Business cards come in all shapes and sizes. They are a physical medium for sharing contact information, and they are at times an exquisite work of art. When designing business card templates there are a number of factors that should be considered. Two key factors are human and machine (OCR) readability of your cards. We live in a day and age where card readers and scanners are a norm, in fact many have one on their phone.
At FullContact, our Card Reader business card transcription app processes thousands of business cards each day. Card Reader is unique in that actual humans transcribe the business card, which drastically improves the accuracy of transcription over OCR.
Because we use humans for transcription, we have to pay particular attention to monitoring accuracy and dealing with things that cause business cards to be difficult to interpret. Based on our experience, below are 10 items to be aware of when designing your next business card. These suggestions all stem from very common design issues we see with business card templates that make them very difficult to read or accurately understand.
1. Font Choice
Pick a single font, and go with it. Try to avoid fonts that look like handwriting as they are much more difficult to read when compared to standard typeset fonts.
2. Font Size
Not too big, not too small. Even if you think it looks good.
Whitespace is a good thing. Don’t feel the need to fill every inch of the card with information. Some people are so afraid of not filling up space that I’ve seen cards where the email address is written across the width of the bottom of the card, like:
A good rule of thumb: Don’t make me stop and think to read your email address. Just let me read it.
Additionally, cramming every detail about what your company does, the certifications your company has, etc., doesn’t help in making your business card template one that people will be able to look at and quickly discern the information they need.
Colors can greatly affect the readability of any printed item – so limit your color palette when designing your card.
Most importantly, ensure that the text color contrasts with the color of the card. Please no light blue on dark blue or blue on red.
5. Group Data Types Together
There are some very common patterns in business card design, and I would suggest that you not reinvent the wheel on this one. When reading a business card it’s very hard to identify key data elements when the name is in one corner, the job title is in a different corner, the email in the third corner and phone in the fourth corner.
Keep your card information in the standard order of:
…and your card will be 100 times easier to understand.
6. Remove Ambiguity
If you’re going to list more than one phone number on the card, give them labels to ensure that there is a way to determine if the additional phone numbers are office, main, mobile, or fax numbers. If you list more than one address, identify the address types (such as physical address or mailing address). If you do international business, add the country code to your phone numbers as well as the country to your address.
If you’re giving someone your business card, you want people to contact you – so make it easy for them to do so.
7. Social Network Icons Aren’t Clickable
Seriously, I laugh every time I see a business card with a LinkedIn or Facebook icon on it without an accompanying URL. (And yes, I see it more often than you would expect.) Always include the social network URL! If you include the icon, place the URL near the icon so that people know how to find you.
8. Use a LinkedIn Custom Public URL
- If you place your LinkedIn profile on your card, get a customized public profile URL. They are shorter and easier to read as they aren’t made up of a series of random letters and numbers.
- Don’t just go to your LinkedIn profile and copy and paste the URL. Find the public URL and utilize it. For example, when I’m logged in to LinkedIn and go to my profile I see a URL of: www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=3075470&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile. However, down in my profile I see the public URL which is www.linkedin.com/in/travistodd. Public URL’s will typically look like linkedin.com/pub/something or linkedin.com/in/something. Failure to place the proper URL on your business card will limit who can see your profile.
9. Unusual Shapes and Sizes
Unfortunately, business cards come in all shapes and sizes. Stick to the standard shape and size for your country. There is some slight variation in business card dimensions based on country, in the United States and Canada the standard business card dimension is 3.5″ by 2″. We have seen cards made of concrete, etched metal, and a variety of other mediums. I suggest use of a standard form of card stock cut to the appropriate dimensions.
10. Company Logo
Unless you work for a Fortune 100 company, it’s likely that your corporate logo isn’t recognizable to most people. So don’t assume that I can look at your logo and depict your company’s name. In some cases I can – but in many cases it’s not obvious. Usually I would suggest putting your company name just above the address so as to remove any doubt as to what the company name is.
While there are a handful of other design mistakes commonly made in business card templates, these are some of the more common issues we see that are easily correctable. If you stick to some of these guidelines you will likely see a reduction in the number of cards that you hand out that simply end up in a pile without being input into an address book or CRM system.