Blog

Lessons in Audience Retention: Design Matters!

Jun 13, 2012

By: Jennifer Mandli, ThinkInk Creative Director

Have you ever downloaded what you thought would be a great new app to your smartphone only to be disappointed by lackluster design? Or clicked on a link only to get a thumping headache from the clashing colors and overdesign of a website that popped up? Or left a website in frustration because you couldn’t find what you were looking for? And don’t get me started on websites that still insist on using 90s stock photography and homogeonized images of white “business people” shaking hands.

You’d think that, in 2012, every company in the universe developing a website or an app would be clued in to the importance of excellent design in getting users to come, stay and be engaged on their site or to download the app and make it a part of their daily smartphone use ritual. That is, responsive design.

Sadly though, that’s not the case. When we started to redevelop the ThinkInk website earlier this year (the new site launches next week), we found so many websites that, despite their fairly decent content, fall short on the design end. That’s a shame because even with intelligent, witty and entertaining content, bad design can significantly shorten the time people spend on a particular website. For companies – and the marketers they hire to promote them – designing a website that gives eyeballs some pleasure, is easy to navigate and doesn’t assault you with too many moving parts or ad content is absolutely crucial in visitor engagement and, ultimately, some sort of conversion.

Obtrusive video and audio content that a visitor can’t control is also, as we’ve learned, a big no-no. Exhibit A: the clacking old-school typewriter sound that used to greet visitors to the old ThinkInk website. When we first launched that website in 2004, my goodness did we think it was cutting-edge. And it may have been, for a year – the same year that no one knew what Facebook was. But fastforward 8 years and that clacking sound was making us all cringe so we killed the noise and got to work designing a new site pronto.

But it doesn’t stop there. With numbers of smartphone and tablet owners expected to skyrocket over the next few years, even the greatest-looking website on a desktop or laptop screen will lack significant traffic if the layout doesn’t translate well to the smaller screens of handheld devices or is laden with Flash. For marketers and the companies they represent, it’s vital that sites are designed with mobilized consumers in mind. More and more marketing companies are reaching today’s super-connected consumers through multimedia campaigns that almost invariably make use of mobile and even games to engage.

Companies that sell food, mobile phone and data plans, TV shows and Web search capabilities – as well as countless other goods and services – are increasingly relying on games to memorably market their products. There are a lot of gamers out there, and their standards are as high as any mobile devotee’s. So those of us in the marketing sphere will do well to remember that it’s not just about great content – it’s the whole package that really matters.

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