If you have experience managing content on the web or designing, you've seen it. Take a simple website and begin making design elements “stand out”. The changes begin innocently enough and with the best of intentions. Maybe the headline needs to be stronger, so the font size is increased and color made darker. A few days later, a co-worker comments on the site, you review your work and realize that the summary copy doesn't stand out enough from the rest of the content, so that's made bold and slightly larger. The editing continues, graphics are created, new styles invented, headlines added and more.

Next thing you know, everything is bold, larger, louder and fighting for your attention. You feel like a tourist on the Las Vegas strip with flashing neon enveloping you. The only thing missing is missing is the din of quarters sliding into slot machines. Everything has become... bold. Too bold. We call it “bold syndrome”.

Unfortunately, it happens all the time. As site designs change and content is updated, the original pixel-perfect layout starts to stray as pages and content are added to the site. Various content editors, managers and administrators all update their content differently according to their own priorities or responsibilities. Stakeholders will often dictate that certain elements aren't bold, large or tall enough and urgent updates are required. Rarely, does anyone make anything smaller, shorter or  remove bold. Let's face it - when the PR manager pokes their head in your office and says “Why aren't there 4 press releases listed on the homepage anymore?”  it's difficult to say “Well, something more important came along, so 2 had to go. Sorry!”.

In the fight against the scourge of “Bold Syndrome”, we propose a simple solution for consideration:

When a design element or piece of content needs impact or attention consider how the surrounding pieces can be changed to give the main element more emphasis without making it “bold”.

Consider the example below of removing emphasis from surrounding content elements.

In the first screen, let's take this take. Something we might see on a form that an administrator has added onto the site. A number of different types of fonts, a headline, buttons and some disclaimer text. The goal is to generate the click on the “Buy” button as the primary action.

Notice the very subtle difference, but the secondary buttons have been “grayed” out and the caption / supporting text has been. Nothing was changed with the buy button itself – only the elements surrounding.

Whether you're editing content, designing a form or writing product descriptions consider adjusting your focus off of the element that needs more attention and onto the elements should have less.


Back To What We're Up To