July 8, 2006
Liz published this at 12:31 pm
Quality of Life
I see the picture on a telephone book. That’s not me there. That’s not anyone I know. That’s stock photography. I can spot it from a mile away. It looks like a wallet photo. It looks like the picture that comes inside a picture frame that I bought at the office supply store — flat and cheery with no humanity behind it.
The same is true of some blogs and websites. They look expensive, but they have no heart. They don’t call to me in any way. Stuff is there, but the music for my eyes is missing. My finger clicks before I think.
Take a moment to stare at a blank wall. Then look at your blog as a stranger might. Is there something that pulls you in, a promise, a wink, a hint of relaxation or surprise? If you don’t see an emotional hook there, perhaps your blog need a makeover to get some “Frosted Mini-Wheats” design.
Frosted Mini-Wheats Design
I call it a Frosted Mini-Wheats Design because the famous Kelloggs cereal understands how to explain balance in the fewest words — appeal to the sophisticated adult in me while serving up something specially made to please the playful kid. How better to define elegant simplicity? Gotta do both to have a Frosted Mini-Wheats design. Gotta do both in design and in the words to keep me coming back to your blog.
These are some principles of a Frosted Mini-Wheats Design.
1. Choose a limited palette of colors that blend or contrast naturally. That doesn’t mean wild colors or hot neons are out. It only means that you should use those that belong together. If you need help try this color palette generator. Upload a photo and it will give you a set of colors from the photo that work together. As you mouse over each color square the generator will reveal the HEX code for the color you are on. Click the shot below to get to the color generator.
The adult in me will appreciate the sophistication of the colors that are not fighting with each other while I’m reading. The kid will like that you picked cool colors that are fun to look at.
2. Arrange blocks of text so that what goes together looks like a single piece of a puzzle. The look is easier on my grownup eyes if only 3-5 things seem to be on a page. (Keep the header to a post closer to the post it goes with not in the middle between the one above and below it. That’s a trick many folks miss.) The kid in me likes a look that is simple to digest so that I can get where I want to be right away.
3. Put things where folks expect to find them. The temptation might be to be clever, but counterintuitive is always a mistake. Making me jump a GIANT AD to find a tiny comment link irritates the adult in me and totally doesn’t get me to click. I know what you’re doing. The kid in me does does too. We both remember those teachers we had who relied on trick questions on tests we took in school. Neither one of us liked the teachers or the tests. Don’t make us not like you.
4. Don’t switch streams in the middle of the horse. Be consistent. Are all links of every kind coded the same way? If one link is underlined, then they all should be and nothing that is underlined should be something that is not a link. Any kid will set you straight on why consistency is important. Any adult will tell you why any other way of doing it is going to confuse someone.
5. Check the obvious stuff three times. The kid in me is looking for something to giggle about — a word that might mean something else — something that you didn’t intend. The adult in me will notice that you left something out that I feel I need to have.
If you achieve Frosted Mini-Wheats level and winover both the adult and the kid in me, you have my full attention because you’ve shown me that you know I’m not one-dimensional and that neither are you. Because of your design, I’m ready to read and to participate. If what I read holds true to that Frosted Mini-Wheats ideal, I’m going to become a regular at your blog.
You’ve hooked both the kid and the adult me. How could I not come back?
All you did was to consider the adult and kid in me as the center of your design. Hmmmmm. Instead of teaching your readers about your brand, why learn your brand from your readers?
Brand you and me.
–ME “Liz” Strauss