how to visualize a particular set of data is dependent upon the type of data and how you want the reader to interpret it. For example, visualizing a percentage increase will lend itself better through a bar chart while visualizing the percentage of a whole will be better represented using a pie chart. Also be aware of data visualization accuracy in terms of scale, especially if you’re comparing two or more sets of data.
Visual elements should also provide a clear indication of the order in which to read information. The idea is to let the eye flow as it naturally would when reading a paragraph: left to right, top to bottom. Each visual element should be a focal point that flows toward the next. This can be as obvious as directional arrows or a color gradient.
Regardless of the medium, every visual element needs to either support other visual elements or help further the narrative. Adding unnecessary elements, or “fluff,” to the design has the potential to disrupt content flow and confuse the reader. If you’re unsure whether or not to include a certain visual element, ask yourself: if you were to remove that element, would the reader still understand the overall narrative? If so, chances are you can get rid of it. If all else fails, it’s best to err on the side of less is more.
Content value will always be the driving force that decides whether or not you should move forward with developing any visual content. The big question is what kind of value you want to provide.
Visual content that adds value can be broken down into two broad buckets: education and explanation. For example, you can provide housing market trends to help your audience make more informed decisions (educate) or walk them through the process of purchasing a house (explain). This is where knowing your audience comes in handy, as it can help you determine which bucket would be most helpful.