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#MAfails: The Marketing Design Special Edition

I think we can all agree—no one likes to fail. Whether it’s at work, at home, or even seeing your favorite team lose big time, the frustration and anxiety that hits you is an unpleasant experience.

But what can be done about it? Failure happens. In my opinion, no one knows the feeling of a fail more profoundly than a designer.

“Oh yeah” you say? Think about it.

The world is a highly visual place, nowhere more so than the marketing world. When we fail, not only do we hear about it, we SEE it. Our jobs are highly visual, if not all visual, and any mistakes we make are going to be front and center for all the world to see. True, your average designer will be able to see when a pixel is off on an illustration— after all, we are very detail oriented.

Yet maybe it’s for that reason, our biggest fails are the ones that are larger than life, as we sometimes have a hard time looking at the big picture.

Still, we designers have one good thing going for us when it comes to failure. We have a built in thick skin, a constant, insatiable desire for improvement, and a love of what we do. As a result, we are always ready and willing to learn from our failures. After all, what’s the point of failing if you don’t learn something?

I’m here to tell you some of the fails I’ve seen (and done) how to prevent them, and how to overcome them. Let’s dig in.

Failure #1: See you later user experience, I just want it to look pretty.

It’s so very tempting isn’t it? You see your landing page, in all its glory, with just the right colors, just the perfect font, the prettiest pictures…wait, where’s that call to action button? All the way at the bottom if the page?

Just one example of bad user experience. User experience (or UX) is the overall encounter one has with the site or application.

Basically, design isn’t just ‘making something look good.’ It’s also strategy—you are the compass, and your landing page is the forest.

Your site should make the user have to go through a bunch of unnecessary steps, or distract the user from his/her goal on the site. Even if you have a very large site and cannot navigate the customer to his/her destination instantly, the navigation should be simple, intuitive, and easy to move through.

Failure #2: Responsive site? We don’t need no stinking responsive site.

Yes, you do. There is truly no downside to making your sites and emails responsive (except for a bit of additional effort). We live in an age where phones and tablets are like our children, and we use them to a vast extent when checking our emails and surfing the web.

To make your project non-responsive would alienate an extremely large amount of your clientele, and there’s no reason for that. Your designer should be designing with “mobile in mind” and your developers creating sites and emails mobile first. You don’t want to have a project that looks like it was created in the 90’s due to its lack of responsiveness. So if you haven’t already, I would suggest doing so right away.

Failure #3: I really, really love this raster image but it’s soooo small.  Oh well, I’ll just stretch it out and make it bigger.

Stop. Don’t do it. Oh, you’ve already did it and all you can see is a blurry pixelated image? Even though this seems like an obvious one, I cannot count the number of times a client has given me a small, low res image and asked me “how can I make it bigger?”.

The sad truth is you cannot. So, that leave you with a few options: find a bigger image, find a higher quality image (so it can be made bigger without becoming pixelated, 300dpi is suggested), or my personal favorite, use a vector. Best used for illustrations, logos, and graphics, the beauty of a vector is that it can be made any size (and I do mean any size) and it will never become pixelated or distorted. Save raster image for photography only, and you will save yourself a great headache later. And when using a photograph, make sure you are working with a large photo from the start.

You can always scale down, but you can never scale up.

Failure #4: You know what would be awesome?  Some drop shadows! Let’s add some 3D effects while we’re at it!

Oooh, and this pattern background I found is really nice too…hmm maybe it needs a bit more color as well… (you get the point)

Ok, maybe you’re not that extreme. It could just be a matter of using a plethora of fonts, or every color in the rainbow sporadically across your site. Whatever your fail is, the reason you’re likely doing it is because you’re moving a bit too fast. You have so many ideas, and you want to see them come to life. Or maybe you just can’t decide, after all, they all seem so awesome! Fair enough, but that over eagerness is only a one-way ticket to failure.

What to do about it: Your users don’t want to see every idea you have—they want to see your best idea. Furthermore, users love consistency—they crave it. It helps them navigate their way through the design and allows the individual to pick up pertinent information easily.

For example, colors should have a structure to them. Perhaps every time there is a call to action, the button is always blue, whenever there is a link it is in green – you get the idea. When it comes to fonts, it’s best to stick to one or two font families and use them also in a structural manner (for example, your headers might be in Futura, and your body copy always in Garamond).

Lastly, when it comes to effects, please, just stick to one.  Too much distraction will pull the user away from their main purpose for visiting your site – to absorb the content.

Failure #5: Whoo-hoo! I just made this awesome email/landing page! I think I’ll make it live for the world to see right this very second!

This is one, I admit, of being guilty of. Again a result of over-eagerness, those itchy fingers are eager to show the world how awesome you think you design is. Hmm. Feels like you’re forgetting something? Trust me, you are!

Whether it’s an email, landing page, animation, video, or print item (dare I say especially a print item), you need to test it. Look at it multiple times and for digital functional assets, TEST it. Test the design, test the user experience, try breaking it, and uncover any outstanding flaws.Test it on different devices, both desktop and mobile instruments. Have other people within your company look it over before you unleash it on the masses.

Trust me, even when you look at something a hundred times, someone else will be able to pick up a mistake you missed.  No one is perfect, so don’t test in a vacuum. The last thing you want is to have your lovely design overshadowed by a button that doesn’t work, or a table that’s breaking on certain browsers.

In conclusion

Don’t be afraid or hesitant to fail, but instead learn in grow from these mistakes.  Your users will thank you, your company will thank you, and you will be better for it.

Have your own #MAfail, design or otherwise, to share? Leave a comment or hit us up on Twitter using #MAfails

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