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The following excerpt comes from The Content Marketing Handbook by Robert W. Bly. Buy it now on Amazon Barnes & Noble
Design plays an important role in the success of your content. Long before you read your words, readers will judge the value of your content by its appearance.
Here are 10 of the most common graphic design mistakes and how to avoid them, according to desktop design guru Roger C. Parker:
1. Excessive use of color
The excessive use of color is a bad service for readers who print white papers on inkjet printers. Avoid plain backgrounds behind the text. Such pages can cost several dollars each for ink supplies. In addition, bright colors can cause distractions that make it difficult to read neighboring texts. After all, colored text is often more difficult to read than black text on a plain white background.
2. Missing page numbers
Many white papers lack page numbers. However, readers rely on page numbers to track their progress through publication. They also rely on page numbers to access previously read information.
3. Long lines of type
Many white papers are difficult to read because the text stretches across the page in a continuous line, from left to right. But long lines are difficult and annoying to read. In addition, the resulting left and right margins are very narrow. Spaces along the sides of the page offer readers a resting place and emphasize the adjacent text.
4. Inappropriate writing
There are three main classifications of fonts: decorative, serif, and sans serif.
- Decorative fonts such as Constantia or Broadway are highly stylized and are ideal for attracting attention or projecting an atmosphere or an image. However, the use of these fonts should be limited to logos and packaging where the image is more important than legibility.
- Serif fonts such as Times New Roman and Garamond are ideal for extended reading. The serifs or dashes on the edges of each character help define the unique shape of each letter and steer the reader's eyes from letter to letter.
- Sans serif fonts such as Arial and Verdana are easy to read. Its clear, simple design helps readers to recognize words from a distance, which is why they are used to signage motorways. Sans serif fonts are often used for headings and subheadings in combination with a copy of the serif body.
5. Wrong font size
If the type is set too large, e.g. For example, at 14 points, you cannot insert enough words in each line so that the readers can easily scan the text. Conversely, the details that help readers identify each character are lost if the type is set too small. A set that is too small also requires too many movements of the eye from left to right in each line, which over time leads to eye strain. The most popular and most readable font size is 12 points.
6. Headings difficult to read
Headings should contrast sharply with the text they introduce. Readers should have no problem finding or reading them. And never put headings entirely in uppercase – this makes them more difficult to read than headings that use a combination of uppercase and lowercase.
7. Chunk content error
Chunking refers to making text easier to read by breaking it down into manageable, bite-sized parts. The best way to break up content is to insert frequent sub-headings into the text. Skimmer turns subheadings into readers by "promoting" the following text. Each heading thus offers an entry point into the text. You also avoid the visual boredom that arises side by side with almost identical paragraphs.
8. Bad headings formatting
To work, sub-headings have to create a strong visual contrast to the text. It is not enough to simply write the headline text in italics. They should be significantly larger and / or braver than the adjacent body copy. Never underline sub-headings to "make them more noticeable". Underlining makes them more difficult to read because they affect offspring – the parts of lowercase letters like g, p, and y that extend below the invisible line on which the subheadings rest. Also limit the headings to a few keywords and avoid using full sentences. Subheadings work best when they are limited to a single line.
9. Distract headers and footers
Headers and footers refer to text or graphic accents that are repeated at the top or bottom of each page. Page numbers, copyright information and the publisher's address should be smaller and less noticeable than the main text. Large, colored logos on each page can also be very distracting without adding meaningful information.
In the case of margins, pages are often enclosed in boxes with equally thick lines at the top, bottom and on the sides. Boxed pages look conservative and old-fashioned. A more contemporary image can be created using rules or lines of different thickness at the top and bottom of each page.
10. Widows and orphans
Widows and orphans occur when a word, part of a word, or partial line of text is isolated at the bottom of a page or column (an orphan) or at the top of the next page or column (a widow). The worst-case scenario occurs when a subheading appears at the bottom of a page, isolated from the paragraph that it introduces and that appears at the top of the next page. With some programs, you can automatically lock subheadings for the inserted text. Make sure you use this feature.
When someone downloads a white paper from you, they feel either a hint of joy or a feeling of disappointment within seconds. Readers look at the cover and take a look at the text. Then they either say: "Aw, just another hard-to-read, similar-looking white paper" or "Wow! That looks really great! “Whether your white paper gets the attention it deserves, paving the way for future sales, or (in the worst case) being immediately deleted or rounded, largely depends on its design.