Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The humble brochure

Recently I've been learning a lot about optimal information design from brochures. In particular the fold out style brochures that are often shown in retail environments. The parallels with good web IA are strong.

The typical flow:

  • On the cover page they aim to capture your attention and provide some pretty good reasons to explore.
  • On the reverse of the cover page they provide some important information needed to proceed to purchase (as this is the reverse of the cover page it is therefore not the first page to be read and just acts in support of the next page).
  • Then they provide some compelling USP's / Promotions / key reasons to buy.
  • Depending on the product and/or service the brochure provides steps to configure the purchase to your needs (often acting as a guide).
  • It then gives the options needed to complete purchase - and being a brochure it is channel neutral so provides all available options in one easy to read layout.
  • The final page (back page) is then optional reading and is usually dedicated to any particular terms and conditions / special notifications.
The key difference:

The designs are often far richer and more creative than a lot of their web equivalents. They are also far better at providing the salient information needed to progress or continue to explore. There is no sense of having to give all the information in the world on the one page and simply the back cover provides any particular terms and conditions or additional information resources are highlighted.

In a way they are better information on demand systems than many web pages, where people seem to have forgotten that the international network of computers is actually one big information on demand system, and it is better to have a really clear navigation and sign posting system than swamp the most important information by trying provide every bit of detail up-front.

My tip to fellow digital bods is keep an eye out for brochures and other offline material. They have been created by talented people who have spent a long time perfecting the art of persuasive communication and we still have a lot to learn from them.

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