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13 Oct / 2008

Principles Of Quality Web Design – ( Part II )

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The word anatomy automatically pre-supposes the idea of balance. The seesaw operates on the principle of physical balance. Similarly, we can extend this concept to layout design. A layout is said to be balanced when the elements on both of its sides are said to have equal weight. Balance can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. When the elements on either side of the axis line are the same the layout is said to be symmetrically balanced. This kind of symmetry can be used in website layouts by centering content or balancing it between columns. Other forms of formal symmetry are bilateral symmetry which exists when a composition is balanced on more than one axis and radial symmetry which occurs when elements are equally spaced around a central point.

Asymmetrical balance, on the other hand ranks high in popularity and is used much more widely for website design. An example of an asymmetrical website would be most websites which are built around two columns where the larger column is usually very light in color and serves as good contrast for the text and the main content. The smaller column is darker, has a border and stands out to create a balance in the layout.

Unity is one of the important factors to be considered in good website design. The whole is greater than its parts – that in a nutshell sums up the concept of unity. The elements in an unified design will vibe and interact with one another. They are not identifiable as separate pieces but rather act as a whole. Proximity and repetition are popular approaches to achieve unity within a layout. Objects, when placed together will create a focal point that will attract the eye. A pride of lions create a strong visual impact rather than a lone lion roaming the savannah. Similarly, repetition of colors, shapes, textures or similar objects create a visual synergy and cohesiveness that holds the viewer’s attention. Similarly, unity in text can be created by a bulleted list where the bullet that precedes each item in the list is a visual indicator that the bulleted items constitute only parts of a whole. Also, the direct center of a composition is the point at which users will look first and this is always the strongest location for laying emphasis. An element which lies far away from the center has the least chance of being noticed first.

Other important features to be kept in mind when designing a good website are Continuance, Isolation, Contrast and Proportion. When the eye starts moving in one direction it tends to continue along that path until a more dominant feature comes along. Continuance is often used to unify a layout where different elements on a web page form a vertical line down the left side of a page before any styling is applied. Isolation will make an element stand out from its surroundings and thereby command attention.

Defined as the juxtaposition of dissimilar graphic elements contrast is commonly used to create emphasis within a layout. The greater the contrast between a graphic element and its surroundings the greater it will stand out. Differences in color, size, shape and texture can go a long way in creating contrast. A good website can also make eye-catching use of proportion. Proportion has everything to do with the scale of objects. If we place an object in an environment that is of larger or smaller scale than the object itself, that object will appear larger or smaller than it does in real life. This difference in proportion will draw the customer’s attention as the object will seem out of place in that context.

Finally a word about screen resolution. A debate rages as to whether sites should be designed in such a way that people using a monitor resolution of 800 x 600 pixels can see the entire width of the content area when their browsers are in full-screen mode. We need to remember that the most important factor in web design is the end user. If the end user is the computer savvy web professional and people who are well-versed with the latest computer equipment and high resolutions, it maybe rational to stretch the design envelope to create designs wider than 800 pixels. The objective however is to prevent users from having to scroll from left to right in order to read content.

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