10 E-book Design Tips to Increase Conversions

by Katy French

E-books are a marketer’s secret weapon. Great e-books contain valuable information that readers are happy to give up their email for—and they generate leads for a long time. (We know this first-hand. Some of our oldest e-books are the most popular content we’ve ever put out.) But not all e-books are equal. No matter how good your content, shoddy e-book design can send your reader running. It’s a bummer to see how many marketers ignore this fact.

Since we’re design freaks (and a little content marketing crazy), we want to give you a solid understanding of what will make or break an e-book design. To get you started, here are our top 10 tips to turn an eye-sore into a high-converting piece of awesomeness.

1) Start With an Eye-Catching Cover

First impressions are everything. An eye-catching cover that communicates the e-book theme at a glance goes a long way. (You’d be surprised how a simple tweak in imagery or font size can change the feel.) Consider how your imagery, colors, and typographic choices may be altered for stronger impact.

Example: We partnered with LinkedIn Marketing Solutions to create an e-book about native advertising. The cover conveys the subject directly and simply, presented in a clean, slick, and on-brand visual.

10 tips for e-book design 

2) Apply Strong Design Principles

When we talk about “design,” we mean a creative execution that employs all the fundamentals of design, including:

  • Unity/harmony
  • Balance
  • Hierarchy
  • Scale/proportion
  • Emphasis/focal point
  • Contrast
  • White space

When a reader’s eye lands on a page, they should be stimulated, not overwhelmed. No elements should compete, there should be a logical flow, and the content should visually “breathe.” Remember, always, that design is meant to enhance—never distract. As such, you should question every element; on the flipside, you should also be able to defend any design choice.

3) Use On-Brand Colors

The colors you choose influence the tone and feel of the content. They should reflect your brand’s visual language, and be used intelligently and intuitively. Tip: Choose one or two primary colors and two to three accent colors.

Example: We worked with Google to bring their Trust/SMB Whitepaper to life. Using the brand’s colors, we used blue as the base and the red and yellow to accent data visualizations and illustrations. 

10 tips for e-book design

4) Add Eye-Catching Imagery

The exciting thing about e-book design is that each page gives you creative freedom. Imagery is a great tool to help enhance the content, add personality, provide context, and further the story. Depending on your brand guidelines, you may opt for photography, illustration, iconography, line art, spot illustration, etc. Regardless, look for opportunities to elevate design through imagery.

Example: LinkedIn is all about connecting people’s careers. In the Data-Driven Recruiting e-book we created for them, we used bright, people-focused imagery that depicted collaboration. This helped add both a human element and emphasize the sense of connectedness the brand promotes. 

10 tips for e-book design

5) Follow Best Practices for Visualizations

E-books are often used to break down concepts, offer insight into subjects, or support a certain claim. As such, data visualization and information design are great tools to help make these concepts clearer. But make sure you’re presenting visualizations in their most effective form. Depict concepts as simply as possible (e.g., don’t try to show too much in one diagram.) Double check your data design. You can also give content a pass to see if anything could benefit from visualization.

Example: We used plenty of data visualization to bring the numbers in HP’s 20/20 e-book to life and help readers “see” the insights. 

10 tips for e-book design

6) Tame Your Typography

Your e-book is based around the words you write. But the story in those words can be interrupted or convoluted by poor typography. If fonts are hard to read, intrusive, distracting, or placed inconveniently, it will break up the flow in and interrupt your reader’s experience.

Make sure your typography choices and layouts emphasize legibility and hierarchy. Tip: Break up blocks of text with imagery or white space, and don’t use more than two typefaces in your e-book design. (If you want to learn more about working with type, the Typography Checklist course from Typewolf is incredibly helpful.)

Example: The typography design in LinkedIn’s native advertising e-book follows a solid grid, using callouts intuitively and presenting a clear typographical hierarchy. 

10 tips for e-book design

7) Use E-Book Design for Storytelling

You can get as creative as you want, and you should, as long as it serves the story.

8) Think in Chapters

Following traditional e-book design will help segment content, making it easier for your reader to navigate to what they want.

9) Make Negative Space Your Friend

This rule applies to pretty much everything. You only need enough to design to enhance, not overwhelm.

10) Remember Your Specs

Are you desigining for web or print? The format may affect your design. (We can’t say it enough: Confirm this up front!)

To create better e-book designs, you need to stay up to date on the latest visual communication tips, trends, and research. If you want to learn more, here’s some stuff that might be of interest:

If you need an expert to help you out, let’s chat.

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