These days, marketers like you are creating more content than ever before. Between blog posts, social media posts, email campaigns, landing pages & websites, you are starting to act more and more like a publisher every day.
The problem is you’re not the only one increasing your content output. Not only are marketers creating more content, but consumers are producing content at an increasingly rapid pace as well, with over 100 million new photos taken every hour and a new blog created every 0.5 seconds.
So how is a marketer like you supposed to get your message heard above all the noise? And even if you manage to get people’s attention, how do you convert them into customers in an age of short attention spans and countless distractions?
By reading the rest of this guide, you’ll learn:
- Why beautiful design matters now more than ever
- The 3 principles of beautiful design from a marketing perspective
- How leading companies like Apple, Airbnb & Xero are implementing the 3 principles to win customers, and how you can too.
You’ll also see the tools leading brands use to create beautiful marketing content and get some free resources that you can start using right now to get better results from your next website, landing page or email campaign.
What is beautiful design and why does it matter?
According to research from DMI, design-led companies outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 – a stock market index of 500 large publicly traded companies – by 228%
A select few companies have long used design as a competitive advantage, none more so than Apple. But the more recent successes of other design-led companies like Xero and Airbnb are offering more proof than ever before that beautiful design yields better results across all departments – from product design to marketing.
But what defines beautiful design?
In a marketing context, beautiful design isn’t just about making content look pretty using nice images and fancy graphics.
Beautiful design brings form and function together to motivate a person to take action, reduce their anxiety towards the action and provide a clear, easy path to conversion.
This definition can be a bit of a handful, so let’s break it down a little bit more:
- Motivate a person to take action – Beautiful design will motivate a person to convert by creating desire for your product or service.
- Reduce their anxiety towards the action – Beautiful design will reduce anxiety towards conversion by addressing any fears and concerns a user might have around your product or service.
- Provide a clear, easy path to conversion – Beautiful design will provide an easy path to conversion by making it clear what the conversion action is and removing any obstacles or distractions that may prevent the user from taking the action.
These three principles are the foundation of any great design, and it is by incorporating them in your websites, landing pages and email campaigns that you will get better marketing results.
So how do you do that? In the next chapter, we’ll take an in-depth look at each principle and show you actionable examples from design-led companies like Airbnb, Apple, and Xero that you can apply to your own marketing.
How marketers can create beautifully designed content
By using the right tools and following these three principles of beautiful design, it’s actually easy for marketers to create beautiful content.
Beautiful design should motivate a person to take action
In order to get someone to take your chosen conversion action, you must first create desire for your product or service within them.
Advertising legend and consumer psychologist Adam Ferrier claims desire is made up of two key elements – individual incentive and social norms.
Individual incentive is the idea that at a basic human level we are motivated to undertake a certain behavior either to gain pleasure or avoid pain. In marketing terms, desire to convert is created when people can see how your product or service can help them to either gain pleasure or avoid some sort of pain they have been experiencing.
That said, humans are sophisticated beings and will not simply seek out whatever creates pleasure or avoids pain with no thought to the consequences. We are inherently social, and are driven to act in a way we believe would be considered “normal” in society. So when deciding whether or not to conduct a behavior (such as converting), not only do we consider the individual incentive but we also consider things like how we will look if we perform this behavior, what the social norms are around this behavior and whether people we consider influential are undertaking the behavior.
So in order to create desire for your product or service, you actually need to satisfy both the individual incentive and social norm elements at the same time.
To do this, you need to show people how your product or service will reduce pain or increase pleasure, and you need to reassure them that using your product is a perfectly acceptable behavior to undertake.
So how do you do that with beautiful design? Let’s take a look at some examples from the best in the business:
How Shopify creates desire using personalisation
Shopify creates desire for their product by personalising the homepage experience based on the visitor’s location, presenting them with localised messaging and imagery that shows Shopify is Australia’s preferred eCommerce platform.
By doing so, Shopify is creating a social norm that other Australian businesses are using the platform to power their online stores, and reassuring visitors it is perfectly acceptable for them to do the same.
What you can learn from Shopify
The more you can personalise your landing pages, websites or email campaigns to the characteristics of the reader, the higher your chances of converting them. Use dedicated landing pages and segmented email campaigns to target your messaging and imagery, and create a social norm that other people just like them are using your product to increase pleasure or reduce pain.
How Apple creates desire using context
Design maestros Apple create desire for their iPad by showcasing the product being used in context.
In their recent Verses campaign for iPad, Apple created a beautifully designed website that showcases how different people use their iPad in various ways to enhance their lives.
Rather than just showing pictures of the product itself, Apple creates individual incentive by showing the product being used in context, demonstrating how the product can be used to enhance the individual’s life.
Furthermore, Apple creates a sense of social norm by featuring prominent, aspirational figures like travel writer Cherie King. By showing her using an iPad on the go, Apple is proving that the iPad is a perfectly acceptable product for you to use as well.
What you can learn from Apple
When including pictures or screenshots of your product or service in your marketing content, show your products in the context of how they will help the user either create pleasure or avoid pain, as this will increase the individual incentive to use your product or service.
Beautiful design should reduce anxiety
In order to get someone to take your desired conversion action, you must also reduce any anxiety they have towards taking the action.
In marketing, anxiety is essentially any feelings of discomfort or unease towards making a conversion.
It can be caused by any number of things, including:
- Concern that your offer isn’t worth their time and/or money,
- Worry that your product or service isn’t the right choice for them,
- Doubt that your product or service is reliable or can deliver what you claim it can,
- Fear that purchasing your product is unsecure.
So in order to reduce anxiety around your desired conversion action, you must first walk a mile in your customers shoes and understand what the points of anxiety may be, and then take steps to reduce those anxieties.
So how do you do that with beautiful design? Let’s take a look at some examples from the best in the business:
How Basecamp reduces anxiety with usage statistics
Project management tool Basecamp reduces anxiety towards signup by showcasing the number of successful projects other businesses have completed using their product.
By going beyond just showing customer numbers, Basecamp is addressing people’s concern that the product isn’t right for them and reassuring potential customers that the product can help them achieve what they need to achieve (completing projects).
What you can learn from Basecamp
Within the design of your marketing content, showcase the success people are enjoying using your product. Seeing other people enjoying the benefits they want will increase conversions by addressing people’s anxieties that your product may not be right for them or isn’t worth investing their time and effort into.
How Xero reduces anxiety by showcasing customer numbers
Online accounting software Xero reduces anxiety towards signup by prominently showcasing the number of customers they have using their product.
Xero understands that accounting software in the cloud is a new concept for some people, and they are likely to have some anxiety around whether it is the right choice for them.
By showing the number of other small businesses who are using their product for their accounting and are loving doing so, Xero is increasing conversions by eliminating people’s concern about whether their product is the right choice for them.
What you can learn from Xero
If you have some impressive customer numbers, incorporate them into the design of your marketing content to address concerns that your product might not be the right choice. However, avoid showcasing customer numbers if you don’t yet have an impressive number. Few people like to be the first to try something and this form of negative social proof could actually increase people’s anxiety.
Beautiful design should make it easy to convert
In order to get someone to take your desired conversion action, you must make it as simple as possible for them to take that action.
In fact, increasing ease is actually one of the most effective ways to increase people’s likelihood of taking your desired conversion action, according to consumer psychologist Adam Ferrier.
He cites a study where researchers compared how many chocolates a person consumed when they were placed on their desk, as opposed to when they were placed a mere 2 metres away. They found that when placed on the desk, people ate an astounding 5x more chocolates than when they were just a few metres away.
This study highlights the importance of ease in getting people to convert. Even though people’s desire and anxiety surrounding eating the chocolates was exactly the same in both instances, making them easy to access increased consumption by 5x.
So how do you use beautiful design to make it easy for people to eat more of your chocolates (or in this case, take your conversion action)? Let’s take a look at some examples from the best in the business:
How Unbounce makes it easy to convert by reducing choice
Landing page tool Unbounce make it really easy for potential webinar attendees to convert by limiting the number of session times they offer.
Unbounce understands the paradox of choice, and that when people are faced with too many similar options they struggle to choose the best one for themselves and actually don’t make a choice at all, instead opting to walk away.
When Unbounce reduced the number of session times they offered from four down to three, they actually received a 17% increase in the number of people choosing a time and signing up for their webinar.
What you can learn from Unbounce
Limit the amount of choices you offer people in the design of your marketing content, particularly if the difference between those choices is minimal. This makes it easier for people to choose the best option for them and increases the number of people who will make a decision and convert.
How Airbnb makes it easy to convert by reducing steps
For Airbnb, signing up for an account is only half the journey towards conversion. A person only generates them revenue once they book a stay at a property.
So to make it easier for people to convert, they redesigned the signup process for those who download the app via a referral from a friend.
Instead of presenting them the standard signup process which requires the user to signup and then manually redeem their $25 credit, Airbnb created a customised signup process that automatically detects who referred them and presents a customised signup form. Once the user has signed up, they are automatically credited the $25 and the referrer is automatically given the referral bonus.
This customised signup process significantly reduces the number of steps a user has to go through to signup, redeem their credit, and then book a property and as a result increased the number of referral bookings by 300%.
What you can learn from Airbnb
Every step in a conversion process introduces another point where people will drop out, so minimize the number of steps people need to take wherever possible. How you actually achieve this depends on your unique conversion process, but the key is to identify what steps can be taken away and do what you can to remove them.
Tools to help marketers create beautiful content
Now that you understand the principles of beautiful design and have seen how leading brands use those principles to drive business results, you’re going to need the right tools to start executing.
Create beautiful websites
Squarespace is a website creation tool that gives marketers everything they need to create beautiful websites. With built-in functionality to add galleries, blogs, forms, online stores and more, marketers can create a full-featured, beautiful website with ease. What sets Squarespace apart from other website creation tools is their range of beautiful templates and their incredibly easy to use editor, which allows you to edit your site by simply dragging elements around the page, dropping photos and videos in, and more.
Below are examples of some beautiful websites created by marketers like you using Squarespace:
Create beautiful online stores
Shopify is an eCommerce platform that provides business owners everything they need to create beautiful online stores. With built-in functionality to display products, offer discounts, and accept payments, marketers can create full-featured online stores quickly and easily. What sets Shopify apart from other eCommerce platforms is their intuitive interface and range of beautiful store templates that make it really easy to create a beautiful online store that drives business results.
Below are examples of some beautiful online stores created by marketers like you using Shopify:
Creating beautiful landing pages
Unbounce is a tool that allows marketers to build, publish & A/B test landing pages without IT. What sets Unbounce apart from other landing page tools is its drag and drop page builder which makes it really easy to create beautiful landing pages that convert. Over 80 conversion-focused templates are available for free to help you get started, or you can build pages from scratch. Unbounce also provides simple stats and A/B testing features, which makes it easy to test new design elements and improve your conversion rates.
Below are examples of some beautiful landing pages created by marketers like you using Unbounce:
Creating beautiful email campaigns
Campaign Monitor is an email marketing tool that makes it easy to build your email lists, send beautiful emails and report on the results. What sets Campaign Monitor apart from other email marketing tools is its intuitive email builder, Canvas. Rather than using restricting templates that only allow you to put text and images in predefined positions, Canvas gives you a simple drag and drop editor that allows you to move content around and create completely unique, beautiful layouts with ease.
Below are examples of some beautiful email campaigns created by marketers like you using Campaign Monitor:
Resources to help get you started
Beautiful stock images to use in your content
There are millions of stock photographs around the web that can be used for free, but not all of them are worth using.
In order to help you create beautiful marketing content, we scoured the web for 5 of the best stock photography websites that contain incredibly beautiful – and totally free – images that you can use to get better results from your next email campaign, website or landing page.
Founded by self-taught freelance photographers David Sherry and Allie Lehman, Death To The Stock Photo is a subscription service that sends subscribers a folder of 10-12 free, high-quality photos each month, always with a different theme.
Here you’ll find access to free, high-resolution images and illustrations from the site’s owner Vicktor Hanacek. The photos are beautiful and are well categorised, making it easy to find what you need.
Hosted on a simple Tumblr account, the images Unsplash offers are breathtakingly beautiful. Subscribers to this free resource receive 10 new photos every 10 days in their inbox—all of which are available for any type of project. The minimalist layout and large image display showcases these photos in a unique way that makes for an interesting browsing experience.
Beautiful icon sets to use in your content
Icons are a great addition to your marketing content. Our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, so the right icon can help get your message across.
In order to help you create beautiful marketing content that gets results, we scoured the web to find the 5 best icon sets. All of these icons are available in PNG format, so you can easily drag and drop them into your next email campaign, website or landing page.
This round icon set (with 384 variations) offers all kinds of icons in both color and black and white format.
This set of 48 flat design icons will make your marketing content look great and includes everything from social media and tech icons through to notepads and mail.
This set of 12 icons come in 3 different styles to match your content perfectly. They include everything from charts to pencils, tags and wallets.
This set of 22 icons have a real hand-drawn, authentic feel about them. They are primarily focused on social networks and technology though, so they may not be for everybody.
This set of 60 icons has a really beautiful, animated style that makes them a great addition to your marketing content. Subject matter includes everything from pencils and paintbrushes to shoes and wallets.
Tools to create custom images
There are times when stock photography just won’t cut it and you need to create a custom image for your website, email campaign or landing page.
Tools like Photoshop and Illustrator, while powerful, are generally too complicated for the majority of image creation work marketers do.
Instead, marketers like you need tools that are easy to use but still capable of producing beautiful images. Here’s a few we recommend:
Canva helps make graphic design simple. The tool contains thousands of beautiful stock images which can be used in your designs, and you can easily add other elements such as text, banners, frames, and buttons as well.
What makes Canva great for marketers is its ease of use. With a simple drag and drop editor and thousands of pre-designed elements, you can create great images for your websites, emails and landing pages by simply choosing the design elements you want and dragging them wherever you want them.
Here are some examples of images that have been created by marketers like you using Canva:
PlaceIt makes it easy to create beautiful screenshots of your website, application or any other digital product.
You simply type in a URL, and PlaceIt automatically generates a screenshot and places it inside a device in a particular context, such as an iPad sitting on a desk or a MacBook Pro sitting on a park bench.
Here are some examples of the Campaign Monitor website in various settings created using PlaceIt:
Design marketplaces can be a great resource for marketers when you need more niche objects for your designs, like icons, banners, ribbons and more.
GraphicRiver is a design marketplace where professional designers sell their work, usually for minimal prices in the $1 to $10 region depending on the size and complexity of the item.
There are over 270,000 design items for sale on GraphicRiver, so chances are you can find the perfect design element for your email campaign, website or landing page.
However with so many items it can be hard to find the best ones amongst the noise, so here’s an overview of some of the more useful elements you can find on GraphicRiver.
Icons are a popular element in design, and can help convey meaning and messages without the need for boring blocks of text. GraphicRiver has thousands of icons for sale on the site, from social media icons to analytics icons. Here are some examples:
Banners & Ribbons
Banners and Ribbons are also popular elements in design, and can help call out certain elements like sales prices or special offers. GraphicRiver has thousands of banners and ribbons available, and here are a few examples:
Vector images can add some visual appeal to your content and help compliment your key messages. GraphicRiver has over 40,000 vectors available for sale, and here’s a few examples:
The Noun Project
The Noun Project is an online collection of free and paid icons which you can download and use in your marketing content.
The Noun Project is basically your one-stop shop for icons. It features a great search functionality that allows you to find whatever icons you need for your content, and a simple search for terms like ‘plane’ or ‘book’ will return hundreds of icons you can use.
Here are a few examples of icons you can find on The Noun Project:
Browser extensions are free and easy to install tools that give your web browser extra functionality. They can help you with everything from viewing your websites & landing pages in different browser sizes to finding out what colors and fonts a particular website is using.
While the name suggests it’s largely for web developers (and to be honest, it primarily is), there are a number of tools in this handy browser extension that make it useful for marketers like yourself, including:
Web Developer allows you to resize your browser to different screen sizes popular on various devices, such as mobiles, tablets, laptops & desktop computers. This enables you to see what your content looks like on different screen sizes and make any necessary changes to ensure it looks great everywhere.
Web Developer includes a color picker that allows you to click on a certain part of a website and see exactly what color that part is. You can then use that color in your own marketing designs.
Web Developer includes a ruler which allows you to measure the dimensions of a certain element and get the exact height and width in pixels. If you’re creating images or content for a particular size, this is a great tool for working out the dimensions you need to work within.
WhatFont is the easiest way to determine what font a particular website is using. With this handy little extension for Chrome and Safari, you simply hover over a font you like and it will tell you the font’s name, family, size and more. It can even point you in the direction of where to download the font yourself.
With more and more content vying for your audience’s attention, it is becoming increasingly difficult for marketers to engage potential customers and drive results.
However, with research showing design-led companies outperform their counterparts by 228%, and the recent successes of design-led companies like Airbnb and Xero, it has never been more apparent that beautiful design can be the approach marketers need to stand out above the clutter, get their messages heard and drive results.
However if you think beautiful design is beyond your abilities, then think again.
When creating your next email campaign, landing page or website, use the three principles of beautiful design as guidelines to which you can review your new marketing asset. Ask yourself these questions:
- How could I increase individual incentive or create a sense of social norm to enhance desire for my product? Can I include better photos, or add personalisation or context?
- What anxiety might potential customers have and what can I do to mitigate it? Can I include testimonials or customer numbers to put people’s minds at ease?
- What could I add, or even take away, to make it easier for potential customers to convert? Can I remove distracting elements, or even whole steps from the conversion process?
These days, great design is within reach of every marketer. By leveraging the right resources (such as beautiful stock photos & awesome icons) and combining them with the right tools (like Campaign Monitor & Squarespace, it’s easy for marketers like you to get better results from your marketing content through beautiful design.
So the only question left is what’s stopping you? Use the resources and tools you are now equipped with to go and create something beautiful today!