Rules of Web Design
Design is a multi-dimensional discipline that extends across art, technology, fashion, architecture, product development and several other fields. Beautiful and creative design can make a product, a marketing material, a website or even an office space more impressive and memorable. People nowadays are bombarded with a great deal of information with little time to spare and could be easily discouraged if the presentation of the information is not appealing or enticing. Recent studies states that average web surfers make up their minds on whether to stay on a website in less than 5 seconds after visiting the site. A good website should have both great design and great content.
Capturing the attention of a particular audience could be done more effectively with beautiful design and layout. On the Web the saying goes “content is king” but producing quality content and information while concurrently neglecting its visual beauty and aesthetics most times results in low acceptance and impact on the targeted audience. Beautiful landscapes and impressive panorama stand out and also invoke an aesthetic appreciation of nature in us, likewise impressive architectural, product and website design could make us experience the same feeling. The process of design involves seeking to generate various possible solutions, utilizing different techniques and thinking outside the box in the production of creative solutions. It is important to remember that good web design isn’t just about a beautiful treatment alone, but it should also perform at a high speed.
Here are some of the basic rules to make sure your site’s visitors get enticed, bookmark your site and most importantly return to your site.
Know your audience
It is important to first identify your audience before commencing on a design project or any other project. Knowing the identity of your target audience is absolutely necessary in order to know how to pass your message effectively to them and hopefully engage them on your website. Knowing your audience will not only help in the presentation of the information but also in creating quality content for them. By spending time thinking about the nature, demography and characteristics of your audience, subsequent design thinking time will be better focused and meaningful. Getting to know your audience might require a research which can either be quantitative, with hard statistical numbers about the size and composition of target user groups, or qualitative, with information about what that user group buys or consumes and what their lifestyle is like depending on the website’s functionality. If this is a client’s project and you have to execute a comprehensive research, feel free to include it in your quotation.
Use a clear and simple design
Simple is better. A beautiful design relies heavily on understanding the spatial relationships that exist between the different individual components of the design. Common components include logo which represents identity, navigation which should be easy to find and use, content which is what your site visitors are looking for, whitespace which refers to any empty area of a page, and finally the footer which usually contains copyright, contact, and as well as a few links to the main sections of the site. The logo and navigation are usually placed at the top of the website and should placed on every page of the website for better navigation. Whitespace helps a design to “breathe” by guiding the user’s eye around a page, but also helps to create balance and unity. Your visitors should be able to find the information they are looking for in your site with three clicks else they are likely to click off your site as rapidly as they clicked on it.
Effective color selection
Selecting colors is no simple matter. Whether you’re painting a house, or you’re trying to design an attractive website, if you choose the wrong color, you could be headed for a disaster. With most modern displays having the ability to render more than 16 million colors, color combinations should be selected carefully to avoid the infinite number of horrible color combinations waiting to happen. It is important to note that different color choices generate different psychological responses. Ecommerce web site owners want to know which color will make their web site visitors spend more money. There is a field of psychology known as color psychology which is devoted to analyzing the emotional and behavioral effects produced by colors and color combinations. While selecting color, it is important to know whether you need warm or cool colors. Warm colors are the colors from red to yellow, including orange, pink, brown, and burgundy. Because of their association with the sun and fire, warm colors represent both heat and motion. When placed near a cool color, a warm color will tend to pop out, dominate, and produce the visual emphasis. Cool colors are the colors from green to blue, and can include some shades of violet. Cool colors can calm people down and reduce tension. In a design, cool colors tend to recede, making them great for backgrounds and larger elements on a page, since they won’t overpower your content.
Choose images thoughtfully
Images have the ability to convey and communicate an idea or a lot of information very quickly and effectively, this explains why images are such a prominent part of web design. As the popular saying “a picture paints a thousand words”, therefore images should be carefully presented. It is very important to avoid stretching of images so as to avoid distorting the quality of the images. Images can have various cultural, social and even religious interpretations so it is important to know the contexts within which they are used. The right images carrying the necessary messages are capable of capturing a visitor’s attention, informing him/her about vital things or events and persuade him to act and get engaged on the site. Meanwhile wrong images can create a disaster by confusing, annoying and even repelling your website visitors.
Use beautiful typography
Typography is the medium through which the content is presented to the end user and therefore has an overall effect on the personality of the site. Typography could be useful as a channel through which you can transform a simple text into an expressive image and thereby improving communication. Good typography makes a design more appealing, enticing and could be a cornerstone to a successful web design. Even the combination of different font types could produce an artistic flair, but be careful not to confuse your users by using too many fonts in a project except it is absolutely necessary. Like in color selection, choosing which typeface to use might be an important decision, but how to mix them effectively is even more critical. Also note that line spacing, (which is the spacing of the lines of your text) could spice up a good scheme of typography.
Design for different screen sizes
Unlike some decades ago when majority of Internet users accessed the Internet through their PC, web designers were only bothered about large desktop displays. This has however changed due to the recent advances in mobile computing, with users now turning to their hand held devices to browse the web and have access to information on the go. With this convenience for users comes the challenge of optimizing websites for different screen sizes and devices ranging from smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices out there. It could be quite a challenge to design a website to look the same in every browser, platform and screen resolution, but the efforts invested will pay off later in the long run. It could be advisable to make sure you optimize for 1024×768 first, which is the most widely used screen size. However a new website building technique called Responsive Website Design (RWD) has emerged. This technique permits you to create a website that responds and adjusts in size to the different viewports of hand held devices and smaller screens that people use.
Make your forms easily to use
Web forms are also essential to websites because they stand in the way of user needs (a customer online order system for example) and they can improve the overall functionality and usability. It has been researched that most people dislike filling in forms, therefore web designers need to care enough of about good form design. On the Web today, forms are the keystone of ecommerce, social interaction sites, most productivity-based applications and other various web applications. This is one of the reasons why form design matters. While designing forms it is important to think about the user whose interest lies on the other side of the form, therefore it is important to minimize the pain of forms especially registration forms. In a situation when you have a long form, feel free to segment them into logical parts to avoid losing the interest of your site users.