How visuals are taking over from text in web design

One of the biggest trends in web design and content marketing is the use of visual content.

One of the biggest trends in web design and content marketing is the use of visual content.

The meteoric rise of social networks YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Tumblr are all proof of this and indicates a shift in how people prefer to read content online.

It has in part got to do with the millennials with their short attention span, who prefer to get to grips with concepts and stories via visuals, and also because a visual, whether it's an infographic, animated video, slideshow, meme, illustration or cartoon, can say what would take a writer 600 - 1000 words to do.

In his book The Shallows, author Nicholas Carr states that over 80% of college-educated people spend their time browsing, instead of making time for in-depth reading, while The Nielsen Group research specialists say that the average user reads no more than 28% of the words in a piece of content during an average visit. 

WebDAM compiled a infographic to show how humans are changing and how brands can adapt their marketing to match.

Here are some insightful take-outs: (Sources)

  • Researchers at Xerox found that coloured visuals increase people's willingness to read a piece of content by 80%.
  • Visual IQ is rising faster than any other form of IQ 
  • More than 84% of communication will be visual by 2018
  • 79% of internet traffic will be video content by 2018 
  • Posts with videos attract 3X more inbound links than plain text posts
  • Viewers are 85% more likely to purchase a product after watching a product video 
  • Posts with videos attract 3X more inbound links than plain text posts 
  • Online video revenue is growing at 110% annually, more than any other form of advertising
  • 20% is all that people remember from reading text without visuals 
  • Instagram saw 64% growth in active users this last year 

The CMO Council found 46% of marketers say photography is critical to their current marketing and storytelling strategies. 

Importance of visuals

Credit: CMO Council

With 65% of people being visual learners and 90% of information coming to the brain being visual, using more visual elements isn't just a trend, it's a necessity for brands to get their message across.

Adding to this, Sproutsocial says 46% of consumers believe a website’s visual elements are critical to determining the credibility of a company as a whole.

How visuals have changed

In the past (but still today) visuals in the online environment meant a stock image attached to a written article, a slideshow hung on the navigation and maybe someone's video off YouTube added to a story when the writer ran out of words.

This shows that, despite the positive impact visuals have on UX and conversion, there is a serious lack of investment in visual media.

Combining text and visuals

One of the trends we're picking up is where text and visuals are combined in backgrounds, interactive infographics, animations, video and gBooks.

Feedmusic.com makes great use of video and visuals

Feedmusic.com makes great use of video and visuals

In fact, Content4demand'com's "Make Content Great Again" campaign where they polled thousands of B2B marketers during Marketo's Marketing Nation Summit in Las Vegas, USA showed growing interest in visual formats.

They asked marketers what they thought is the content format to watch in 2016, and these came out tops:

  • Motion graphic videos (38%)
  • Interactive infographics (29%)
  • Graphical E-books (gBooks) (15%)
  • Listicles (14%)
  • Quizzes & Assessments (4%)

Other types of visually interactive content you can create include interactive maps, annotated videos and images (using tools such as Thinklink.com), 'moveable' galleries (using Slidely), cinemagraphs (using Flixel), interactive videos (using Eko) and visual timelines (using HSTRY) and of course animations. Thanks to the CMO for these tips. 

Presenting information in a variety of formats, some of which overlap, has given rise to 'information designers' - skilled content creators who have both technical, creative and editorial skills to present content in new formats that don't need a lot of space to get the message across. 

This skill is critical to the visual future of content on mobile. 

Creating visual content is time and talent intensive, and as with any engaging content, will have to be budgeted for. But it's the way of the web and those who don't embrace it, will be left wondering where their users went.