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Best Content Marketing Tip Ever: How Appearance Determines The Credibility Of Your Content
By Bart De Pelsmaeker
An oft quoted maxim holds that 80% of in-person communication is conveyed via body language and just 20% is via words. While this saying is not precisely accurate, it is rooted in some serious science, particularly in the work of
Albert Mehrabian
, a former professor of psychology at UCLA. Mehrabian’s most well-known insight, sometimes called the “7-38-5 rule,” posits that 55% of the communication processed by your brain comes from body language, 38% from tone of voice, and 7% from the actual words spoken to you. The rule is often misinterpreted and
overly generalized
—it was originally meant to describe only situations where words and non-verbal cues don’t match— but the point is still an important one. Often how we say something is just as important as what we actually say. In 2005, Malcolm Gladwell highlighted this idea in his book
Blink
, which examined how we are all constantly “thin slicing” information in order to make quick judgements. In one chapter in particular, Gladwell showed how psychologist
Paul Ekman
has developed a system for detecting lies by looking at the expressions that cross people’s faces in the span of milliseconds. For many of us this seems to intuitively make sense—we know that in real life we often make snap judgements based on how things are communicated. Yet, often we forget this fact when it comes to our content. So, what is the best content marketing tip ever? As with real-life communication, context matters deeply when it comes to digital text, video, and images. Over and over, studies have shown that design and user experience greatly impact how we perceive the quality of the content we encounter. A few tidbits from research over the past few years:

  • 45% of consumers
    say
    they make judgments about the credibility of websites based on design alone.

  • On the average page, users have
    time to read
    at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.

  • Visitors
    judge the credibility
    of content based on its appearance within 3.42 seconds on average.

These points reinforce the fact that for content producers (and those communicating in real life) the medium matters as much as the message. No matter what you are saying—no matter how wonderful, informative, or profound—if your presentation is difficult and unattractive, you will fail to connect with your audience. Ultimately, that is why good mobile design and user experience are essential. Each time you force visitors to pinch zoom on illegible fonts, offer mangled designs, or make navigational elements hard to find, consumers are making snap judgements about all aspects of your brand, including the the quality of your content.
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BEST OF
Bart De Pelsmaeker
Bart is a digital marketing veteran and the founder of Readz, a platform used by brands of all sizes to create superior content experiences. His writing has been featured in Sparksheet, Business2Community, Skyword and other martech publications. He speaks regularly about tech and marketing, most recently at the World e-Reading Congress, American Business Media, and the Integrated Marketing Summit. Connect with Bart on Twitter
@BartDP
.
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