It Starts with a Z: Visual Hierarchy in Banner Design

Visual hierarchy defines the arrangement or presentation of elements on a screen by importance. More important elements are supposed to draw the attention of a website visitor first. UX designers use a variety of methods to assign visual hierarchy to design elements (also see my post on UX design principles). In this post, I will explain how UX design principle of visual hierarchy applies to designing website banners.

  • Color contrast
    • Light colors (less important elements) vs dark colors (more important elements)
    • Unsaturated colors (less important elements) to colors with high saturation (more important elements)
    • Use of complementary colors to highlight an important element (e.g. a red button on a blue background)
  • Shape (e.g. grouping important elements by placing them close to each other (proximity) or putting a boundary around them)
  • Size (more important elements are larger than less important ones)
  • Perspective (foreground vs background), also figure-ground relationship

For a banner, a common pattern for organizing content is called ‘Z-pattern’. It can be explained as follows: the eye movement starts in the upper left-hand corner, then the focus shifts to the right (where normally teaser text is placed), then moves to the left-hand side (e.g. with a visual) and then goes to the right-hand corner, mostly to a CTA.

Below we will look at how these principles are utilized in banners on websites of several skincare companies.

The first banner (LUSH) does not follow the Z-pattern, but arranges the information vertically and centered. This works for headlines, however, if the text was longer, aligning it to the left would achieve better readability. We also see that the color of the teaser text and the CTA are low contrast compared to the background, so they can barely be read. The navigation bar, however, achieves a high contrast compared to the banner. The text (especially the sub-headline and the CTA) is relatively small compared to the background elements, thus, there is no contrast by size.  Shape or perspective are also not used. When visiting the page, the user would notice the background and the navigation bar first.

banner lush

The next banner is by The Body Shop. We can see the Z-pattern being used in this banner, with the CTA placed in the bottom left corner. The teaser text has good contrast in color (white on a dark purple background) and in size. We can also see that the products’ visual and the text elements are arranged in groups that allows for better visual separation (proximity principle). However, the CTA has lower contrast in color and size than the headline, it is also not separated from the text by a boundary but only underlined (as with hyperlinks).

bodyshop banner

The next banner by Yves Rocher also incorporates the  Z-pattern. Red is used as complementary color to green to highlight more important elements on the screen. The visual hierarchy is supported by grouping the elements of the visual and the text against the background. The background is also less saturated than the visual and the text. Additionally, important parts are highlighted by a boundary (marketing claim: Limited Edition and the CTA)  by color contrast (CTA and price) and by size (price).  The text is also aligned to the left, which allows for better readability. However, the header is designed in pale yellow, the same as background elements, which makes it stand out less.

yvesrocher

The last banner I would like to have a look at is L’Occitaine, also with the Z-pattern. A good point in the design of this banner is that the text and the CTA are not only grouped together and surrounded by a boundary but are also put against a white background, different to that of the visual. CTA in yellow, however, has middle contrast to the background. The teaser text is rather long and is aligned to the center, which makes it more difficult to read. Although yellow is the main branding color of L’Occitaine, it is perceived by the brain as a signal color and its overuse in the design as well as in visuals causes the page to look a bit “busy”.

loccitaine banner

In this post, we have had a look at how visual hierarchy can be realized in banner design. We saw that not only corporate identity, design guidelines or aesthetics play a role, but also UX/UI factors, that is how users perceive the banner and get motivated to take a desired action.

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Elements of a Marketing Strategy – Part 1

marketing strategy

The diagram above demonstrates elements of a marketing strategy. Below, I will explain it in more detail.

Product or service

Although it may sound strange, the first obstacle in creating a marketing strategy is to define what product or service you are going to sell. Sometimes companies are too quick to change or switch their product because they try to please the end customer. This can cause contradicting marketing messages and result in marketing campaigns being ineffective.

USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

USP is the unique benefit resulting from the product or service that makes it stand along against competition. What is that that you can do better than others? For example, the USP of Ryanair is low-cost flights.

Features

Features are what your product or service is comprised of. In order to sell a product, it is not necessary and sometimes even counterproductive to include a large number of features. Rather, the features should match the requirements of the target customer (see below).

Use cases

Writing use cases for your product or service is an excellent exercise that helps you to get ideas for promotion. Here are some examples of use cases for an app for sending appreciation badges within a company:

  • New colleagues can introduce themselves by sending short messages to the team members.
  • Colleagues can congratulate each other on a completed project or on other occasions by sending a badge.
  • The app can be used after meetings or training for sending feedback and thanking the organizer.

Target group

Achieving product-to-market fit is one of the cornerstones of successful marketing. However, not only the product part is important but also defining and selecting your target group.

Segmentation

You can segment both outside and inside your target group. Segmenting the market in general (see market segmentation) orientates you what segments you will target and what not. Once you selected your target group, you will unlikely be homogeneous, so you need to segment further. Typical target group segmentation for a B2B product can include such criteria as:

  • Users vs decision makers
  • Company size
  • State-owned vs privately-owned companies
  • Geographical segmentation (country, location)
  • Field of business

Personas

Personas help you to define in detail who your customers are, to understand what language they speak, what motivates them and drives their decisions. Customer personas are more detailed and granular than segments and may look like this: “Male customers, located in the US, aged 20-30, working as software developers, interested in hacking, having “geek” mentality. Their main focus is not on the career but on improving their skills. They visit hacker blogs and websites, spend a lot of time online and participate in forums and closed communities. Their challenge at work is time pressure, the necessity to learn new skills fast and requirements changes in the course of projects.”

Market

While the target group defines who your customers are, market defines how many there are of them and also how many you can realistically reach.

Size

No matter how good your product fits customer needs or how elaborate your marketing strategy is, without a proper market size your product is not going to scale. Market size can be defined in several ways, e.g. total potential market size (the total number of potential users for your product), total existing market (what share of market is already being covered by the competition), the size of the market you can serve (for example, if your product does not scale very well or because there are strong competitors in the market). Estimating market size will be based both on research and assumption, however, this is an important step in creating marketing concept.

Market segmentation

Here you can look at the existing market (competition, customers) or make assumptions about a market you can create. Creating a new market means that you have to generate the demand by educating potential users about your product or service instead of fighting the competition. Bear in mind that this approach has both advantages and disadvantages: you will not have direct competitors, but at the same time, you may face indirect competition by substitute products (see Part 2 of this post).  It also takes a lot of time and effort to explain to potential customers why they need your product or service, so your sales materials and pitches have to be carefully crafted.

In the second part of this post, I will explain how company image influences your marketing concept, what you can learn from your competitors and why marketing tools are the final step in crafting your marketing strategy.

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Recap: Meetup Agile Work on May 16

This is a recap of the Meetup Event “Agile Work meets Software Development”, which took place at tarent solutions in Bonn on May 16, 2019.

This is a recap of the Meetup Event “Agile Work meets Software Development”, which took place at tarent solutions in Bonn on May 16, 2019.

The event was divided into two tracks (Agile Work and Software Development), each of them consisting of three sessions running in parallel. A video about this event can be found here:

 

I attended the sessions on agile working. The first talk was called “Agile Leadership” and was given by Dr. Stefan Barth (tarent solutions). I found the talk to be very insightful, it also contained many real-life examples. According  to the speaker, in order to work in agile way, a paradigm shift should take place at management level. Managers should be willing to co-work and share responsibility with their teams instead of commanding and delegating. Most importantly, they should be willing to admit their mistakes but also to accept that their subordinates can make mistakes as part of the learning process.

The second session was prepared by Corinna Voß (tarent solutions) and was about starting innovative projects using effectuation technique. I personally found this technique very well applicable in personal life, outside business projects. You can learn more about this technique on the website https://www.effectuation.org/.

Here I will briefly describe some elements of effectuation. The first one is bird in hand principle (it was called “refrigerator” principle in the talk). It states that an entrepreneur should plan with what is already there at the start of a project (such as available knowledge, immediately reachable contacts and financial means at hand). He/she should take one small step at a time instead of trying to “start big” and collect means to cover the whole project beforehand. Crazy quilt principle means that a project starter partners with people who show immediate interest into the project thus obtaining their commitment and reducing uncertainty. Lemonade principle means that an entrepreneur should see any unexpected changes in the course of the project as chances to re-orientate and maybe start something new and more promising. With affordable loss principle, one calculates from the start what resources (either time or financial) they will be willing to lose in case the project fails.

The last talk (by Moritz Vieth (ip.labs) und Martin Pelzer (tarent solutions)) was about working with people in agile environments and included some successful practices.  For example, employees can get a day a month to work on something “meaningful”, possibly not connected to their current projects (e.g. learning a new skill, attending a seminar or working on a personal project). Another example was placing an idea whiteboard in the kitchen (the collected ideas are voted on and the top ones are implemented by the company). Some companies also run a buddy program for their employees (in addition to matrix and line manager, employees get a “people manager” who acts as a councilor case of any questions or problems).

In summary, the talks provided a lot of insights into the world of agile work and what challenges and opportunities one may face.

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