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Podcast cover art is a highly significant contribution and possibly the most important first visual impression of a podcast. It’s the image that is first seen when a potential listener is browsing through their podcast apps or websites. To ensure your podcast cover art pops amid a very crowded field, check out these 12 ways to increase your show’s findability and consequently listens.

  1. Conduct Podcast Cover Art Research Within Your Podcast's Genre
  2. Consider Your Audience
  3. Find a Cover Art Visual Style That Fits Your Podcast's Tone
  4. Determine Your Podcast Title First
  5. Use Bold and Minimalistic Designs
  6. Use a Unique and Interesting Layout
  7. Don't Use Too Many Elements or Fonts
  8. Use Display Fonts Instead of Paragraph Fonts
  9. Select High Contrast Vibrant Colors and Text
  10. Preview Your Podcast Cover Art On the Device It Will Be Seen On
  11. Adhere to Apple Podcast Cover Art Specifications
  12. Tools and Resources

Conduct Podcast Cover Art Research Within Your Podcast's Genre

Glasses notebook and laptop
Photographer: Dan Dimmock | Source: Unsplash

It's important to do research about what the cover art looks like for other podcasts in your genre.

For example, if you’re doing a podcast on entrepreneurship, check out the covers of other entrepreneurship podcasts in your niche. The idea is not to copy, but to get inspiration and a feel for how you could add something unique that stands out in the crowd. So fire up a browser, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or a podcast research tool like PodChaser to investigate and bookmark podcast cover art in your niche.

Consider Your Audience

Cheering crowd at rugby world cup 2019
Photographer: Stefan Lehner | Source: Unsplash

Before you design anything, you need to think about the people you’re creating your podcast for.

This is a very important step in the process because it will help your audience immediately understand the tone of your podcast. Remember, if there’s nothing else to go on, people make decisions whether or not to listen to your podcast within the first 10 seconds of seeing your show art, so it’s important that it connects with your audience right away.

Find a Cover Art Visual Style That Fits Your Podcast's Tone and Message

Orange Style lettering on a vintage plastic board
Photographer: Marcus Ganahl | Source: Unsplash

When it comes to choosing artwork, it’s important to make sure that it fits in with your podcast’s overall tone. This is somewhat open to interpretation, but here are some examples:

  • If you’re a comedy podcast, you might want to go with a more vibrant and full-colour design, while a darker podcast might benefit from a black-and-white design.
  • A show dedicated to breaking news in the tech world might have pretty serious podcast cover art. But if you have a podcast that is more entertaining, then you can have a cover art that is more funny or lighthearted.

Determine Your Podcast Title First

Photographer: CHUTTERSNAP | Source: Unsplash

It helps to be sure of your podcast title before starting the visual design, for inspiration, for certain keywords, or even just bold individual letters that might be incorporated on your cover art.

Resist the urge to add your entire podcast title on the icon, unless it is only one or two words long

You do not need to add the entire text of your podcast title on the icon, since that title will already appear next to your image on Apple Podcasts and all other players.

Use Bold and Minimalistic Designs

An example of minimalistic podcast cover art
Photographer: davisuko | Source: Unsplash

Icons are small, and the busier your design is, the more lost it will get as a small icon on various size screens.

Using a bold minimalistic design is usually more visually impactful.

Use a Unique and Interesting Layout

Using unique layouts
Photographer: Kirill Balobanov | Source: Unsplash

Try to be different. For example, if everyone else in your niche features a frontal view of your host’s face, go for a profile layout. Here are some design considerations:

  • Use the “rule of thirds” to position design elements in harmony with each other.
  • If you are hiring designers, challenge them to offer you multiple unconventional layout choices.
  • Place elements near the margins.
  • Use lots of “white space” to distance elements from each other.

Don't Use Too Many Elements or Fonts

An example of too many elements for podcast cover art design
Photographer: Alexander Smagin | Source: Unsplash

If you must use text on your cover art design, keep your choice of typefaces to one single font, or 2 maximum. Too many design elements, shapes or colors on your cover art will make it look busy, and this will be difficult to grasp at a glance.

Avoid what we in the UX (User Experience) world call “excessive cognitive load”.

A person will glance at your design for only a fraction of a second next to other podcast icons, so don’t be cute, stay simple, straight-forward and err on the side of being obvious with your design. An easy to understand podcast cover art design is preferable to one that has esoteric references few people would get. Avoid mystery unless it really servers your design.

Use Display Fonts Instead of Paragraph Fonts

Fonts matter in podcast icon design
Photographer: Jeroen den Otter | Source: Unsplash

Learn the difference between display fonts and paragraph fonts. If you are hiring or collaborating with a good designer, this will not be an issue, but if you are creating a design yourself, use display fonts. And, please stay away from the dreaded “Comic Book Sans” typeface (sorry, that’s a design industry joke).

Select High Contrast Vibrant Colors and Text

Vibrant color example
Photographer: Malena Gonzalez Serena | Source: Unsplash

It is tempting to create “elegant” or “subtle” podcast cover art.

But this seldom stands out when seen next to many other podcast icon designs. It is hard to overestimate the importance of bright saturated colors, high contrast cover art and text.

An additional resource on color selection:

Color usage for podcast cover art and icons
Click to read our post on color choices for podcast cover art

In this previous post, we’ve written extensively on color selection and psychology of podcast cover art color choices.

Preview Your Podcast Cover Art On the Device It Will Be Seen On

Our own podcast cover art design
A preview of our own “Podcasting Resources Guide” podcast cover art design

After designing and advising 100’s of podcasters in creating their show’s icon, the single most important advice is this:

Be sure to actually preview your cover art on the device and inside the app where the podcast will appear.

You want to see your podcast icon alongside all the other shows in your niche. Fortunately, there is a brilliant free tool designed to help you preview, called Podcast Cover Preview. With this tool, you can preview your podcast cover size on the top podcast apps your podcast can appear on. You can verify your podcast artwork size on different podcast apps.

So — compare your design to all the other podcasts out there, and see how your idea stacks up. This is the perfect tool to help you do it.

Adhere to Apple Podcast Cover Art Specifications

Apple Podcasts has specified technical requirements for Cover Art that you must meet to be accepted and they also include practices you could work around to help design your podcast .

Technical Specifications:

  • Size: square; minimum 1400 x 1400 pixels and maximum 3000 x 3000 pixels (preferred) Resolution: 72 dpi
  • File type: JPEG or PNG
  • Colorspace: RGB

Additional Requirements:

Artwork must be original and can't contain any of the following:

  • Blurry, misaligned, mismatched, or pixelated images
  • Explicit language
  • Placeholder images
  • References to illegal drugs, profanity, or violence

Tools and Resources

Use our own Podcasting Resources Guide (PRG) for additional research on cover art tools, designs and utilities.

In Conclusion

  • Be bold – don't be subtle.
  • Be curious and consultative – don't design in isolation.

The best designs "pop" and are noticeable, bright, graphic and somewhat minimalistic.

I was happy and honored to once again be invited to present at the PodFest Masterclass Summit — happening the same week as “International Podcast Day”. As a follow on, I am now holding several in-depth workshops on the same topic on October 13 and 15th. Workshop attendees also get access to my video course based on the material I presented at the summit.

Click here to learn about the workshops. Click here for the video course

Workshops: Irresistible Opt-Ins, List Building and Conversion Strategies For Podcasters

These workshops will covered how to design the best Opt-Ins and Lead Magnets to quickly get people on your email list!

What You Get To Fast Track Your Opt-In Creation

  • In our 90 minute workshop we first brainstorm your best lead magnet and Opt-In strategies
  • We provide you with a free Opt-In design & creation platform + templates
  • You use the platform to create your Opt-In — usually within hours
  • You get our video course called “Irresistible Opt-Ins, List Building and Conversion Strategies For Podcasters
  • We will suggest additional tools for Graphics, Funnel Design, Website Display & Landing Pages, Email Drip Series
  • Use our proven copy-writing formula for landing pages and social media posts
  • Share your creation with our “Podcast Marketing & SEO Growth Hacking” Facebook Group
  • Additional feedback and help

When Are The Workshops?

  • One-on-One Workshops are available all year, just select your preferred dates after checkout
  • Group Workshops are currently available for two October Workshop SessionsTuesday October 13th, 11:00am ET
    Friday October 16th, 3:00pm ET
    We will add more as needed if there is enough interest
  • Group Workshops limited to a maximum of 5 people to ensure plenty of one-on-one time

Video Course Content

This video course is for podcasters who want to rapidly grow their email lists. Today’s “Subscriber Landscape” challenges our assumptions about podcast email subscribers and list building. We explore how to create Irresistible Opt-Ins and lead magnets for your podcast. These strategies convert your anonymous listeners into known email subscribers. Growing your list is one of the most effective ways to increase engagement with your podcast audience. This course covers strategies to create, display and convert with Opt-Ins on your website for rapid email subscriber growth.

It's A Changing Podcast “Subscriber” Landscape

  • Do Email Lists Even Matter?
  • Podcasting “Funnel Design” Concepts
  • Design Thinking For Your Podcast

Creating An Irresistible Opt-In

  • What Makes An Opt-In Compelling?
  • Knowing Your Audience and Designing For Funnel Stages
  • What Are Some Opt-In Concepts and Types?
  • Some Tips For Starting Ugly

Opt-In Types

  • Common Formats
  • Lots of Examples

Positioning Your Opt-Ins

  • Common Approaches
  • Lots of Examples

Suggested Reading

  • Polymash’s “Upside Down Design” approach for podcast homepages that build your email list.

Guest Post by Milja Milenkovic, community manager at DesignAdvisor.Net: The colors you choose for your podcast cover art can greatly influence listeners’ first impressions and could even affect whether someone takes the all-important step and presses “play” in the first place. You might be thinking, ”Podcasts are audio, and the minimal visual aspect is not the main point at all so why bother with it?” The very fact that the visual element is so small means that you need to make it count!

Table of Contents

The Impact of Color

Color choices for podcast cover art can be a science
Color choices for podcast cover art can be a science

Human beings are such visually wired creatures that even the small bit of cover art on your podcast can set the tone for the listening experience. Various color choices can trigger a whole host of different emotions and convey different meanings to the observer. The impact on color is more significant than most people realize. In fact, Design Advisor claims that 62-90% of product assessment is based on color alone!

So let’s take a look at how you can enhance the impact of your podcast logo through the colors you use for your icon and podcast cover art, your podcast background and even your website.

Color Impact For Your Podcast Logo vs Podcast Background

Depending how your podcast logo is designed, podcast background color can be even more impactful and influential in setting the overall tone of your podcast artwork than the logo itself. This is because the background color of your podcast takes up more real estate than the logo itself. In general terms your logo versus the background will benefit from contrasting color choices, which make the design “pop” or stand out.

  • So our advice is to view the final design from a distance and judge the overall impact of the color combination.

Podcast Logo Design With Color In Mind

When you start the process of designing a logo or hiring someone to do it, the below sections should help you understand which colors will work for your podcast logo, and to create a design brief to satisfy Apple Podcast specifications as well as any other platforms.

  • A helpful resource is to use the free Adobe Kuler tool which lets you browse, preview and define your own color schemes and combinations. You can then pass these along your podcast logo designer.

Apple Podcast Podcast Icon Specifications

Wether you design your podcast cover art yourself or wether you hire someone, the Apple Podcast specifications are an important consideration. Apple recommends a resolution of a minimum of 1,400 x 1,400 pixels and a maximum of 3,000 x 3,000 pixels at 72 dpi (dots per inch). The files should be .jpg or .png formats. the color space should be RGB, and the color profile should be embedded in the .jpg file.

At Polymash we prefer top have the artwork created at 3,000 pixels, but we then downsize it to 1,400 px and .jpg format in order to reduce the podcast logo file size to somewhere below 250KB.

In the past we have had issues with 3,000 pixel .png cover art images being too big for some podcast platforms.

  • When you hire someone on Fiver or 99Designs or Upwork to design a podcast logo for you, be sure to clarify your expectations
  • You should ask for the “Apple Podcast Ready” files in both the above formats
  • But you should also request the original artwork in Adobe .ai (Illustrator) or .psd (Photoshop) format. This is so you can use your podcast logo design original artwork and concept in other formats, such as for page headers, Facebook / Twitter profiles and your website.

A Word About Licensing and 3rd Party Components

We also recommend ensuring that you will be the exclusive and full owner of the podcast cover art license.

  • So do not accept Creative Commons licensing, or icons and components you may not own outright being used on your podcast artwork.
  • You should own the copyright exclusively, including all elements used for your design. Ask your designers to include all licenses for icons or artwork that they used in the creation of your podcast logo.

What Kind of Message Does Each Color Convey?

In this section, we will break down the messages conveyed by each color and follow that with a few questions you should be asking yourself when deciding what colors will work best for your particular podcast. Color psychology can be a significant ally in web design as well not only in terms of aesthetics and mood but also when choosing the color of CTA buttons and other elements. To learn more about how the psychology of color can boost your website conversions, take a closer look at the infographic below.

Green: Growth and Health

Podcast pover art closeup photography of green leaf plant
Photographer: Hello I’m Nik | Source: Unsplash

This calm and peaceful color gives a sense of health and harmony, but also symbolizes nature and growth. Depending on the topic of your podcast or business, green could be a great cover color to attract your listeners. It’s a popular choice within the energy sectors as well as finance, household, technology and some subsections of the food industry.

Blue: True and Trustworthy

podcast cover art blue wall and shadow image
Photographer: MAURO BIGHIN | Source: Unsplash

There’s a reason why they say ‘true blue’ for something that is tried and tested. Blue is a tranquil color that is a worldwide favorite across the board. If you want to send a message of stability, reliability and trust, you can’t go wrong with blue. Remember, there is a myriad of different shades of blue available, so don’t be worried about not standing out.

Red: Bold and Passionate

podcast cover art person wearing red running shoe
Photographer: Martin Widenka | Source: Unsplash

There’s no denying that red stands out. That’s the reason it’s used for anything from clearance sale signs to stop signs. The sight of red has also been shown to increase people’s heart rates, and it is undoubtedly the color of emotion and passion. If the content of your podcast is bold and passionate, maybe red is the right color for your cover design.

Orange: Ambition and Confidence

orange fruit with orange background
Photographer: Holger Link | Source: Unsplash

Orange comes between red and yellow on the color wheel and is a warm and enthusiastic color. Orange gives a feeling of confidence and is said to stimulate the logical areas of the brain and also to encourage creativity. It is a favorite with kids and young people, as well as those who are young at heart.

Yellow: Bright and Sunny

podcast cover art headphones on yellow
Photographer: Malte Wingen | Source: Unsplash

This warm and cheerful color has a powerful effect, especially when set against a dark or contrasting background. Yellow stands out in the crowd and works well for the food industry, household and energy sectors. It is a symbol of joy, cheerfulness and optimism.

Purple: Rich and Regal

photo of ice cream
Photographer: Sharon McCutcheon | Source: Unsplash

The color of kings and queens, purple is indeed associated with royalty and wealth. It is a favorite in the beauty industry and for anti-aging products. Purple suggests eternal youth and wisdom, with a whiff of mysticism. Does the message of your podcast fit with this image? Then perhaps purple is the color for your cover!

Pink: Pretty and Positive

pink balloons
Photographer: Amy Shamblen | Source: Unsplash

As a lighter shade of red, pink is also a passionate color, but with a much softer touch. There are many different kinds of pink, from pastel salmon to bright fuschia. In color psychology, pink denotes compassion, nurturing and hope. The feelings which tend to be evoked by the color pink are usually positive, warm, comforting and calming.

Grey or Silver: Stylish and Sophisticated

The color silver as it applies to podcast cover art
Photographer: Robert Haverly | Source: Unsplash

Silver and its close cousin grey are very useful as neutral colors that bring balance and give that sleek accent, much like the proverbial silver lining. Silver and grey can be beautifully matched with just about any other color.

Black: Classic and Elegant

silver headphones on top of black surface
Photographer: Frank Septillion | Source: Unsplash

Black is in a class of its own. It speaks of luxury and elegance, as well as power, authority and strength. If you want a professional and timeless look to your podcast cover, you might want to choose a simple black and white design.

White: Pure and Perfect:

Photographer: Verne Ho | Source: Unsplash

White is such a versatile and useful color, whether you use it as a background for your podcast icon or as part of your icon. White gives a fresh feeling of cleanliness and perfection, and can also stimulate creativity.

Questions to Help You Choose Your Podcast Cover Art Colors

What is the topic of your podcasts?

What are your podcasts about? What is your message and what industry or sector do you identify with in terms of your product or service? Given the above basic messages associated with the different colors, which one most closely fits for you?

Who are your listeners?

Do you anticipate that most of your listeners will be men or women, wealthy or budget conscious, professionals or amateurs, younger or older folks? Bear your demographic in mind when making color choices as different groups of people tend to respond differently to colors.

Do you have a logo or brand color?

If you already have a logo or brand color, then you are more than halfway there. Let your listeners identify you immediately when they see your logo. Make sure that the format you use for your podcast logo and icon will look good on any platform you might choose to use.

What about color combinations?

Once you’ve identified what your main color should be, you may want to add an accent color or two. You could choose a shade or tone of the same color, or go for a different, complementary color. Try to limit yourself to no more than three colors to avoid an over-the-top appearance.

What kind of impression does the overall look leave?

With the limited space available for your podcast icon, you need to make sure that your overall look is not cluttered or messy. Keep it clean and simple with fonts and images that stand out, are easy to read and recognizable.

Now that you have some ideas and pointers about the power of color in visuals, it’s time to choose that icon art for your podcast! Let them be a fitting visual complement to your amazing audio content!

Infographic: 40 “Psychology of Color” Facts

Infographic: 40 "Psychology of Color" Facts

Today's episode is a little different. We are going to talk about the importance of building a great podcast home page, and the role it plays in promoting your podcast.

Podcast Homepage Design Patterns

Let me apologize in advance: Talking about podcast homepage design patterns is a mostly visual exercise. It you are listening and not able to see the video and the show notes, I'll try my best to verbally explain the page layout elements as we go through.

But the episode features a YouTube video where you can see the visual bits explained in detail, and I'd encourage you to watch it above.

What we are talking about is a highly converting podcast homepage design pattern called “The Upside Down Podcast Home Page” – optimized to create a guided experience for your site visitors, and to encourage them to subscribe to your podcast via email. The video covers 2 versions of this – a more complete version for established podcasts with multiple seasons or topics, and a simple version for new podcast sites with a narrow niche and a focused audience.

But first I want to outline the reasons behind focusing on email list building instead of on iTunes rank and "New and Noteworthy" presence. I get asked about this a lot, especially by "podcasting purists" and "old school" podcasters who are experienced and may already have a solid audience and following. For them, understandably, the primary goal is to serve listeners on iTunes.

Why Podcast Homepage Design Should Focus On Email List Building instead of iTunes Subscribers

The holy grail of podcasting is to get iTunes Subscribers, right? And to get into the "New and Noteworthy" charts, right? And so podcast homepage design should focus on getting visitors to your site to subscribe on iTunes, right?

Well, not from my point of view. For a number of reasons: The iTunes podcast ranking algorithm as well as the "New and Noteworthy" charts are seriously broken at the time of this writing. The top 200 podcasts are being gamed and exploited, and are full of entries who are paying thousands of dollars to overseas click farms for instant presence in the top charts. This is not just my opinion, but has been extensively covered in the podcast news beats. If you want to see a comprehensive video explaining how this is the case, and what the impact on the iTunes ecosystem is, just watch this video by Lime Link.

So why design your podcast website to get people to subscribe on iTunes, when you could be getting people to subscribe to your podcast via email notifications?

I would gladly trade 1,000 iTunes subscribers for 100 podcast email notification subscribers.

Email list building sounds like such a trite concept, but even today it is still one of the most valuable assets your business can build. The fact is that you can provide your audience with more valuable context, and you get to better position your episodes through the email notifications you send. Should you still encourage your listeners to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher? Of course, but it is better to do so after they have opted in via email.

The Inbound Philosophy of the "Upside Down Podcast Homepage" Design Pattern

"Conversion Optimization" is such a crass term. Sounds vaguely exploitative, like you are somehow tricking or taking advantage of your audience.

Let me try and debunk that.

The "Upside Down Podcast Homepage" design pattern is intended to better serve your audience.

It is meant to create a better experience for them. It is based on empathy with your audience. Your podcast homepage design should be intended to help your audience discover your best and most relevant content. Content that resonates the most with their own situation and listening goals, and is also what you are most proud of.

Creating a Guided Experience

And so, the intention is to create a guided experience for your visitors. This means hiding distractions, and reducing some of the options that some visitors may be accustomed to. For example, the presence of a comprehensive menu with lots of choices at the top of the page. Or buttons to jump off to iTunes and Stitcher where they can simply subscribe. From a UX perspective, you may think these make it easier for your visitors, when in fact they can create cognitive friction, overwhelm, and too many choices.

The idea is not to make it "harder" for your visitors to find these links, but to simply guide them on a journey to better understanding your topic, how your podcast addresses their own needs, and how best to stay connected with your content.

None of this can happen if you "make it easy" for your site visitors by placing a "Subscribe on iTunes" button on the top of your site. That just sends them straight to the iTunes store, where they will see a homogenized list of episodes with no context, no background story, no differentiation between one episode and the next.

The subscribe on iTunes links are still there, of course, but placed near the bottom of the page. This means as your visitors scroll through your podcast website, you have the chance to encourage them to discover your content and subscribe to your show via email.

And this is where "Pilot Stories" come in. But first, let's walk through the upside down podcast home page design one section at a time:

Again, apologies for the visual nature of this, but what follows will talk through a number of website design elements called "page sections". These are the building blocks of modern web design. They can be thought of as horizontal bands of grouped content. Most of us are familiar with websites that have a "Header" or "Above the Fold" or "Hero" page section. Well, there are other less prominent sections as well, and we'll talk through each one involved in the "Upside Down Podcast Homepage" pattern.

The "Above The Fold" Section

Above the fold is defined as

positioned in the upper half of a web page and visible without scrolling down the page.

The above the fold section is the first thing that creates an impression when we visit a site. It is often where we find a "Header" or "Hero Image". The top of the page should be dedicated to one thing: getting people to sign up to your podcast via email.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Above The Fold
The Upside Down Podcast Homepage Design Pattern – Above The Fold

Look Ma, No Menu: This is what makes it an “upside down” page. Menu links are moved to the footer instead. If you must have menu items, limit them to 3-5.

Showing Face: Showing a face above the fold increases conversions, trust, engagement

Call To Action: Deliver a solid call to action above the fold, but make sure this is NOT an iTunes button.

Social Proof Section

The social proof band establishes you're not a weirdo, and if possible outlines your best reviews, or that your podcast was in the top 100, or that you've been featured elsewhere, including on TV, or even if you've appeared on other podcast shows. It is often implemented as a set of light grey logos where you might have been featured, or can include testimonials from your guests. The design reason for "greyed out" logos are that they are a more humble brag, and less likely to visually compete with the design of your site.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Social Proof Section
The Upside Down Podcast Homepage Design Pattern – Social Proof Section

In our video, notice the design treatment for this section.

The Roadmap Section

The roadmap section provides an multiple choice on-ramp to let your site visitors self-select their journey through your content. It is most often designed as a section with a set of columns or content boxes with an icon, a headline, short description and a button to find out more.

It provides an "at a glance" overview of your podcast's content, while at the same time encouraging your visitors to select what they are most interested in. Clicking on your road map section represents a sort of "micro-commitment" to further engage with your content.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Roadmap Section
The Upside Down Podcast Homepage Design Pattern – Roadmap Section

A good example of a roadmap would be for guiding your site visitors through multiple seasons of your podcast. Each season would have a title, a description, and a button to find out more about it. A click on each button triggers a smooth scroll down the page to a pilot story section, which further explains the season and offers some of its best content. This sort of self selective exploration of your content allows your visitors to find what they want as well as stay on your site.

SEO Tip: For extra credit, implement a WordPress plugin called "Reduce Bounce Rate", which communicates with Google Analytics and records scroll movements. In our tests we have observed improvement in bounce rate from the 80s to the 30s.

The Role of Pilot Stories in Podcast Homepage Design

As covered in our video, there are multiple ways in which pilot stories function within your podcast homepage design to highlight your very best best content.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Pilot Story Section
The Upside Down Podcast Homepage Design Pattern – Pilot Story Section

If you have a single and focused niche you may only need a single pilot story. But if your podcast homepage design is intended to offer multiple categories of content, or multiple seasons, then you can add "Pilot Story" sections for each.

For listeners unable to see the illustrations in our show notes, the pilot story section features not only the headline and compelling description, but also a mini grid of your best episodes on the related topic. Our own design approach is to split this page section vertically, with the pilot story on one side, and a mini episode grid on the other side.

This allows you to highlight your best content, instead of hiding it deep inside your site. Use Google analytics to identify the best and most popular episodes from the past, and then feature them here.

Pilot Story Section For Seasons

For people with seasonal shows, these sections can tell the story of each season.

  • Having a section for each season provides you with a chance to outline the value proposition of listening to each season.
  • It also lets you highlight the best and most popular episodes, and allows people to jump to the show notes pages for each episode that resonates with them.

Pilot Story Section For Topic Categories

Another way to position the pilot story sections is to categorize your content. Does your podcast offer advice, or tips? If so, chances are that your episodes fall into multiple categories of advice and tips.

  • You can develop a "Pilot Story" for each category, and highlight the best episodes for each.

Your Pilot Story's Call To Action

One thing all pilot stories have in common is that they offer you the chance to highlight your best content. And it also provides you with the opportunity to offer your audience a call to action. What is it you want them to do?

Don't miss any new episodes…

The simplest way to implement this is to simply offer a way to subscribe to email notifications as a way to stay connected with your show.

A more advanced call to action provides additional incentives to your audience.

For an example of this, see season 2 of the Positivity Strategist Podcast.

Podcast Website Design Example of a Call To Action
Podcast Website Design Example of a Season And Call To Action

This podcast season talks about "Seven new literacies for living and leading in our times", and the gift being offered for people to subscribe to the show is a "7 Literacies Guide" to go along with listening to the season.

Associating your podcast homepage with strong calls to action also allows for utilizing paid ads and post boosts on Facebook and other platforms. And, make sure your podcast episode files use Facebook correctly and link to your show notes pages rather than to iTunes.

Podcast Subscription Links Section

Finally, here is the section about how to subscribe on iTunes or other podcast directories. This appears right at the top of the podcast home page in too many podcast homepage designs.

The reason for placing this further down is this: By the time that people scroll to this section, your pilot stories have had ample time to communicate the benefits of signing up via email.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - iTunes Links Section
The Upside Down Podcast Homepage Design Pattern – iTunes Links Section

Minor tip: If you use the icons and graphics provided by each podcast platform, consider adding text explanations under each graphic. Your readers might not recognize each graphic.

The Episode Grid Section

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Episode Grid
The Upside Down Podcast Homepage Design Pattern – Episode Grid

Like the iTunes links, your complete episode grid is purposefully moved towards the bottom of the page layout, so people are likely more likely to scroll and discover the highlighted episodes in the “Pilot Story” sections above.

The Navigation Footer

This is what makes this home page “upside-down.”

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Episode Grid
The Upside Down Podcast Homepage Design Pattern – Episode Grid

Most websites have their navigation at the very top of the page, but moving it to the bottom of the page, we have increased focus and conversions.

Conclusion and Examples

We use this design pattern on a number of pages ourselves. And this design pattern is obviously not limited to podcasting websites and homepages. Here are some examples we built for a clients in different industries:

Additional Downloadable Resources

If you are interested in a downloadable PDF version of this design pattern as featured and covered in the video with all the annotations and explanations, please click here to sign up for our podcasting resources guide, which features a PDF version of the entire design pattern with lots of implementation notes.

WordPress Ready Made Podcast Home Page Download

Also, I am creating a "Done For You" version of this design pattern, ready to install on any WordPress site, let me know if that is something you would want in the comments.

This video walk through outlines a highly converting podcast website design pattern called “The Upside Down Podcast Home Page” – optimized to create a guided experience for your site visitors, and to encourage them to subscribe to your podcast via email. The video covers 2 versions of this – a more complete version for established podcasts with multiple seasons or topics, and a simple version for new podcast sites with a narrow niche and focused audience.

A video walk-through tour of the "Upside Down Podcast Home Page" design pattern

In this post I want to outline the reasons behind focusing on email list building instead of obsessing about iTunes rank and "New and Noteworthy".

Why Podcast Website Design Should Focus On Email List Building instead of iTunes Subscribers

The holy grail of podcasting is to get iTunes Subscribers, right? And to get into the "New and Noteworthy" charts, right? And so podcast website design should focus on getting visitors to your site to subscribe on iTunes, right?

Wrong, in my opinion. The iTunes podcast ranking algorithm as well as the "New and Noteworthy" charts are seriously broken at the time of this writing. The top 200 podcasts are being gamed and exploited, and are full of entries who are paying thousands of dollars to overseas click farms for instant presence in the top charts. This is not just my opinion, but has been extensively covered in the podcast news beats. If you want to see a comprehensive video explaining how this is the case, and what the impact on the iTunes ecosystem is, just watch this video by Lime Link.

So why design your podcast website to get people to subscribe on iTunes, when you could be getting people to subscribe to your podcast via email notifications?

I would gladly trade 1,000 iTunes subscribers for 100 podcast email notification subscribers.

Email list building sounds like such a trite concept, but even today it is still one of the most valuable assets your business can build. The fact is that you can provide your audience with more valuable context, and you get to better position your episodes through the email notifications you send. Should you still encourage your listeners to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher? Of course, but it is better to do so after they have opted in via email.

The Inbound Philosophy of the "Upside Down Podcast Home Page" Design Pattern

"Conversion Optimization" is such a crass term. Sounds vaguely exploitative, like you are somehow tricking or taking advantage of your audience.

Let me try and debunk that.

The "Upside Down Podcast Homepage" design pattern is intended to better serve your audience.

It is meant to create a better experience for them. It is based on empathy with your audience. Your podcast website design should be intended for your audience to discover your best and most relevant content. Content that resonates the most with their own situation and listening goals, and also is what you are most proud of.

Creating a Guided Experience

And so, the intention is to create a guided experience for your visitors. This means hiding distractions, and reducing some of the options that some visitors may be accustomed to. For example, the presence of a comprehensive menu with lots of choices at the top of the page. Or buttons to jump off to iTunes and Stitcher where they can simply subscribe. From a UX perspective, you may think these make it easier for your visitors, when in fact they can create cognitive friction, overwhelm, and too many choices.

The idea is not to make it "harder" for your visitors to find these links, but to simply guide them on a journey to better understanding your topic, how your podcast addresses their own needs, and how best to stay connected with your content.

None of this can happen if you "make it easy" for your site visitors by placing a "Subscribe on iTunes" button on the top of your site. That just sends them straight to the iTunes store, where they will see a homogenized list of episodes with no context, no background story, no differentiation between one episode and the next.

The subscribe on iTunes links are still there, of course, but placed near the bottom of the page. This means as your visitors scroll through your podcast website, you have the chance to encourage them to discover your content and subscribe to your show via email.

And this is where "Pilot Stories" come in. But first, let's walk through the upside down podcast website design one section at a time:

Above The Fold

The top of the page is dedicated to one thing: getting people to sign up to your podcast via email.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Above The Fold
The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern – Above The Fold

Look Ma, No Menu: This is what makes it an “upside down” page. Menu links are moved to the footer instead. If you must have menu items, limit them to 3-5.

Showing Face: Showing a face above the fold increases conversions, trust, engagement

Call To Action: Deliver a solid call to action above the fold, but make sure this is NOT an iTunes button.

Social Proof

The social proof band establishes you're not a weirdo, and if possible outlines your best reviews, or that your podcast was in the top 100, or that you've been featured elsewhere, including on TV, or even if you've appeared on other podcast shows.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Social Proof Section
The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern – Social Proof Section

In our video, notice the design treatment for this section.

Roadmap

The roadmap section provides an on-ramp to let your site visitors self-select their journey through your content.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Roadmap Section
The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern – Roadmap Section

This could be navigating through multiple seasons or categories. Each segment or column on the road map smooth scrolls to a pilot story section further down the page. This allows your visitors to stay on your site.

SEO Tip: For extra credit, implement a WordPress plugin called "Reduce Bounce Rate", which communicates with Google Analytics and records scroll movements. In our tests we have observed improvement in bounce rate from the 80s to the 30s.

The Role of Pilot Stories in Podcast Website Design

As covered in our video, there are multiple ways in which pilot stories function within your podcast website design to highlight your very best best content.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Pilot Story Section
The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern – Pilot Story Section

If you have a single and focused niche you may only need a single pilot story. But if your podcast website design is intended to offer multiple categories of content, or multiple seasons, then you can add "Pilot Story" sections for each.

Pilot Story Section For Seasons

For people with seasonal shows, these sections can tell the story of each season.

  • Having a section for each season provides you with a chance to outline the value proposition of listening to each season.
  • It also lets you highlight the best and most popular episodes, and allows people to jump to the show notes pages for each episode that resonates with them.

Pilot Story Section For Topic Categories

Another way to position the pilot story sections is to categorize your content. Does your podcast offer advice, or tips? If so, chances are that your episodes fall into multiple categories of advice and tips. You can develop a "Pilot Story" for each category, and highlight the best episodes for each.

Your Pilot Story's Call To Action

One thing all pilot stories have in common is that they offer you the chance to highlight your best content. And it also provides you with the opportunity to offer your audience a call to action. What is it you want them to do?

Don't miss any new episodes…

The simplest way to implement this is to simply offer a way to subscribe to email notifications as a way to stay connected with your show.

A more advanced call to action provides additional incentives to your audience.

For an example of this, see season 2 of the Positivity Strategist Podcast.

Podcast Website Design Example of a Call To Action
Podcast Website Design Example of a Season And Call To Action

This podcast season talks about "Seven new literacies for living and leading in our times", and the gift being offered for people to subscribe to the show is a "7 Literacies Guide" to go along with listening to the season.

Associating your podcast homepage with strong calls to action also allows for utilizing paid ads and post boosts on Facebook and other platforms. And, make sure your podcast episode files use Facebook correctly and link to your show notes pages rather than to iTunes.

Podcast Subscription Links Section

Finally, here is the section that unfortunately appears right at the top of the podcast home page in too many podcast website designs. By the time that people scroll to this section, your pilot stories have had ample time to communicate the benefits of signing up via email as well.

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - iTunes Links Section
The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern – iTunes Links Section

If you use the icons and graphics provided by each platform, consider adding text explanations under each graphic. Your readers might not recognize each graphic.

The Episode Grid

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Episode Grid
The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern – Episode Grid

Like the iTunes links, your complete episode grid is purposefully moved towards the bottom of the page layout, so people are likely more likely to scroll and discover the highlighted episodes in the “Pilot Story” sections above.

The Navigation Footer

This is what makes this home page “upside-down.”

The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern - Episode Grid
The Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern – Episode Grid

Most websites have their navigation at the very top of the page, but moving it to the bottom of the page, we have increased focus and conversions.

Conclusion and Examples

We use this design pattern on a number of pages ourselves. And this design pattern is obviously not limited to podcasting websites and homepages. Here are some examples we built for a clients in different industries:

Additional Resources

Also, if you are interested in a downloadable PDF version of this design pattern as featured and covered in the video with all the annotations and explanations, please sign up for our Podcasting Resources Guide above.

WordPress Ready Made Podcast Home Page Download

And I am creating a "Done For You" version of this design pattern using the Thrive Architect content builder, which means this will be a "ready to install" customizable page template on any WordPress site, let me know if that is something you would want in the comments.

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