Before the Internet ever came to be, there were print ads. As far back as ancient civilizations, humans used advertising to get their message out. The Egyptians and Romans came up with many ways to get out their advertising messages, including pieces that have been found in the ruins of Pompeii advertising political campaigns.
There is a rich and extensive history of print advertising. With that much experience, advertisers have learned a thing or two about human nature and behaviors. Studying this well-developed advertising form can help you improve your digital user experience in several ways.
1. Think Outside the Box
When it comes to UX design, each project is unique. So many different factors must be considered, right down to the target audience and conversion goals. If you’ve learned to design in a specific way or to create a website that always includes this or that, be ready to throw all that out the window and think in a new way.
The best print ads are often the result of someone thinking outside the box. Take a look at Paul107’s Hau5 event flyer. By using an image as the background for the flyer, it creates an exciting look that matches the personality of the event. In addition, he adds touches of blue to enhance the banner.
This type of ad could be repeated in digital design by thinking through the tone of the design and how it matches the overall audience.
2. Go Ahead and Sketch
Print designers often sketch out their ideas or even create a storyboard of the overall concept. You can repeat this in your UX designs as well. Create a storyboard that shows the site visitor’s journey from landing page to conversion. Such a layout of your overall design will allow you to easily see if any steps are missing or need to be fleshed out.
99designs offers an example of sketching out a rough plan on paper. The key is to focus not just on the aesthetics of the design, but also how the design works. Even as a UX designer, it is easy to get caught up in the look, but sketching out the steps a user takes brings the focus back to the experience of it all.
3. Study The Use Of White Space
Print design has a factor that can be difficult to define but you know it when you see it, and that is a good balance between positive and negative (white) space. For example, if there is not enough white space, then text might bump right up against an image, making the text difficult to read.
Studying the white space in print design can help designers learn how to make good use of white space in UX design. You will get a natural feel for where the eye is drawn and know when you need to offset a graphic or text by putting negative space around the element.
4. Mix and Match Fonts
Ever notice how the most memorable print ads have a font that is legible, but at the same time is unique and interesting? It is also okay to mix and match different fonts to achieve the look you want. You can easily achieve this same look in your own online designs by creating logos with more than one font, or even using multiple fonts on the same page.
There are some rules of thumb you’ll want to keep in mind when mixing different fonts. First, you need to choose fonts that complement one another. Fonts have a personality of their own, such as playful or serious, and you want to choose fonts that have the same type of personality so that you aren’t combining different attitudes on the same page.
When it comes to mixing different fonts, industry-specific examples to study can help you see what types of fonts your competition is using and which ones work best together. You likely don’t want to copy the kinds of fonts they’re using as this could not only be bad for branding but also potentially run you into some copyright issues, but this is a good way to see what kinds of aesthetics are dominating your industry’s landscape.
5. Study Colors
When print designers create an ad, they look at everything on the page and how the colors mesh with one another as well as with the other elements where the design appears. Even how well the color speaks to the industry is considered — green and brown indicate nature, while bright, vivid colors might give a more youthful appearance.
As a UX designer, you need to do the same thing. What colors match the personality of the company you are creating a digital UX design for? Studying the use of color in print design can help designers create better UX designers, because they provide a visual guide to what colors complement and contrast to create a visually pleasing aesthetic.
Some programs will allow you to generate a print view of the finished page (yes, even and HTML page), so that you can see what the page might look like to the average viewer. Compare this screen to whatever print ads inspired your design. Where does your design fall short and where does it thrive?
6. Look At Layout Strategies
Think about the typical print ad that appears in a newspaper or magazine. That ad has to fit perfectly within the confines of the page. The text has to flow around the ad without distracting from the focus of the ad. A UX designed webpage is very similar. You need to add elements without detracting from other elements and everything has to fit neatly onto one size page even if that page is responsive.
As you begin to study print layouts, you will likely notice some patterns. There are some templates for these layouts, such as the Ogilvy layout for ads created by advertising guru David Olgivy. Each ad created using the Ogilvy template has a large image above teh fold, a headline directly under and text beneath that.
Studying different print templates can help you figure out a good UX design template that you can use with multiple clients.
The great thing about UX design is that you can continue to learn and change elements on the page over time.
You can also run as many different A/B tests about different elements of your overall design as you’d like. Doing this type of research allows you to very specifically change what doesn’t work for your end user. You can also study the analytics of your site to understand what does and doesn’t work over time.
For a truly successful site, you need to understand how your target audience interacts with the different elements on the page. Understanding all the ins and outs of target user behavior will allow you to create a stronger customer experience.
— There are aspects of print design that can help you think about UX in a new light
— Event flyers, paper sketches, industry-specific promotion materials, etc. can serve as unexpected sources of information
How have you found UX inspiration through print design? Tell us in the comments below!
Image by Kaboompics