Monthly Archives: February 2015

Why TyPoGRaphY Like This Will Kill Your Blog

by Kapil Jekishan
February 27, 2015

bad typography example

Are you still reading? Patience must be one of your higher virtues. Most people would usually stop. The font is hardly legible, the sizing is inconsistent and the spacing – it’s like a bipolar lover, running between squishy embraces to distant, vacant stares with a second’s notice.

In short, the headline is a mess.

So, the aim of this article is to show you how to effectively use typography in a way that ensures your message is both read and understood by your target audience.

The Definition of Typography

So what is typography? Hubspot’s Brittany Leaning defines it as both an art and technique or put simply, the way that text is arranged on a page or document to make the written word more appealing.

If you want the visual definition, Neil Patel hits the nail in the head with the below graphic.

typography infograph

Now, you may ask why do you need to know about typography. You have a computer and Microsoft Word or for the more ambitious amongst you, an Adobe suite with a layout design packager and you create all your company communication on this software. Or, like most businesses do, you have hired a local advertising agency to create all collateral for your company.

So then why?

You need to know, because being aware of how your company communication is styled or how the text on your document affects your target audience helps you control the direction your business takes.

Let’s take a look at some examples of typography which might have had a detrimental impact on these businesses:

Example 1: Cover your home in a what?

cover your home

This one probably doesn’t require too much explaining but from a distance the ‘c’ and the ‘l’ in click appear to resemble a‘d’ – wouldn’t you agree? A problem that arises out of shoddy kerning – space between each character. Not sure if potential customers would be enticed by their offer of covering homes in a ‘dick’.

Example 2: Ants at a Picnic

ants at picnic

A pest control flyer that uses Arial – yes, as common and desirable as ants at a picnic! We’re all familiar with Arial as it was once upon a time the default option for Microsoft Office. I don’t feel there is anything obviously wrong with the font but it might earn you a reputation as being a mundane and lazy business.

Example 3: Curvalicious

curvalicious

You could be excused for thinking that the poster in the photograph is a wedding invitation. It is in fact an advertisement for an orchestra performing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. But clearly, the curves and loops made it a difficult experience for patrons to comprehend the message. The absence of any visual imagery only exacerbates the problem.

Your reader shouldn’t have to waste their time trying to figure out what the squiggles on a page or the billboard or even the webpage are. Using a legible font, with conventional letters, devoid of flowery ornamentation, will drive home the meaning of your message and will not exasperate your reader.

Please remember – communication comes before style. Do not sacrifice the readability of the message that you have crafted for your audience, for a mere stylistic flourish.

Now that we have your attention, let’s introduce you to the technical side of typography. Getting to grips with a few key technical terms will help you communicate more effectively with your graphic design team on the best direction for your brand, in terms of typography.

Serif vs. Sans Serif

The below graphic from the team at Piktochart have done a great way of illustrating the differences between Serif and Sans Serif:

sans serif differences

It’s becoming less and less common to see web content in a serif font like Times New Roman. Sans serif fonts are generally thought to be more clear, but your decision should ultimately be determined by what best suits the brand. For example, Shady Lady Lampshades use a serif font throughout their website.

shadylady

It works with the quirky, colourful style of the brand. We’re used to seeing serif fonts in the physical books, and in a way they can create a feeling of inclusivity. On the other hand, Sans serif fonts are undoubtedly clean, clear and professional so are understandably an automatic choice for most corporate businesses. Look at Dolce & Gabbana for example.

dolce and gabbana logo

Kerning and Tracking

Kerning refers to adjustment of space between two characters or letters. Bad kerning is to typography what bad tailoring is to fashion. It negatively impacts on the aesthetic arrangement of your copy, as well as its readability. It’s one of the more insidious perpetrators of bad typography so it’s one to watch out for to ensure your copy looks polished, like an Armani suit, as opposed to a Salvation Army suit. Look at this example of bad kerning.

pom example

Pom Plus pomegranate juice reads like something else right?

Tracking is a way to increase or decrease the space between words or letters to make the whole body of text look dense or more open. Tracking can be used make a reader feel cramped or uncomfortable or relieved and more open to ideas. Use tracking to suit your needs but be careful that you do not go overboard with it. Here is an example of the same line of text with varied degrees of tracking.

tracking

Or this 🙂

piss off designer friends

Coming back to the “point”…

12 to 14 point for the body of text is more than adequate. Any bigger then you risk wading into kindergarten territory, where you not only patronise your audience but it tends to look unprofessional. On the other hand, tiny writing that you have to squint to see is frustrating for your readers. What you’re looking for is that Goldilocks point that is ‘just right.’ The same goes for headers. H1, your page title, should understandably be the largest, between 22-26 works well. Sizing headers should generally follow a sliding decreasing scale, with H2 slightly smaller, and H3 becoming smaller again.

The hierarchy that unfolds will provide order and cohesion to your copy. The below illustration gives an outline of how this looks:

sliding scale font

Headings are also where you can be creative with your font choice. And using a font family, such as Thirsty Soft featured below, you can create complementary sub-headings that don’t interrupt the flow of the page.

no disruption

Stay on trend

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about typography is that while technique may remain constant, trends will change from year to year. And it’s important to stay up dated with what styles and typefaces are relevant so that you don’t end up redundant in a market that’s outgrown you.

Where can you source modern and relevant fonts?

It is true that there are some excellent fonts available for free, which can be used to create beautiful copy for your communication. But coming back to the point of keeping up with the times,  I would recommend purchasing an entire font family (a group of fonts that exhibit similar characteristics) which complements your brand and your company.

Creative Market is an excellent resource for finding modern, creative fonts that won’t burn a hole in your pocket. Most of them are in the region of 10-30 US dollars. It’s also a great resource for finding headers and logo templates, like these modern-retro ones from Design Surplus which allow you to customise professionally made typographic designs for commercial use.

where to buy fonts

The Recap

  1. The two most important elements when choosing a font or typeface are legibility and readability.
  2. Make sure the font is appropriate for the message and for your audience. Advertising a Sunday cocktail brunch using Comic Sans will not attract any self-respecting patron to your restaurant.
  3. Try to choose typefaces which are conventional letterform. The more design and flourishes there are, the more distracted will your readers be.
  4. Choose fonts with generous spacing. Impact is a decent font, but using it to talk about the homely atmosphere of your library is certain to create a sense of claustrophobia in your reader.
  5. To reiterate – Communication comes before style. Don’t sacrifice the former for the latter.
  6. If you have the budget, purchase fonts to make you communication unique and relevant.

Put yourself in your readers’ eyes. If something feels wrong about your communication copy then your audience is probably thinking the same thing.  Test it out by running it past others in for a neutral and honest opinion.

Well that’s it.

Did you learn anything about typography which will help your business going forward? I’d love to hear about it – please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

How to Write the Perfect LinkedIn Invite [Infographic]

by Kapil Jekishan
February 17, 2015

Before I begin, does this look familiar to you?

add me to your network

If you’ve been on LinkedIn long enough, the above should come as no surprise. It amazes me how often I see individuals issue requests without customising their message.

Would you approach someone in the middle of the street and ask for their phone number?

tom fishburne add me

Okay, maybe some of you could / would, but the general consensus would be no . In the same manner, why would the recipient add you unless you gave them a good reason to.

So then, what makes a good LinkedIn Invite?

1. Firstly you need a profile pic. Did you know your profile is 14x more likely to be viewed if you have a profile picture?

2. Personalise your message. It really isn’t hard to add a simple ‘Hi [Name]’. Here’s a great example of a request I received not too long ago. Jillian gets it!

jillian linkedin request

3. Why do you want to add them to your network? Let them know if it’s because you will value their content or if you wanted to chat further about a white paper they released.

4.  If you met them at a conference or function, remind them. If you haven’t met, let them know but then refer to point 3.

5. It doesn’t hurt to mention briefly what you’re about especially if you have no relationship with the individual.

6 & 7 Finish off with kind words and a warm sign off.

Tip: Avoid sending LinkedIn requests from the LinkedIn app using your mobile device as there is no scope to personalise your message.

Here’s our infographic summarising the great thoughts put together by HubSpot.

how to write perfect linkedin invite infographic

How do you send your LinkedIn invitation requests? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Should You Focus on LinkedIn’s Publishing Platform Over Your Blog?

by Kapil Jekishan
February 8, 2015

While in general my position is that no, you shouldn’t, there’s definitely a case for putting much more emphasis on LinkedIn’s publishing platform given the number of users who are seeing increasing levels of engagement and social authority.

Disclaimer: this article’s going to get pretty nerdy. If you don’t enjoy rainbow-sniffing optimism when it comes to the power of home base content in this emerging digital world of ours, you might want to turn away now. Otherwise, let’s get geeky.

Your Blog: Central Command for the Brand

At the end of the day publishing on your own website is preferable to publishing on someone else’s. And let’s face it, Reid Hoffman, Allen Blue and the LinkedIn crew are already making hand-over-fist-style money. Their brand, their business and their platform are already securely situated in web culture.

market cap

How’s yours doing?

Your blog posts and web articles are fresh engaging content which stays put on your web property, gets indexed and builds web presence/authority for you. Furthermore, if you’re like most business owners these days that’ve taken content marketing into their own hands, you may not have the wherewithal to do both: seriously publish content on your own blog and LinkedIn with equal intensity and the time investment it takes to get recognition like this (legitimately of course):

linkedin recommendations

Or hundreds of personalised recommendations…Until your own website is in good shape your focus needs to stay there. That’s the principle of inbound marketing. We all have to start from the bottom…

45 connections

Choose your 10 special LinkedIn skills carefully and then let those little digits rise organically through time. Make no mistake, it’s far better to give LinkedIn algorithms 10 skill tags instead of the entire 50 that are possible. There’s no difference between that truth and the idea that your own blog should ideally rank for an even smaller number of keywords, or tags, in search engines.

Let’s Be Perfectly Clear

How many web articles are gaining traction on LinkedIn, or since last February when they starting rolling out the blogging platform to more and more people? Now, how many are gaining internet-steam for your business on your own website?

LinkedIn’s publishing platform is great for building your own thought leadership and personal brand. It’s not just about the big dogs anymore, or the established brands. The platform is opening up so you should give it some attention, even if that’s one quality article a month. But don’t expect…

social share image

Build at the pace of your life. If you’re outsourcing, great! Then build at the pace of your budget, but the majority of these two things need to be directed at your own slice of the digital realm. We’ll get into a brief example in a moment.

Yes, It’s True That…

Some people have built their entire brands and business on LinkedIn alone and they’ve transformed the professional social network into a raging river of incoming leads. But before you jump at the idea, understand that it took them serious amounts of time and energy building connections, endorsements, and on and on and on.

Is LinkedIn saturated? That’s debatable, but there’s no doubt that it will be sooner rather than later. The only website you really have control of is your own. The only blog you can steer in any direction you like, is your own.

What’s the Wisest Play?

Once you’ve built a solid foundation on your own company or personal blog, it’s a wise move to begin diversifying the platforms you publish authority-building content on. LinkedIn is a great place to start. A tremendous place to start! Then there’s neat platforms like Medium to check out as well.

gary vee on medium

Use these to expand the reach of your brand name and divert relevant traffic to central command. Also, as you build your blog-repertoire on LinkedIn, Google will notice. If you already have a number of LinkedIn connections, that’s more traffic right there which you draw to your LinkedIn posts and continue to build authority with the search engines and social networks.

You mentioned that LinkedIn acquired Newsle in 2014?

Right, so LinkedIn is as aware of platform saturation as we are. Here’s the intro from the announcement made in TechCrunch:

“LinkedIn announced today that it has acquired Newsle, the machine learning startup founded to help users pare down the ample noise coming across social networks and give them relevant info about their most important contacts.”

When we look at this move and at the moves they’ve made with the LinkedIn app, their trajectory becomes clear: they want to reduce the constant barrage of the irrelevant so people connect with the right information/professionals.

Yes, to some degree you need a presence on LinkedIn either as a company or personal brand. LinkedIn, Google, Apple…these are the names that are basically giving us the tools we need to develop ourselves and our businesses. Let’s talk about an example approach for your average business-blogger today.

So for instance…

If you’re blogging 4 times a month right now on your own website and you’ve got a few hundred blogs building slow momentum, switch it to 3 and dedicate 1 to LinkedIn. Guest blogging isn’t as effective anymore, but setting up your own profiles and brands on sites like Medium or HubSpot is a wise move. How about this spread:

75% to your Blog 25% to LinkedIn & Others

What should a LinkedIn post be like for the best results?

The bar has definitely risen over time, so I’ll be perfectly honest with you. A LinkedIn post should be supreme quality. Professional. Lengthy at between 1200-2000 words long. It should include a core image that goes above the post, and then plenty of other visual imagery to go along with all the well-formatted text.

How valuable your content is depends on how useful it is. So, focus your content on solving problems in a way that’s easy and ideally entertaining to consume. Because as we discussed, your average person consumes a gargantuan amount of content on multiple social networking sites.

What about LinkedIn Premium?

Whether or not you should invest in LinkedIn premium depends on where your network is at. If you’ve built a few hundred connections (that actually mean something, not just random strangers you have no dealings with) and your leads are picking up from LinkedIn, then perhaps that’s a wise move as well.

To get there organically, you publishing content on a schedule you can handle and leave comments along the way, thereby contributing to relevant groups. Did you forget about that?

linkedin group

Don’t Neglect Your Feedback to Others

It’s kind of hard to join “groups” with your own website, is it not? Right, but on LinkedIn you have access to legions of relevant groups of varying sizes. And these groups are always publishing content that you can comment on. So, you don’t have to create usefulness out of thin air. They do it for you. They ask questions. They make suggestions through elaborate content. They make the effort to publish the monolithic posts…

You leave an in-depth, thought-through useful reply. Throw in your two cents. Maybe a year from now you’ve only got 10-12 quality posts on LinkedIn. But what if you could add 20 or 30 comments? Listen folks it all adds up. I’m a fan of LinkedIn but at the end of the day, your website should always remain your priority.