Fresh from his speaking engagement at the University of Waterloo in September, Vidyard was delighted to host Y Combinator’s very own Garry Tan for an afternoon.Garry Tan Visits Vidyard

Prior to his work at Y Combinator as a partner, Garry cofounded Posterous (Acquired by Twitter) and the engineering team behind Palantir Technology‘s quant finance analysis platform.

Whether it’s making your content look terrific with visual assets or crafting a video to be visually stunning and clear to understand, it’s good to have a grasp of the principles of  user-focused design so, here are the standout points I picked up in my chat with Garry:

1. “The most intelligent people are able to explain complex ideas easily”

This notion can be applied to many areas, design included. If an idea can’t be communicated clearly, those listening may misunderstand, get frustrated, or not bother to try to deduce… err…understand what the message is. When trying to communicate your unique selling proposition in a sales video or pitch, this statement becomes even more profound. Because the customer is in the position of power, he or she may not be motivated to navigate through a bunch of wordy, unclear or unorganized mumbo-jumbo.

So what does this mean for designers, content creators, and video marketers? Keep layouts, text assets, and video scripts simple and straightforward. Impressing your audience with detail should come second to information that can be ingested easily. Reduce your information to key points and your audience will be more inclined to follow along.

This brings me to Tan’s next takeaway:

2. “Don’t make the viewer think”

It should be painfully obvious what you want your viewer to do after taking in a piece of content. Always ask yourself, “Does that really need to be there?”. Think about what your goals are for your  project, and what you want your viewer to think/ do while processing your content. A concise call to action can give your viewer a clear direction, and that direction can dictate the flow of your content in some cases.

Garry’s third takeaway implements the above advice by helping you direct viewers to important information:

3. “Use contrast to guide the eye”

This concept should be applied when directing viewers to a call to action. To be very clear:

Little attention needed = low contrast
Attention need = high contrast

As Garry insisted, “only allow colours to touch if they are complementary. If the colours aren’t complimentary, separate them with neutral tones.”

Tan’s fourth and final recommendation is to use the “Squint Test”…

4. “When analyzing the look of your design… squint!”

The areas that standout the most while squinting will be where viewers subconsciously attend. If your call-to-action or key points of interest aren’t prominent, you may want to do a re-work.”

This simple technique is a great tool to help critique your work. When you are the only content creator or designer at a company, having a critical eye for your work is important.

To summarize, keep your content or design work simple and ensure key points are communicated clearly. Keep your audience in mind at all times and use all the techniques in your arsenal to direct attention where you want it to go.

Have any other useful tips you want to share?

Comment below about your own user-focused content strategies or fire me an email at

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Katie Nippell