Kristine Neil

Design

What Successful Websites Will Look Like in 2019

Web Design, Strategy, DesignKristine NeilComment

Here at Markon, we love this time of year because it’s time to forecast what trends we think will define the shifts in branding, web design and marketing in the year to come. In 2019, we are expecting subtle, yet significant, changes in web design. The new year is a time when many businesses are thinking about new goals, so if updating your website is on your list here are some trends to keep an eye on.

First, a note on why it’s important to pay attention to trends – even if your business has a more traditional aesthetic and you don’t plan on implementing anything too crazy or boundary pushing. We don’t need to remind anyone with internet access that things move fast in the digital world and some of the trends we see are actually indicative of more profound, fundamental shifts in how customers are changing the ways they react and engage with online content. Right now, there’s a real push and pull between all of the tools that are becoming increasingly available to personalize experiences, for example, and also helping people feel that their information is secure and their privacy respected.

Other trends are rooted in just how much time we all spend staring at our screens and understanding just how overwhelmed consumers are by the massive amount of new content that’s published online every hour of every day. The reality is that consumers take just a few seconds to determine if the website they are visiting will be of value to them. That’s an eternity, and barely a blink all at once, and in that timeframe consumers are scanning for keywords and calls-to-action to help them decide whether to stay or go. They just have too much to look at.

With those things in mind, here are four simple aesthetic and structural trends that we believe will improve the design and function of websites in 2019:

Simplified Content & Navigation Structures

In 2019, we’ll see content concentrated on as few pages as possible, each designed to be easily skimmable so that consumers can get to what they need quickly. In the past, we often saw content spread thinly across numerous pages (and clicks!) to make a site appear “meatier” than it was. The truth is that this is not only cumbersome for the consumer but potentially damaging for overall site performance.

Concentrating content onto highly targeted landing pages with clear CTAs (calls-to-action) helps send a clear message to visitors that the real magic happens once a personal connection is made. This simplification will also affect top-level and secondary navigation in a big way. Large, multi-tiered navigation structures (i.e., drop-down menus that have drop-down menus) just expend more of the consumer’s time and eat up space at the top of every page. We’re not sure why this navigation style was ever popular but are looking forward to seeing sites with simplified content organization and plain language to improve user experience.

Improved Calls-To-Action

Speaking of CTAs, favorite page layouts of the past often meant that they got lost in the shuffle, despite often being the most crucial element on the page! To increase the usefulness of websites, we’ll see a renewed effort to intuitively place calls-to-action where they make the most sense from both a design and a user experience perspective. Web design experts are combining their understanding of attributes such as color, typography, and even animation, with studies that show us where visitors are most prone to move their eyes on a page, meaning that a great CTA really is part art and part science. This trend is heavily impacted by that idea that people are feeling very fatigued and overwhelmed by information online. Improving CTAs on your site is the first step in helping visitors feel like your job is to make their life easier, not harder!

Personalized Everything

Advances in machine learning and AI mean that incorporating personalized functions, like a chatbot, more accessible than ever. What that means for business owners is that some of the initial interactions with leads on your site (or social media accounts) can become automated, allowing you to focus on other things while potential customers consider your services. Customers are coming to expect instant personalization whether that’s that your bot knows their name or is able to look up their order history or understand their shopping preferences. The trend here is that consumers will continue to expect more and more of these interactions and businesses that fail to implement systems to manage experiences will quickly feel outdated. In the long run, we also see the creation of highly personalized on-page content that caters, if not specifically to a person, to at least a specific buyer persona to make them feel like your site exists to speak only to them. We’re expecting to see a focus on micro-interactions like these to help sites feel even more engaging and less static.

Bold, Monochromatic Design

Will this be the year that soft, subtle Millennial Pink finally dies? Maybe! We see some hints that the internet’s new favorite colors will be much bolder in 2019. What takes bright colors and bold typography from shocking to amazing is that this aesthetic will be paired with a considerable simplification in the amount of content and other design elements on the page (see trend one!). Creating evocative experiences through the use of color and type is not a trend, of course; but we’re expecting to see designs that feel fresh by focusing on monochromatic palettes that make minimalism feel luxe. Crisp, bright colors won’t feel overwhelming when balanced with plenty of white space, simple shapes and subtle animations.

Even if you’re not looking to make any significant shifts with your web presence in the coming year, it’s always smart to understand what updates and changes are fueling the trends so that you aren’t caught off guard by what you see in your analytics panel. These trends are indicative of a modern need to build simple interfaces with gentle user experiences, allowing consumers to learn more about businesses and find the things they need in environments that are pleasing to the eye and straightforward in their organization. You may not see your business as a trendsetter or follower, but adopting the trends described here are what will make your website successful in 2019.

https://www.vbjusa.com/opinion/columns/marketing-strategic-communication-column/what-successful-websites-will-look-like-in-2019/

They’re Just Not That Into You

UX, DesignKristine NeilComment

AKA Don’t Blame the Button

It was the Sex and the City episode turned Hollywood movie title phrase that caused many of us of a certain age at a certain time to do some real deep introspection: He’s Just Not That Into You. It was a real jaw-dropper to be told so bluntly that no, they aren’t just busy, aren’t just wanting to play hard to get, aren’t waiting a certain number of days to call. They just weren’t that into us. Maybe it was revolutionary at the time (or perhaps I’ve just grown up), but in retrospect, this seems so obvious. If someone likes you, especially if they are attracted to you, they’re going to find a way to connect. They’ll call. They’ll DM you. They’ll track down your next of kin on Facebook and send them a DM. (That last one is actually probably a huge red flag, but you get the point.)

Well, here’s the business owner version of the same concept: They’re Just Not That Into You. As in, the visitors to your website that aren’t converting. The truth is that in business, just like in love, if someone wants to connect with you, they’ll find a way.

If your site features a nice, color-contrasting button in the header navigation, some decent CTA text over the hero image and another link to “connect” in the footer of the site maybe there are other reasons why they aren’t clicking. Is your copy dull? Could your social media branding be more consistent? Are you just not giving them enough motivation to click. the. button? The answer could be in tightening up your branding or working on refining your messaging. It’s probably not in adding more buttons.

Other Ways to Fix Things

DON’T BLAME THE BUTTON

If people aren’t clicking, it’s rarely (if ever) the button’s fault. The button is there on the page, clear as day. The truth is that it could be a giant, blinking, Vegas-style neon sign with arrows pointing at it and they still wouldn’t click it. Because you’ve not given them a compelling reason to do so. Sure, we can A/B test a few landing pages to help us understand things like which color button converts for your site visitors most or play around with placing CTAs strategically in the hottest parts of a page, but these efforts will be in vain if you don’t pull your weight when it comes to content creation.

FOCUS ON CREATING GREAT CONTENT

All of this is to say that we can do a lot with a beautiful page layout, our understanding of buyer psychology and various UX/UI design strategies to help move people towards the action you’d like them to take on your page or site but design isn’t a cure-all. If you focus on creating compelling, authentic copy that lets people know why you do what you do, how you can help them in ways other people in your industry can’t and that helps them understand what it’s like to work with you, they’ll be knocking down your door to become your customer. Even if there’s only one button on your page asking them to get in touch. 

MORE ISN’T MORE 

Again, just like in dating, customers can smell desperation, and there’s nothing that will send visitors running in the other direction than someone begging to be hired. More isn’t more when it comes to CTAs. In addition to looking desperate, it contributes to the visual clutter on the page and can actually make it harder for visitors to see what you’re asking them to do. Make things as simple as possible. The web is a crowded, often ugly, loud place. Distracted visitors don’t have the time or mental energy to sift through your junk drawer. Explain what you do clearly, give it a little heart and point them in the right direction: ideally one, easily identifiable way to get in touch with you. From there, whether they convert or not is entirely in your hands, but at least you’ll know they’re genuinely interested in loving, adorable, unique little you. 💋 

https://markonbrands.com/blog/theyre-just-not-into-you

Reach Conference 2017

Business, DesignKristine NeilComment

Last Monday morning it was a rainy day in New York City where a group of creatives convened with one mission: explore the future of our industry and how to lead it. Among the panelists and presenters were some of the most influential and - dare I say - prolific creative leaders that are forging the way. The two day Reach conference, presented by HOW and held at NYC’s School of Visual Arts, was the type that you leave feeling smarter just for having been in the same room as so many creative pioneers… and also a little exhausted because your mind has been stretched and crammed full with so many great insights.

When the amazing (and adorable) Debbie Millman opened the conference by telling us that the role of creatives in our society has fundamentally changed and is becoming more important than ever there was a silent sense of acknowledgment from the crowd that we were all there for a real purpose. This wasn’t just about design. This was about the role of design in today’s world. And also I’m sure everyone in the room was like: hi Debbie it’s me your biggest fan I love you.

MY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Automation, data revolution, and channel proliferation have created a CRAZY increase in demand for creative content. It used to be that brands had months at a time to plan content for primarily three channels: tv, radio, newspaper. (We all know how outdated that model is.) With so many opportunities for brands to interact and engage with consumers, creative leaders have a responsibility to ensure that the relationships that are formed are positive. — Alex Withers, Chief Marketing Officer, InMotionNow | @inmotionnow

  • Gretchen Rubin, author of The Four Tendencies (and former clerk to none other than Sandra Day O'Connor) talked about really getting to know what your personality and the personalities of those you work with is in order to lead and communicate better. She got maybe one-third of the way through her presentation when a lady in front of me in the audience leaned over to the person next to her and said: screw my coworkers, this is the best marriage therapy I’ve ever had. We all laughed but then quietly added the book to our Amazon wishlists and Rubin’s The Happiness Project podcast to our queues. On her transition from law to a creative field: “I would rather fail as a writer than succeed as a lawyer.” SWOON (@gretchenrubin)

  • On what it takes to lead into the unknown: “optimism, creativity, authentic communication and humanity” — Sara Kalick, VP & General Manager, Leadfully by SYPartners | @sypartners@leadfully@sarakalick

  • Mike Rigby, VP & Executive Creative Director at R/GA talked about using design as a tool to help people and not just to sell shit. (His words, not mine but AGREE.) When you are a designer, you are a communicator and not a decorator. Designing logos is kinda pointless, especially when all you’re doing is applying a beautiful veneer to a failed business plan. Branders have a unique ability and opportunity to help shape business and design a brand that communicates their values. Ultimately, design is a business asset and a competitive advantage to businesses that embrace design thinking. (@mikerigby)

  • The incomparable Stephen Gates caught my attention because he talked about how designers are a lot like chefs: “Just like a chef, designers all get the exact same ingredients to work with. It’s what we do with them that matters.” It’s also why a designer is not a designer is not a designer. If you don’t select carefully, you may end up with the designer’s version of a gas station tuna fish sandwich. Stephen is awesome and as long as we’re adding podcasts to the list, his podcast, The Crazy One with Stephen Gates, should be at the top of the list. (@sdgates)

  • Jessica Walsh Of Sagmeister Walsh talked about the joy of constraints. Designers love feedback because, like we’ve said before, it matters just as much knowing what doesn’t work as what does.

At this point, Day 1 was over and all our minds were tired. Champagne and city lights to the rescue!

Day 2 opened with the one and only Jonathan Adler who was nothing short of delightful. Listening to him talk about his design process and how he once struggled to balance his aspirations to be both a potter and an affluent Jewish American Prince (again, his words) will make you head straight to JonathanAdler.com and buy this mug, which features the faces of both Run DMC and Kanye West, just to make sure this guy never ever again has to sit out at a rain-soaked craft fair. You’ll do it knowing that he’s already a bazillionaire but you don’t care: it’s for the art. And because he had this life-affirming piece of advice about not being afraid to put yourself out there and fail: “Failures don’t matter - things move too fast for anyone to care!” (My mug will arrive gift wrapped in approximately 5 business days.)

  • “No one is going to fall in love with your slide deck... they are going to fall in love with an EXPERIENCE.” - Moira Cullen (Did I mention that Moira was in charge of that simple little branding update at a little company called COCA-COLA?!)

  • Carole Bilson, from DMI, reinforced how valuable design is to business. Design is a force multiplier and should not be considered a “below the line” activity. Comparing the Design Index to the S&P 500, we see that companies that invest heavily in design and value design thinking outperform the rest by over 200%. That’s money in the bank, y’all.

  • John Maeda is the Global Head of Computational Design & Inclusion at Automattic (@johnmaeda) and he dropped so many gems that he could have his own sub-bullet section. The best? The reason why his job title is about design AND inclusivity is simple: inclusion is central to design and is just good business. Creating an inclusive strategy about technology means combining access to things in an equitable way as well as making things economically viable. Also, any friend of Paul Rand’s is a friend of mine.

  • Pentagram, the eponymous NYC design agency, continues to impress and guide me. Eddie Opara, a partner at Pentagram described how the flat hierarchy of the company allows them to be nimble and responsive. With no pesky account managers to muddle up client communications and no CEO to throw the power balance out of whack, Pentagram operates lean and mean. He reminded me that there’s so much power in simple 1:1 communication.

  • “The best search results don’t show up on a web page... they show up in people’s lives.” — Robert Wong, who spoke so casually about the fact that he led the entire redesign of all the Google products and interfaces that you would have thought he was giving you directions to the nearest Starbucks. Which, coincidentally, is something Google is really good at doing in a beautiful user-friendly way. Because the best search results ensure that you end up with a hot coffee in your hand.

So much good, right?! Among all that there was to take away from the brilliant minds who spoke at the Reach Conference, among the most significant is this: you have to blaze a trail that is right for you. You can’t get caught up in what other people are doing, and you can’t lower your behavior, or standards, to meet someone else's. Do you. Take risks. Create.

https://markonbrands.com/blog/reach-conference-2017

It's Time to Refresh Your Brand

DesignKristine NeilComment

Time for a little spring cleaning

You may have noticed by now that we're devoting each month's content to a particular theme. It made good sense that January was focused on strategy; everyone sets off with great intentions at the first of the year! In February we focused on passion and how it can really fuel your work. This month, our theme is one of rejuvenation; or more simply just the idea of a REFRESH! March feels like a great time to step back from the work we've done so far in the year and evaluate if it's hitting the marks we set for ourselves in January. It's also a great time to reset, renew and refresh branding.

You may think that branding is one of those things that you can do once and call good. But just like you'd never get away with painting your house once and never again, your branding occasionally needs a refresh. Maybe it's just a "fresh coat of paint" like some new business cards or an updated sign. Or maybe you want to do a more intensive overall - a new logo, an improved website or some refreshed marketing materials. Whatever it is, it's never too late to start again heading towards where you want to be.

We recommend that your entire brand gets refreshed every 2-3 years but that you update individual elements on a quarterly basis. Taking this approach spreads out your investment in branding over time and also allows your business to always look fresh and current with something new. We also recommend that you evaluate your brand any time your business goals, objectives or target demographic changes. If you'd added new products and services since your customers last heard from you, it's time to make some updates!

Our team is great at working within specific budgets and timelines to help you update your branding. We can even help develop a marketing strategy to help you tackle projects in a way that makes sense for you and your business. And, of course, we'll make sure you always look fresh!

https://markonbrands.com/blog/its-time-to-refresh-your-brand

Logos Are Not Brands

DesignKristine NeilComment

They're just a really great place to start.

In a faraway time, before the internet took over all of our lives, a logo was pretty much the extent of a company's visual identity. But the title of this post could have just as easily been "... and Brands are not Just Logos" so I want to take a moment to set a few things straight.

1. THE STATIC LOGO OF YORE IS ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS.

Sad, but true. Logos used to be a rather passive visual mark of a company. Think AT&T or IBM. The logo was what it was and it had no need to be flexible or adaptive or nimble. It's easy to look back and see how overly complex logos seem out of place in today's clean, flat world. Gone are the drop shadows, the bevels, and the gradients. (Good riddance, I say.)

2. BUT LOGOS AREN'T DEAD, THEY'VE JUST EVOLVED.

Branding must now be able to translate when applied huge on the side of a fleet of trucks and tiny as an app icon. From massive to miniature, a great logo designer today should focus on creating a suite of logo variations that all work well together. They should coordinate and enhance the brand, with different iterations for all the various intentions, perhaps even to delineate or promote various products or divisions.

3. A LOGO PLAYS A ROLE IN THE SHOW, BUT SO DO MANY OTHER ACTORS.

If branding was a Hollywood movie, the logo would certainly get top billing but let's be honest: the whole production doesn't happen if you don't have all the other roles cast as well. No one's really into the one-man-show. Color palette, fonts, patterns, and textures are all much needed in their supporting roles. Great copywriting, a decisive photographic style, a clear social media voice and coordinating promotional items all contribute as well.

4. THE RESULT OF ALL THIS IS A CHANCE TO CREATE SUPER AVID BRAND LOYALISTS!

If needing to pay attention to all these other aspects in addition to just a logo design have you wishing for yesteryear, there's light at the end of the tunnel! One of the best things about constant exposure to your brand in person, in print, online and on a multitude of devices means that customers feel more personally attached to brands more than ever. There are so many more ways to build connections with customers!

The takeaway? It's really more important than ever to invest in building a brand identity, not just a logo. A logo isn't the sum of the brand and a brand isn't just a logo.

https://markonbrands.com/blog/logos-are-not-brands

Branding Is Forward Motion

Strategy, DesignKristine NeilComment

Success = Investment + Refinement + Drive

Do not watch the clock. Do what it does. Keep going.
— Sam Levenson

I am often asked what is the single most important investment a company can make towards marketing and branding. People with limited resources, time constraints, budgets or otherwise want to know what is the minimum they can do to get by. And every single time I am left a little stymied. Because if you’re forced to choose just one thing to focus on, there’s a lot of pressure to make it perfect. And perfect is hard - because even if we did something great that worked right now, today... that same thing wouldn’t work in a month, or three months, or a year. Sometimes we try to skirt the harsh truth that there is no one thing with answers about the importance of a brand style guide or a nice little list like this one to help drive focus but I’m going to be honest with you: those are really cop outs.

Because the answer is there isn’t anything.

Or, more accurately, there isn’t any one thing. There simply isn’t.

As much as I want to be able to give you a simple answer to a question that I know you’re wanting to hear, I’m going to tell you what you need to hear: branding is a process that never stops. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not five years from now.

The moment you stop working on building and then refining, refining, refining your brand -- your business slowly starts to die.

Think of it this way: you’d never water a houseplant just once, put gas in your car just one time (we wish, right?) or cut your hair once and consider it good forever. Hello, shaggy mess.

The only real answer here is that the strongest brands never stop working on and refining their marketing message. They never stop refining and honing their branding, changing it up where appropriate to keep things fresh. That’s because no matter whatever business you think you’re in, you’re really in the business of building your brand. And because we know that the reason you got into business probably wasn’t for this reason, we’re here to swoop in as your marketing-department-in-shining-armor! So that you can get back to doing what you do best and leave the ongoing, never-ending, always moving forward motion of brand building to the pros.

https://markonbrands.com/blog/branding-forward-motion