How Design Impacts Social Media Success

Web design and social media marketing are two topics that I enjoy studying, and the two certainly impact one another for website owners and bloggers who are attempting to increase traffic to their site. While social media is intended to put a spotlight on the best and most popular content, the look and appearance of a page will often influence social media users and their decision of whether or not they should vote for a particular submission. The design of a site can be either a positive or a negative influence on the voting decision, and social media marketers need to consider appearance as much as they consider the content and headlines.

8 Ways Design Influences Social Media Users:

1. First Impression

The first impression of any visitor, regardless of how they arrive at your site, will be heavily influenced by the appearance of the site. Generally, opinions are formed in a matter of seconds, not minutes, so creating a positive impression is critical. While most of your website’s visitors will have a short attention span, social media users are notoriously quick to leave a site that doesn’t impress them right away.

Obviously, when it comes to social media, first impressions can help you or hurt you. Try to evaluate your site from the perspective of a first-time visitor that is arriving from social media. Would the page increase the chances of getting your vote, or would it make you want to leave and visit another site? Pictures and images can often help with creating first impressions. A great example of this is Blog Well’s post 100+ Resources for Web Developers. This post was popular on Digg, StumbleUpon and While there are plenty of other similar lists for designers and developers, this one got a boost from a picture at the top of the post (screenshot below). Interestingly, the majority of the comments on the Digg submission (which received over 2,000 diggs) had nothing to do with the article or the developer resources, but rather the girl. This is an example of a blog using a picture to capture the attention of visitors (at least male visitors) and using that to attract social media votes


2. Page Load Time

Because most social media users are impatient, and because they have hundreds of other pages waiting for them to visit, page load time becomes even more of a factor than it is in general. If you plan to market heavily with social media, it’s a good idea to design your site to load as quickly as possible. This doesn’t mean that no slow-loading pages will have success with social media, but it can help you out if visitors are able to get to your content very quickly.

3. Readability of Content

If social media users are voting for content that they like, they need to be able to easily read the content in the first place. Most visitors that come from social media will be scanning the page rather than reading word-for-word, so make it easy on them by using short paragraphs, plenty of whitespace, bulleted lists, bold text, etc. Take the time to consider the layout of the page and how it will affect readability.

4. Emphasis of Content

If you hope to impress social media voters with your content, make sure it is front and center and impossible to miss. Are there other distractions in the design that will keep emphasis away from the content? Sometimes you will see content that is filled with advertisements not doing very well with social media when it could be doing much better with different ad placement.

5. Implementation of Buttons/Widgets into the Design

Most social media sites provide buttons, widgets or links that you can use on your site to encourage visitors to vote. These can be very helpful, especially if they are effectively incorporated into the design. When designing with these in mind, you’ll want them to be located where they will be noticed, but not in the way.

6. Branding

If you are marketing your site through social media on an ongoing basis, as more and more social media users are exposed to your site, your branding will be impacted. How does the design of your site allow you to brand yourself in a way that will make an impact with social media users?

7. Navigation

Typically, social media traffic will average a low number of page views. You can improve this by using effective navigation that leads visitors to other content that they are likely to be interested in. From my experience, the most effective way to encourage social media visitors to look at other pages is to include internal links within the body of the content. With this strategy, you may be able to drastically increase the amount of traffic that older posts receive.

Effect design should also include navigation bars or menus that lead visitors to other relevant content. In my opinion, this can help to increase page views, but not as much as links within the content itself.

8. Subscribers

If you are attempting to gain subscribers through social media marketing, be sure to design your pages so that your subscription options are clear and easy to see. Typically, you will want to keep them high on the page so they are noticed right away, and you may want to use standard icons that are easily recognized by potential subscribers.

What’s Your Opinion?

In what ways do you feel that design impacts social media success? Do you have anything specific from your experience that you would like to share?

Looking for More on Social Media?

If you are interested in social media marketing, check out my other blog Traffikd where I focus on social media and traffic building.

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17 Responses

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  • Social Media Design Solutions, February 7, 2010

    Great content in this post, still very valid even though it’s like two years later (lol).


  • nicky, May 13, 2009

    Yes, Layout of the blog or site will often influence the users because first impression is the best and we need to take care while designing the layout.

  • Lid, April 18, 2008

    It was…wasn’t it ;)

  • Vandelay Design, April 16, 2008

    Good point Wayne. I agree.

    That’s a good idea Vinh. I’ll be interested to see the results.

  • Vinh Le, April 16, 2008

    In regards to how design impacts social media success, I agree that it has a huge impact and I plan to test it. I plan to create a special landing page that organizes a series of posts I have made in a different design than the rest of my blog and testing it. I think my blog design works fine, but trying to organize the series in the same layout as regular posts I feel would be less successful then if I were to design a special page that is organized a lot better.

    The trick being that it has to have the same consistent feel as the my blog design, but at the same time be much better at organizing the series of articles so that it increases the number of page views. This is going to be fun.

  • Wayne Smallman, April 16, 2008

    I’m sure we’ve all seen articles with a cluster of social media buttons at the top of the article, which sort of puts the cart before the horse — why would I vote when I’ve not yet read the article?

    And the usability implications here are that having to scroll back up to the top of the page to vote, assuming we like the article…

  • Vandelay Design, April 15, 2008

    You really didn’t sound defensive, I just wanted to be clear that I wasn’t intending anything negative. I singled out that post because it was such a perfect example.

  • Lid, April 15, 2008

    Sorry – probably sounding defensive – will have to smack Tad for that ;) – It was a huge lesson for me as well – I’ve been involved in media for so long, you would have thought I’d have worked it out earlier. Luckily I too had someone point it out to me – that’s why I think this post is really important; I hope people take on your advice, it really is so true.

    Adam – way too cute you are! I know, almost no one saw them first time around – good thing we have bookmarking sites ;)

  • Adam, April 15, 2008

    Lid, honestly I did not even know there were links in the post until much later after revisiting my

  • Vandelay Design, April 14, 2008

    If the post seemed negative about your collection of developer links, I didn’t intend for it to be that way. Your post definitely had a lot of value, I just thought it was interesting to see how much attention the picture got. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Biodun, April 14, 2008

    Great post! Yeah first impression really matters, its can help or harm you…

  • Lid, April 14, 2008

    This is brilliant. Thanks for the mention too.

    While it is true many people commented about the picture on Digg, we certainly had a lot of people clicking through on the content, as well as a huge amount of links pointing to it.

    How many times have you picked up a mag or newspaper because an image caught your attention? Lots I suspect – they had it worked out ages ago. You need to be noticed first, and then you have the opportunity to get full attention.

    It took us over a week to put that post together, and I think the pic was the icing on the cake. Too few people look at the complete set of elements that make up a great article/post – more should read this post :) Well done!

  • sDF, April 14, 2008

    very true… but it also applies to all websites I think, especially the part about page load, content and navigation.