Marketing from the Grocery Aisles: How Cereal Boxes Can Influence Web Design

I’m currently overseeing a major update of the Microsoft Kinect for Windows website to coincide with an upcoming product release. I’ve managed several web revamps in the past including for Intel, Dell, and Microsoft. Over the years, I’ve used tabs to organize and logically present related content.

It just makes sense. Why have a page for a product overview, and additional pages for specifications, usage, case studies (or rich media), and purchase options when you can have one page with four clickable tabs?

I resorted to this mindset when I recently created the mock-ups for gallery pages, which is designed to accommodate the case studies, videos, photos, and high-level marketing fluff, for an industry or application. The response to this design was it doesn’t match the Microsoft “metro” style.


Earlier this week, while lying in bed, contemplating the day, and trying to conjure up an excuse for not going to the gym, an image of a cereal box popped into my head. The science behind cereal box design has been tested and perfected for years with the focus on designing the box to stand out from others on the shelf by using appealing photographs or illustrations, eye-catching colors, bold fonts, splashy design, and if targeted to adults, a claim about the health benefits, and if skewed towards kids, a free offer or toy inside.

Chip_Mates_cereal_box_redesign_by_maniac086The overriding goal is to coax consumers into not only noticing the box, but putting it in their shopping carts.

Isn’t the purpose of a web site basically the same? Win-over customers through education, entertainment or convincing sales pitch?

The discipline of cereal box design, however, goes behind the front of the box. It continues on the other sides. Even the bottom provides information on where and when it was produced, the SKU, and instructions for opening from the top. One of the side panels inevitably contains the ingredients and nutritional values. The back is prime real estate for presenting offers, games, recipes, quality guarantees, and maybe a snippet or two about the manufacturer, and their related products.

Cereal boxes are masterpieces, the collective effort and savvy of graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, marketers, and product managers. They contain everything a consumer needs to make a decision about the product. There’s no need to look on another shelf for a sales sheet on what’s contained in the box, disclaimers, and other relevant information. Everything necessary for the consumer to make a decision is on the box.

The same can’t be said for many Web sites. To get comprehensive information about a product or service it’s often necessary to click back-and-forth to multiple pages or scroll up-and-down a lengthy page. Even opening pages – comparable to fronts of cereal boxes – can to be yawners, failing to attract enough attention to warrant visitors staying on the site… let alone, browse other pages.

Tabs on websites are like cereal boxes. They enable the presentation of comprehensive information, which customers can quickly scan by clicking on the desired tabs.

Is your website designed like a box of Lucky Charms or does it require going from page-to-page as if you’re gathering supplies to make a batch of granola?


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