Understanding Web Design Principles

As many times as we are told not to judge a book by its cover, we still constantly make snap judgments based on how things look.  We want to eat food when it looks tasty, and we want to talk people who are good looking.

The same basic concept is also true of how we perceive websites.  There are certain things that people generally respond well to and certain things that turn off customers.  If you are running a web-based business it’s important to understand these basic concepts when thinking about designing your site.

Keep it simple. Keep it usable.

You want to make sure that when visitors arrive at your website, they don’t have to spend even a second trying to figure out the basics.  This means that everything should be where it’s expected to be – don’t try to reinvent the wheel.  Search boxes are usually in the upper right corner, so people will expect your search box to also be in the upper right corner.  Make buttons big and clickable, label links clearly, and use drilldown menus to make navigation easier.

Master the design triangle.

The design triangle is the term web developers use to refer to the area that naturally first draws the user’s eye on a website.  Eyes will go first to the upper left corner, then to the lower left, and then to the upper right.  This is, therefore, where smart developers put their most important content.  It also has a flip side: the information that is least important to convey should be placed in the lower right corner because it will attract the least attention.

Use “chunking.”

Chunking is the term used to describe the method of making things in groups of five to seven.  No menu should have less than five options.  No web page should have more than seven basic elements.  This is based on the ability of a normal person to retain only five to seven things at a time in his/her mind.  It also forces designers to categorize more, making the site more usable.  It’s a win-win!

Space effectively.

When we see two things placed next to each other, we assume they are related.  If we see the same two things but they are far apart, we may not think to connect them at all.  Keep this in mind when designing your site.  For example, group social media buttons next to each other to encourage the person that hits one to hit all of them.  But don’t put the “contact us” button in the same vicinity unless you want a full inbox.

Use typography wisely.

It’s easy to go overboard when thinking about what font to use.  There are a ton of creative, free, but hard to read fonts out there.  Steer clear of anything that isn’t readable.  If you can’t read it easily, don’t use it.  And of course, make sure you use contrasting colors when writing.  Black on white or white on black are both popular choices because they’re good and easy to read.

Leave plenty of white space.

A web page with too much content is overwhelming for visitors.  Spread the goods over several pages.

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Jake Downs is a freelance writer who contributes writing to Cushing, a printing company in Chicago that specializes in digital printing Chicago. He has been interested in both modern and traditional printing processes since studying English Literature and Journalism in college.

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