They say you should never judge a book by its cover but we aren’t writing books; we’re writing blog posts. Our content will absolutely be judged by the covers we give them. It’s not enough to have a strong article anymore. You need to make sure your header images are just as strong as your writing to convince people to read.
Don’t worry if art isn’t exactly your thing, this crash course in graphic design will give you the basics you need to create something that will pull in traffic across the internet.
Determine Your Goal
What is your header image meant to accomplish? For most content writers, it will fit into one of two categories: Generate Sales or Increase Traffic.
The header image is the first thing people see, it needs to leave a powerful enough impression to convince people to take action.
While other pictures in your post can be decorative or informative, your header image should be an advertisement for the post and brand.
Keep It Simple
The biggest mistake anyone can make with an advertisement is to clutter it with too much information. Too much text, too many colors and too many things competing for your viewer’s focus can be exhausting.
An easy shorthand for testing for clutter is to squint. If your image isn’t clear and interesting when barely visible then start cutting away some elements.
Part of keeping things simple is to keep the message simple. Pick one message you want your image to say and cut away everything else. Don’t be afraid to trim away the usual branding elements if they detract from the overall picture. A good header image will be more than the sum of its parts.
Show, Don’t Tell
When it comes to visual marketing, it is better to show than to tell. Text has supplemental value so don’t completely trash it in your designs, but try to find a way to let the visuals do the heavy lifting.
Another way to think about it is, “how can you give the most value to your viewers?” With the amount of space available in a Facebook preview, you won’t be able to give much value to your audience through text. Treat your header image as a visual microcosm of your full content.
Here’s where we get past the conceptual elements and start focusing on the nitty-gritty elements of design. The goal is to be instantly noticed by readers who are scrolling through their feeds. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is with high-contrast visuals. Bright focal points on dark backgrounds and vice versa are common examples that draw the eye.
The picture itself can even contrast against the visuals of the websites you plan to link from. A lot of social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter share a similar white on blue aesthetic. A header preview can be designed to stand out against those common colors.
Use Recognizable Symbols
Abstraction can be interesting to look at, but it does not deliver information immediately like a recognizable symbol does. With the limited amount of space available in a header image, we need to be sure every element is contributing to the message.
There is no symbol more recognizable than the human face. Faces immediately draw attention and they can convey a lot of information. Humans are wired to see themselves everywhere. It doesn’t even need to be a real human as in cases of Pareidolia where people interpret random images or patterns as faces.
A face will say more than any text you could possibly add. Use smiles to associate your brand with happiness or furrowed eyebrows to correlate with determination and hard work. Any emotions you want in your message will most easily be expressed through a face.
A well-designed header and preview can be the difference between getting clicks or being scrolled past. Take the time to give your audience a little more value through your visual content as well as your written content.