Founder + Creative Director at Gallery Design Studio NYC, award-winning B2B communication design agency.
Take a moment to look at the website you’re reading this article on: Is it easy and simple to navigate and understand? Of course it is. But did you know copywriters, designers and developers spent countless hours making it that way?
When things run smoothly, we don’t question the clarity of the design or the information provided. It’s when things don’t work as expected or a critical piece of information is not clear that you realize the value of clear and simple messaging and information placement.
That’s why when building a website, it’s so important to invest time and resources to create clear and simple communications for users, employees and prospects. When you don’t, you run the risk of your users not understanding what you are trying to convey, thus setting yourself up for failure.
Communication design is integral to today’s businesses, especially when your organization sells complex technology. By simplifying how you communicate your service offering, you can show how your solution works in a concise and digestible way while also showcasing features and engaging the user.
Even though 70% of online businesses fail because of poor user experience, your company doesn’t have to. As the founder of a communication design agency, I know that great customer experience is about clarity. You can avoid the mistakes I’ve seen many companies make by simplifying the way you communicate.
There are three common challenges when it comes to incorporating simplicity into communication design.
1. Simplicity is overlooked.
2. Simplicity is misunderstood.
3. Simplicity is a process.
Challenge 1: Simplicity is overlooked. It’s easy to assume that quality comes from complexity. But the reality is, simplicity in design is often perceived as a sign of quality. Even though it’s easy to assume you need everything in your design, your audience doesn’t want to feel intimidated by what you show them.
Challenge 2: Simplicity is misunderstood. You might think that users will look at a website or a program, see a lot of white space and wonder, “What’s up with that?” The reality is a lot of thought and time went into creating that “simple” layout. Communication designers factor multiple elements into the creation of a page, such as empathizing with their audience, prioritizing one core topic per page, grouping related topics together to help readers scan content, breaking information down into bite-size doses and dozens of other variables. This is key to creating a successful website and marketing resources, as these can reduce frustration and make the online experience more accommodating for the intended audience.
Challenge 3: Simplicity is a process. Because simple designs feature fewer elements, there is a popular assumption that the simpler the design, the faster and easier it is to create. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Stylistic elements like color, spacing, font and layout are thoughtfully arranged to achieve the most compelling design. That doesn’t happen without a dedicated process that takes considerable thought and time.
Each challenge requires its own solution, but let’s start with a basic design principle: Ensure your communication is simple, both in terms of content and visuals, as well as relevant to your recipient. Your key concern, at every step of the process, is your end-user.
Overlooking simplicity? Solution: Seek inspiration.
1. Think about the brands you like and that resonate with you. Ask yourself how they get their message across, written and visually, and why it worked.
2. It’s hard to remember what worked and what didn’t on past projects. Creating a book of your past visual content projects that you can refer to can help you remember some good (and bad) ideas you had so you can know what to avoid and what to do again.
Misunderstanding simplicity? Solution: Educate yourself and your team.
Learn to simplify your communications by:
1. Using simple visuals and diagrams. When it comes to complex content, sketch out what you want to see as much as possible. Even though you might not use all of these visuals, it will give you a deeper understanding of the content and how to better explain it.
2. Group similar themes together. For example, bundle all benefits or features together. This makes it easier for the end-user to assimilate the overall topic.
Lack of process for simplicity? Solution: Institutionalize it with a playbook.
You can create a style guide playbook with guidelines for your communication design process. This keeps everyone on the same page so there’s no confusion on tone, grammar preferences, font, colors or other critical elements.
1. Share your style guide company-wide for institutionalized simplicity.
2. Make sure your guide is a digital, iterative document that can be updated as needed to reflect changes to the company’s style or tone.
• Get inspired.
• Get educated.
• Get serious.
Let inspiration and education find you. That weekly newsletter you like so much? Maybe the layout inspires your next company report. That intuitive app you just downloaded? Maybe the callout features are exactly the element your customer onboarding program is missing.
When you’re on the lookout for simplicity, you’ll start to see all the near-invisible design elements you’ve taken for granted. But when you get serious and start institutionalizing simplicity, you can hold your team accountable for your new goals.
Engaging these takeaways will not only infuse simplicity into your company’s communication designs but will also boost efficiency and continuity, which I’ve found can help save you time, money and, believe it or not, stress.
Less does more.
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