Properly Decorating Your Website for the Holidays

Posted / 05 December, 2017

Author / Enginess

christmas decorations

What’s the protocol on decorating your website for the holidays? This is the definitive guide on when (or when not to) decorate your site when the festive spirit strikes.

With the festive season well underway, we’re seeing holiday decorations everywhere – Starbucks launched its annual holiday cup, app companies are changing their logos to reflect the time of year, windows are getting covered in fake snow…

But what about websites and apps? What’s the protocol on site decoration around the holidays? This is the definitive guide on when (or when not to) decorate your site and app when the festive spirit strikes.

Why decorate?

First and foremost, you do it because it’s fun. Holiday cheer, good office vibes, a positive and thematic website experience – however you want to phrase it, decorations are fun.

The other side of this is that, if done correctly, it might very well drive engagement and conversions. Unfortunately, there are not the usual dozen-or-so studies from the likes of QuickSprout on how decorating your website might affect conversion rate, so we had to get a little creative in our objective analysis.

Looking at the Google Play Store as an example, where app icon theming is a regular occurrence, we’d say that there’s probably no negative impact on your site of a little festive cheer. For example, in past years Doodle Jump updated their logo, but we doubt that their download numbers suffered as a result. However, do tread cautiously – who knows what customers are going to do.

doodle jump holiday

What to do when you’re decorating

DO update your social media profile

Updating your social media pages by changing your profile picture, logo, or cover image to be more festive is an easy way to remind customers that they’re doing business with an actual person. Target, for example, changed its profile picture to reflect the season without sacrificing brand recognition.

target holiday logo

Another example is Starbucks, which kept its profile picture the same but changed its Facebook cover image to something more appropriate.

starbucks holiday Facebook cover photo

DO apply a holiday theme to the images on your site

running free holiday

Carousels, sales features, background images or videos – these are all areas where a little holiday fun goes a long way. Since it’s mostly non-critical, there’s no need to test exhaustively before rolling out the changes – and it’s an easy way to remind people of the time of year (especially you, ecommerce sites!)

It doesn’t have to be an overhaul, but any subtle change you can make to make your site feel a little more Christmas-y is a good thing.

John Lewis, a department store in the UK, opted for a subtle holiday theme and copy in their homepage carousel. These are some of the easiest and quickest assets to change, so are definitely worth looking into.

john lewis christmas carousel

Another option is to go graphical and small on your homepage and redirect to either a sale page or a more festive microsite or dedicated landing page.

Ebay, for example, only has small holiday icon on their homepage, signposting to where visitors can learn more. If the holidays aren’t a big part of your business, something subtle like this might be the best option.


DO tweak your logo

youtube holiday logo

No so much so that it’s unrecognizable, just enough so that it feels festive. Adding a hat, a snow effect, red and green streamers – whatever works for you. For example, YouTube’s revised holiday logo above, or TradeMe, the New Zealand version of eBay, updated their kiwi logo for a festive feel below.

trade me

Especially if you’re an e-commerce site running holiday sales, a small logo tweak is just an extra indicator for users what season it is (which is good for you).

DO change error pages

It’s a tiny change but one that’s sure to brighten the frustrated user’s day. If you don’t know how, or your CMS doesn’t let you, ask your development team – we’re sure that they won’t mind altering your 404 copy and/or images.

DO produce holiday-themed copy

Like this blog post! Not strictly a decoration per se, holiday copy in a blog or an email campaign gives you ample opportunity to remind people what time of year it is. Plus, it’s fun to produce and consume. Other great ideas for holiday-themed content include:

  • Gift guides
  • Product guides (e.g. ‘best cameras to give this season’)
  • Winter weather posts (especially if you’re Canadian, like us)
  • Holiday party posts
  • Thankful posts (e.g. ‘Who We’re Thankful For (and why!)’ Especially good for startups)

These are just some ideas, but no doubt you and your team can come up with lots more.

DO decorate your email marketing

Around the holidays, it becomes second nature to say happy holidays to people. The same should apply to your email marketing. These really come in two flavours:
  1. Sales emails, pushing a holiday special
  2. Non-sales emails, as part of a broader email marketing strategy

Regardless of which one you’re sending, you should try and incorporate some holiday cheer into your communications.

If you’re going down the sales route, one strategy is to incorporate GIFs into your email. The simple movement will help you stand out from the inbox onslaught, which is key given that virtually everyone steps up their email frequency in November and December.

ModCloth did this effectively in the past, using a GIF to draw attention to the time sensitivity of the sale as well as the season:

Modcloth holiday gif

If the holiday sales are not a part of your business, then take the opportunity to be personable. Hubspot profiled an email sent by Hinge last year which really encapsulates what you should be aiming for:

hinge holiday email Link to full email

Fun and still related to their core service, the email is festive, but not to the exclusion of all other messaging. That’s what makes it a great email. Also, it’s pretty funny.

In the same vein as Hinge, Franke Fenner Meat Merchants, a butcher in Cape Town, sent out the below emails:

capetown butcher holiday email Link to full email

It’s holiday themed, but does a much better job than most of hanging on to what people want to read: useful, relevant stuff.

What to avoid

DON’T use any iconography that looks at home in clip art

For some reason, there are literally millions of beautiful icons for the other 11 months of year. But when it comes to the holidays, a lot of icons revert right back to the early 2000’s. We don’t know why this happens. Maybe it’s too much ‘nog. Maybe by the time December rolls around, icon designers are just burned out.

But what we do know is that if you want your site to look great but with a festive spin, you need to avoid the clip art motif.

holiday flat icons

Luckily, we’re here to help. Here are 5 awesome sites for great holiday iconography:

hubspot holiday images

A few other free resources you might want to check out are:

⇨ Looking for more icon resources? Check out our partner site, Digital Design Standards..

DON’T change any essential user flows

This is the biggest season for a lot of companies. Don’t mess with your key flows. Things like check out processes, cart icons, general IA or categories – the bones of your website should remain the same.

DON’T change anything involving money

Whenever money is involved, people (understandably) like to know what’s going on. The best thing you can do on your payment screen is keep it exactly the same.

Wrap up

Get it? Wrap up? Classic holiday pun.

There are lots of ways you can get you site looking tip-top for the holidays. Whether it’s a tweak to your logo, or taking advantage of free stock images, you can imbue your site with plenty of festive spirit. Just make sure that you don’t get carried away and cover up the functionality, like key user flow and payment processes.

Now if you’ll excuse us, we have some holiday shopping to do.

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