In this quick Design Hack video (15min 09s), I’ll show you how you can use a table of content template to create a beautiful and styled PDF step-by-step guides or “listicles.”
Who is this video perfect for?
Whether you need this is or not would depend on the type of marketing you do. This is most useful for people who create marketing pdfs for a variety of reasons. One use would be to grow your email list. You create a step-by-step guide for something (or any piece of very useful content) and to get that people give you their email address and join your mailing list.
If you wanted to do something like this, it could be for example “Create your first crystal grid in 5 easy steps” (or however many steps you need…). People would opt in to your email list and in exchange you send them this pdf. If they love it and think it was useful, they stay on your list and you send them valuable content every week. When you’re ready to sell something, they’re already on your list and eagerly waiting for your emails.
The official definition of listicle is “In journalism and blogging, a listicle is a short-form of writing that uses a list as its thematic structure, but is fleshed out with sufficient copy to be published as an article.” So, basically any piece of content that is comprised of a list of things. In marketing, numbered lists are popular because people want to know exactly how many steps it takes to achieve something, hence the numbers.
Additionally, the concept of using a layout template for something else than what is was intended for can be extremely helpful for choosing a design template of any kind. When looking for a design template to you, it’s rather likely that you won’t find something that perfectly matches your need. So, you need to get creative and think outside the box. In other words, assess what are the common denominators between your content and the templates that are available regardless of what their intended use is.
The challenge is that most people will search Canva (or Pinterest for inspiration etc.) by using the search criteria and words describe the layout they need to create (search for list layout instead of table of contents). The aim here is to have people think and see things differently. Look at different layout and think “where all I can use this.” I LOVE creative problem solving.
What’s in the video?
01:10 —What type of marketing content are the tips in this video for? Anything that has a numbered list. There are very popular “listicle” style articles on specific steps someone has to take, for example “5 steps to permanent weight loss,” or similar. I’ve heard 3, 5, and 7 are the most effective amounts of steps or points in your list. But since content is King, if your method needs 4 steps to be effective, then use 4.
02:27 — Tip: use a table of content template instead of generic document template or a list template. These layouts will already have numbers associated with text blurbs and the design is often more interesting than on a generic document or list template. Search Canva with “table of content” and “content” to surface these layout templates.
04:08 — Example 01: From a classy table of content to more fun and lively step-by-step guide. First, add an image to each step instead of having just one large image. Second, playful composition with circle cropped images.
Tip: When using design templates, whenever you can find a template that is already aligned with your brand personality, the easier time you will have customising that template with your brand styles.
06:34 — Example 02: From a calming travel magazine to a fun and colorful step-by-step guide. See how changing colors, fonts, and the image will change the entire look and feel of this layout.
08:53 — Example 03: From Cold and cool layout to feminine and emotional look and feel. See how by changing colors, fonts, imagery, and by adding few color squares you can change the look and feel dramatically.
12:35 — Tip: Before you pick a template, think about what kind of content you have. Then think about what kind of layout would have this type of content. For example, table of content has number and text and step-by-step guide has numbers and text.
13: 47 — Tip: How to visualise your signature process…
Design is becoming more accessible for masses with easy to use online design applications like Canva.com. This is great for solopreneurs and, really, anyone who has just started their business and can’t afford to (or don’t want to) invest in hiring a professional designer. Canva.com is so easy to use, and has many well-designed free templates, that it really does make creating brand and marketing assets a breeze. However, I still often get questions on how to take advantage of Canva templates and how to choose the right template for your needs. So, I put together this post to help you assess the templates and pick just the right one for your leadmagnet.
How to find and apply templates in Canva
Canva’s design workflow has been built around choosing the right template. You can either start from “Your brand” section and select the “Templates” tab as shown in the image below. You will get a selection of templates to choose from. It may feel overwhelming for a moment as there are so many to choose from. By taking a closer look at the template’s thumbnail, you can see what the template is tailored for (e.g. Instagram post, Poster, Presentation). For a beginner, it is a good idea to select a template that has been designed for the same purpose you’re building an asset for. On the thumbnail, you can also see how many people have “liked” the template. The higher the amount of likes is, the more likely the template layouts are versatile and well-designed. But the likelihood of other people using the same template also goes up.
The other way to access templates is to click on the “Create a design” button on the top left corner. This will take you to a page where templates are grouped by categories based on the use and purpose of the template. See image below. This is the approach I like to use as it supports the way I think about starting a new project (e.g. I need to design a “How to” document pdf.)
Let’s say you are making a How-to guide or a cheat sheet as your leadmagnet and you want it to be a letter sized document, and it will likely have multiple pages. Choosing to create a document from the “Create a design” view will open an empty document where you then need to apply a template from the template library. When you are browsing the templates in the library, one important thing to check is how many layouts are included in the template. The more layouts there is the more versatile the template is.
What makes a good document template
Whether a template is a good fit for your document really depends on your intended use. We already defined you wanted to create a multipage, letter-sized pdf document. That already excluded other types of templates (e.g. poster or flyer). Now, whether there are enough layout options in the template for your leadmagnet, depends on how much and what type of content you have. You’re going to want to have all your content written and created before you start laying it out in Canva. This is how professional designers typically operate, as well. They request to have all of the content before they start the design work, so they can get a holistic view of the content types and what needs to be done. Good design supports the flow of the narrative and you cannot create that without all of the pieces of the puzzle on the table. That being said, things will change, and edits will happen. And that is ok, it’s part of the process. Just try to have as much ready as possible, as it will help you choose the right template.
Having your content ready also allows you to evaluate the layouts and compare them to the types of content you have. You want to find one that matches as closely as possible. This is not to say that you cannot customize the templates and create new layouts or layout elements. But for beginners it is much easier, if the template already has as many as possible of the needed layouts and elements. Let’s say your content is sectioned off into few different sections and includes some large images and a couple of quotes. What you’re going to want is a layout with multiple header styles for hierarchy, large image area at least on one layout, and a predefined quote style. You could create all these styles yourself, but having them built into the template makes your work much quicker.
Have all your content ready before selecting a template. Compare the layouts and elements to your content and select a template that has styles defined to as many as possible of your content types.
Another good thing to consider is the amount of text. How much does your leadmagnet have so called “body copy” (the text forming the main content). Most document templates will have a style for body copy out of the box, but if the template was tailored for a photo heavy document it may not have multiple layouts with different options for how the body copy could be set. See the examples below. The left template works well for content that is image heavy. And the template on the right works well for content that is text heavy. With the template on the right, you have many options for how you’d like your body copy to flow: one column with an area to add image(s), two columns with background image, two columns with smaller image, and even three columns with rather large image. When choosing the amount of columns, remember that one wide column with small text can be burdensome to read. The typographic rule is: 9-12 words per line is ideal, more than 12 words on a line can become tedious to read. That is a good goal, but I think you can get away with a couple more words if your text flows nicely and is easy to read. If you want, you can adjust the amount of words on the line by either making the type size larger or changing the width of the column.
For beginners, it is a good idea to try and find a template that already supports your brand personality, at least to some degree. The templates were designed with some tone of voice and feeling in mind. If you can find one that matches well with your brand, it’s always easier to have to do less customizations. But if you have a bit of experience with Canva or creating designs in general, you can fairly easily change the tone of the design by changing colors, fonts, graphics, and imagery.
One last thing to consider is: will your audience be printing this document? If you are creating something you’d like your audience to be able to print, consider adding less images and color for easy printability. You might even consider doing just a black and white document to ensure it prints nicely for everyone. If imagery is not necessary for your document, you can find some nice typographic layouts.
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