Even YOU Can Design Like Apple

Even YOU Can Design Like Apple image apple2If I had a dollar for every time I heard a client say, “We want our site to look like Apple’s” I would have… lots of dollars.  Seriously, who wouldn’t want to look like Apple? They seem to represent all that is good in both product innovation and marketing savvy. Apple just exudes cool, almost without even trying. And maybe after comparing your brand to theirs, you feel like a 90lb weakling at a bodybuilding competition.

But not to worry! There are action steps you can take—regardless of what industry you’re in or what types of products you sell—that incorporate some of that Apple magic into your own website and overall brand. So here we go!

De-clutter

If you look at Apple’s homepage, I bet you’ll find every product they have, and every subcategory, contact info and a huge Apple logo right in the middle of the page. Am I right? Hint: Sarcasm.

The reason why the Apple homepage is so visually appealing is that they don’t have any of those things on the front page. What they do have is a beauty shot of their latest product offering along with a tagline, and simple navigation without any distracting submenus. By removing visual clutter, they get you to focus on what they want you to see—their products.

Action Step: Remove any extraneous info from the front page of your site that could be served up under a sub page.

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Limit your color palette

Apple’s signature uncluttered look would be entirely counterproductive without the visual contrast created by their limited color palette. Think about the simplicity of their formula: Bold fonts, stark white background and beautiful product shots. Additionally, take a look at their navigation buttons. There is a reason that there are so few of them and why they are always a bright color—Apple wants you to take action, whether it is to download something or purchase a product.

Action Step: Maybe a stark white background isn’t your thing, but look for opportunities to simplify colors, standardize font weight/thicknesses and other elements throughout your website and marketing materials.

Only Use Professional Visual Elements

In addition to the limited color palette, Apple uses the most visually-stunning product shots. Professional pictures are just that—professional. You won’t see pictures from someone’s crappy phone camera on Apple’s site, and for good reason.

By the way, did you notice the scale? Their pictures are HUGE. After all, what is the point of such amazing visuals if they’re the size of a postage stamp?

Action Step: While there are many design faux pas to avoid, using small, poor quality photos on your site is a biggie. Spend the time, effort and resources it takes to use the highest quality photography and graphics for your website and marketing materials. Strive for perfection. It will pay off handsomely in the long run.

Be obsessive-compulsive with quality

Apple pays attention to everything. Every facet of their site—no matter how minute­—is built and designed perfectly. I’d challenge you to find one pixelated, low-resolution picture or graphic on their site, but you wouldn’t find one.

Action Step: Resist the urge to think that nobody will notice, because they will. When designing, have someone who isn’t associated with the day-to-day dealings of your brand do a quality check. Line weights, font sizes, page width, positioning of headers—these details make a huge difference in the perception of your company.

Consistency is crucial

If you happen to use a Mac laptop or desktop computer, one of the things you will notice is that the interface looks almost exactly like the Apple website.  If you have been to an Apple retail store, you notice immediately how familiar it looks. From their signage to their printed brochures, Apple’s signature “look and feel” has been applied across everything that they design, reinforcing the their brand.

Action Step: Take a few of your marketing collateral pieces and cover up the logo with a blank piece of paper or a sticky note. If you can’t tell right away without the logo in place that these pieces are all from the same company, your brand clearly has an identity problem. Remember, a logo is not a brand. Employ the services of a professional to help develop and manage your company’s brand and visual identity.

Develop a personality

Are your website and marketing materials cold and impersonal? You might want to take another page out of the Apple playbook and use images of “shiny happy people.” In Apple’s case, it gives the impression that they are both knowledgeable and glad to help resolve any issue their customers may have. It gives the impression that you don’t have to be a complete genius to use their products.

Action Step: You may not be one of the 10 most recognized brands in the world, and maybe putting pictures of employees on your site would be a horrible idea. But don’t miss the point—figure out how you can make your brand friendlier, however appropriate.

Have confidence in your products and services

Apple is unapologetic when it comes to describing their products. They use words like “magical” and “revolutionary”. They don’t put competitors down, mind you, but they are quick to let you know how amazing their products are and how much better your life would be if you owned them. Specification-wise, there is not much different under the hood of a MacBook Pro than a similarly equipped PC laptop, but Apple’s description somehow makes the PC sound inferior. Their customers seem to agree.

Action Step: Don’t sell yourself short. If you believe your products are the best, say so! If you are confident in your products and services, make every effort to communicate that to your customers. But do so within reason—it should come across as confidence, not pretentiousness.

Summing it all up

Apple is a force to be reckoned with, and love them or hate them, they aren’t going away any time soon. While you may not become the next multi-billion dollar success story by incorporating some of these design techniques, you’ll be well on your way to communicating more effectively with your customers, which should be your goal.

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