No design can fix terrible content. Period. But with great content, you can use beautiful design to engage your readers.
Design strengthens communication. Design exists to support content and deliver your ideas with greater clarity, insight, and engagement. If potential readers don’t understand why they should buy your content instead of the next guy’s, you won’t get the sale. So not only do you need to write great content, you need to learn to present it clearly as well. Design can help you do just that.
Research has shown that visual beauty supports sales. Great design builds trust, effects purchasing decisions, and even the perceived value of a particular product. But where should you start? A blank page is intimidating. That’s why we created templates that are completely customizable to your unique needs. In this post, we want to share some design “best practices” so that you can use our templates to the fullest!
Part One: Visual Hierarchy
In the examples below, we will show you how to create interest through a design principal called “visual hierarchy.” We’ll be using color, space, and typography, to illustrate the importance of this principal.
Visual Hierarchy: Typography
Above we see how the use of a display font can be more interesting than a text font. This draws the eye to a particular place on the page and can also add a particular ‘feeling’ to a sentence. Display fonts should never be used for long sentences or in the body of your work as they are more fatiguing to the eye. Use sparingly (but definitely use)!
Visual Hierarchy: Spacing and Color
The first example (left image) is the correct way to use both space and color to add interest and hierarchy to your work. Color is a fantastic way to grab attention. Spacing is a fantastic way to associate content correctly. Huh? Here’s an analogy: spacing is to design what punctuation is to a sentence. Without proper punctuation, a sentence can read very differently or even look like a run on sentence. The same is true with design. If everything is evenly spaced, our eyes are less interested in the design.
For more on book design, check out the Basic Book Design Wikibook for answers to your broad questions. If you have any specific questions for us, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or ask @ibooktemplates!
I’m sure you’ve experienced this at some point:
a) You click on a link to a website
b) After a quick glance you already know you’re not interested,
c) So you click ‘back’ and head elsewhere.
How did you make that snap judgment? Did you really read enough information to know that this website wasn’t what you were looking for? Or was it something more immediate?
According to studies conducted by Google, it takes less than 50 milliseconds for you to form that initial “gut feeling” leading you to stay on the website or hit that back button. Wow! Less than a second! This should tell you that the first impression a website’s design creates is crucial in capturing users’ interest. And guess what? It’s true of books too.
So how do we create a great first impression? The answer depends on many factors: structure, colors, spacing, images, symmetry, amount of text, fonts, and more. In other words, it boils down to design.
First impressions are 94% design related.
We say that again: 94% of our judgement is based on appearances! Hard to believe? Actually, there’s a lot of evidence out there to support it. Let’s take a look at a couple scientific studies, shall we?
Mobile Phone’s Circa 2007
Which one do you prefer based on your “gut feeling?” Well, if you’re anything like the market majority, the iPhone is the clear winner.
In just 74 days after the iPhone was launched in 2007, Apple had sold 1 million phones. After 200 days, that number had grown to 4 million. That’s a lot of phones.
The key differentiator was design. While we may not understand exactly why it looks better, we can intuitively recognize great design. And Apple nailed it with the iPhone.
What was the first MP3 Player in the U.S. Market?
The Diamond Rio PMP300 was introduced to the market in September, 1998. So why do most of us have an Apple iPod which was introduced almost four years later in 2001? We think you know the answer.
Even though the Diamond Rio PMP300 had better battery life, more storage space, and was first to market, Apple’s intuitive design and sleek look took the market by storm.
Why ebook design matters
It all comes down to choices. People have so many choices these days that you have to have more than just great content in order to get the attention your work deserves.
The easiest way to stand out (in either a good or bad way) is design. People will judge your content by the way your book looks, whether that’s fair or not. They will form a prejudice against you (including positive ones) in a matter of milliseconds. If it looks bad, you’re in big trouble.
Good design gets better results. Period.
Good design elicits trust. People either see something that interests them and looks like trustworthy content or they move on to the next thing. If you’re book is poorly designed, it seems untrustworthy and therefore the value of it’s contents are also called into question. If people don’t look at your work because it’s so badly designed then you’re missing out on lot’s of readers, customers, sales, and profits.
Good design = trust = more conversions = more money in your pocket. It’s as easy as that.
Design matters, it matters a lot. And with self-publishing on the rise, the bar for book design keeps getting higher and higher. Don’t get left behind.
Great book design is one of the most powerful marketing tools you have as a self-published author.
“If you can’t be there in person (with an eBook, for example), the energy you get from great design really matters.” -Seth Godin
Great design can take your content from being something that is passively consumed and turn it into an emotionally engaging experience for your readers.
When you form an emotional connection with your audience, it cements your message and your brand in their minds. This is probably the goal of every marketing executive in the world. It’s certainly how some of the most successful brands, such as Starbucks or Apple, have created such loyal followings.
But you don’t need a multi-million dollar budget to achieve the same success as Coca-Cola. You can do it with great design.
How? Great design makes your message more effective.
Have you ever looked at a typical office memo? Usually there is line after line of text. At first glance, you probably just want to yawn (we do too). When a good designer works with text, that same content can take on tone, character, and even a sense of rhythm for the reader.
Through the use of color, spacing, typography, and other design principals, the page becomes both easier to read and more interesting to look at as well, adding clarity and polish to your composition.
So what are your options?
There are many ways you can fulfill your design needs: templates, crowdsource, do it yourself, hire a professional, or just scribble with your kids. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on your needs. Below is a list of things to think about when mulling it all over:
1. DIY: Designer or not, you are absolutely capable of producing a beautiful design all on your own. There are countless books, blogs, YouTube videos, and the like to guide you through the basics and answer all your design questions.
The obvious drawback is the amount of time and research this will require. If you’re interested in design, go for it! Learning a new skill is always something to be encouraged. But make no mistake, this will be a lot of work and time that could be spent doing other important tasks, like marketing.
You should also consider that your design will be competing in the marketplace with other eBooks that were professionally designed. Make sure your’s can stand up to the competition.
2. Hire a Professional: Let’s face it, you can’t be good at everything. Sometimes you need to bring in a professional to get the job done right or on time. Hiring a professional designer gives you the best chance of getting both. It also gives you the greatest customization when it comes to your design.
The pro’s don’t usually come cheap, though, so you’ll have to budget carefully for this option. You should also consider that not all designers are created equal. Some are more skilled than others (despite the same hourly rate) and each designer will have a certain “style” that may or may not be right for you.
Make sure to ask for samples and check references. There’s nothing worse than wasting a lot of time and money working with a designer that isn’t the right fit.
3. Templates: If you don’t have the budget to hire a professional designer or you’re worried about getting what you paid for, templates are a fantastic option for people who don’t want to risk doing it themselves. Templates give you the winning combination of great design at an affordable price.
You’re paying for the design framework and heavy lifting while accepting that you might have to make a few minor changes to get the look that’s right for you. For most, this is a win win.
When considering templates, look for versatility and flexibility within the design. You don’t want to be limited to using the template only “as-is” because it negates all possibilities for customization.
Conclusion: We know, even in this day and age of technology, there is still a slight stigma attached to self-publishing. Avoid it with great content and great design. When you take your work seriously, so will everyone else. Hater’s are gonna hate, but it’s a lot harder for them when you’re killing it with your self-published eBook.
Cheers to publishing on your own terms.
iBooks Author Templates Team