Content is king, but today’s web is certainly a visual medium, and it’s important for your content to reflect that. Gone are the days of page and pages of written content alone; whilst the written word is certainly going nowhere, stories today are best when lavishly told with stunning visuals.
What is Visual Storytelling?
Visual storytelling combines strong visuals with written words to really get a point across and make your story, article, list, guide, product or review stand out. As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words, and a video is like a thousand pictures, so it’s safe to say that the best kind of visual storytelling includes a wide range of mediums to engage the user, stimulate senses and emotions, and create a memorable experience that may have been impossible without the addition of visuals.
But visual storytelling is much more than simply packing your content full of relevant photographs and the odd video here and there. You should avoid using visuals simply for the sake of it, and instead try to pare your text right down to the bare essentials, allowing your gorgeous visuals to take the lead and speak for themselves. Here are some top techniques to help you use visual storytelling to show, rather than tell.
#1. Portray Dynamic Movement:
The human brain is wired to be tuned into movement and adding movement to your visuals can create a stronger level of engagement – as can be seen with positive statistics regarding video marketing. But video isn’t the only way to add dynamic movement to your content; you can use animated GIFs or dynamic photography to add a fun flair and spark the interest of your reader.
#2. Use Heroes:
Marketers are always talking about ‘hero shots’ in landing page design; here, the ‘hero’ is the human connection that the user is able to relate to. Keep this in mind when you use visual storytelling – when choosing visuals, consider some key questions. Why should the reader care about the content? Can they see themselves in, or relate to your heroes? When you establish that emotional impact, it becomes easier to create a narrative around it.
#3. Use Light to Your Advantage:
Regardless of the color palette that a particular scene may be set in, people tend to associate darkness with danger and mystery, whilst brightness conveys both significance and a sense of safety. If you’re telling a story that includes an antagonist and conflict, your choice of colors can make a huge impact.
#4. Remember Visual Hierarchy:
Visual hierarchy is as important to your storytelling as the visuals and the story themselves. It is a key element of the user experience and will make a huge impact on how your story is presented and taken by readers. The most important items should be towards the top of the screen; generally, these will also be the biggest. If you’re producing content for a mobile app, it’s important to use reliable mobile testing tools to ensure that your visual hierarchy continues to flow the same on a smaller screen.
#5. Utilize Color Psychology:
Color psychology is a simple yet very effective method of encouraging users to engage with your visual storytelling and should be kept in mind when choosing color schemes, photographs, videos, and any other visuals you plan to use. The best results with visual storytelling are achieved when you are able to plan out each ‘shot’, much like you would if you were directing a movie. Understand the effect that each color has on the emotions and choose according to how you’d like your reader to feel as they make their way through your content.
#6. Create a Focal Point:
Each time you integrate an illustration or photograph into your content, you are faced with two options – you can draw the reader’s eye to a focal point in the visual, or within the frame of the image itself. You can use this to your advantage by creating a focal point in the image that points to text, for example, strategically placing hero images so that hands or eyes are focusing on text, to create stronger emphasis.
#7. Use Visual Metaphors:
Even when you’re using simple visual content like an image to accompany each paragraph of an article, you can ensure a stronger impact using visual metaphors and ensuring that each image is carefully chosen to represent the content that it is being used with. Visual tropes can be used to convey content and have a stronger impact on the reader – for example, a clock could represent the passage of time, whilst blue skies could represent a positive, happy point.
#8. Tell a Whole Story:
Be sure to break your content down and include visuals that tell a whole story, including a beginning, middle, and an end. This is a familiar structure when it comes to storytelling and can be used to create impact and draw the reader in with almost any kind of content.
#9. Make Videos Easy Viewing:
Videos can be a great method of visual storytelling but there are some key guidelines to adhere to. Keep videos short, sweet, and to the point – lengthy videos have their place, and it’s not usually here. And, ensure that you are using accurate, easy-to-read subtitles. Not only does this ensure that your content is fully accessible, but also makes it easier to view for those on mobile devices.
#10. Keep it Mobile Friendly:
You can spend hours picking the perfect visuals to portray your content and tell the perfect story, but the truth is that no matter what kind of content you are writing for the web, making sure that it is mobile-friendly should be a top priority. Your stunning visuals and perfectly written sentences won’t be having much of an effect if they’re cut off halfway on a smartphone screen, and with an increasing number of web users now using smartphones and tablets to consume web content, every visual story you tell online should be done with these devices in mind.
What about you – what visual storytelling techniques have worked well for you so far?