Don't Be a Butterface: The Visual Guide to Styling Your Copy

Have you seen the movie Cry Baby?

I watched it on infinite loop in my teens at the peak of my Johnny Depp obsession (don’t lie, you had one too… before he became a weird alcoholic). If you’ve seen the film – do you remember Hatchetface?

Hatchet was a lovable mug with a heart of gold. Her appearance was a running gag throughout the movie – she really only existed to be made fun of and laughed at because of how she looked.

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Political correctness and fairness aside (I’ll save my social justice rant for another day), we know that first impressions matter. People make judgements about your website and your offerings before they've even made sense of the words on the page. We're talking about milliseconds here.

When it comes to your copy, looks matter.  

As much as I’d like to pretend that compelling copy will cure all that ails ‘ya, good design and good copy support each other.Conversion experts know this and will use both of those to their advantage every time they put together a sales page or any other kind of content.

When your copy rocks but your visuals suck, people are more likely to bounce before they can take in the words on the page. Even if people do stick around, poor design can subtly undermine the credibility you’ve worked so hard to create with your copy and messaging.

Here are a couple of ways you can use visuals to your advantage to bolster your sales message and supercharge your copy (no design skillz or coding required):

Burn ALL of the stock images

You know the ones I’m talking about. A white guy in a white business shirt, doing businessy-things, perhaps while staring quizzically at a computer. Or... ya know... threateningly holding a banana:

This is a great image, but I’ve definitely seen it on at least 100 different websites by now. Use it at your peril.

Say it with me: overused, generic stock images are vanilla. They say nothing about you, nothing about your brand, and nothing about your customers – except maybe that you couldn’t be bothered to find a more relevant image that makes them feel something.

Take the time to find images that reinforce how you want your readers to feel when they land on the page. Give them an image that’s evocative; one that they can identify with. Even if your ideal clients are white guys who wear white shirts and sit behind a desk feeling frustrated, you can do better than a generic stock image that features on literally every business website that ever existed.

(Unless you’d rather blend in with everyone else, that is.)

There are so many cool new companies popping up that are doing stock images well. I love Stocksy, for one – the images are creative, vibrant, and full of people actually living life. For free images, Pixabay and Pexels are my go-to sites. 

Cater To The Skimmers

When reading online, the human eye loves to skim. Make it easy for people to get the main message on the page by:

--> Using left-aligned text where possible. Justifying and centering text (particularly BIG blocks of text) creates more work for readers. That's because studies have shown that we naturally adopt an "F-shaped" reading pattern: 

--> Keeping it interesting. I touch on this point in more detail on my breakdown of Michael Hyatt's Free to Focus sales page. Play with where you position the text on the screen, the colors you use and the emphasis you place on text by changing its font and size. When it comes to keeping eyes on your page, novelty is your friend. 

--> Letting your headings & subheads tell a story. This piece of advice is particularly relevant to longer form sales pages. These pages are text heavy and full of information, and most people will bounce around the page a little before they commit to reading the whole thing (or leaving). Give people the gist of what's on the page by using your headings strategically. Could I get the gist of what's on the page (and the main message you're trying to convey) by reading your headings alone? If I can, you've got my attention, and I might just go back and read the whole thing. 

Contrast the Call to Action

Lastly, it's time to let your call to action buttons shine. Don't make them the same color as the rest of the content on the page - choose a contrasting color to make sure that people don't skim right over it. 

And of course - don't just use linked text to create a call to action on your website & sales pages. Make it a button where you can. Because the truth of the matter is... people love to click buttons. (For all our advancements, we humans are still a simple folk in many ways.)

Note: From experience, I wouldn't say this is necessary when it comes to writing calls to action for emails. When it comes to emailing, go ahead and link away!

So there you have it - a quick guide to using your visuals to keep people intrigued and engaged. In summary: 

  • Choose visuals that aren't overused, generic, and portray something that your reader will connect with.
  • Use novelty to prevent reader fatigue - play with colors, font placement and sizing. 
  • People love buttons. Use them, and make your buttons a color that'll stand out against the rest of the content on the page.