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26 Sep / 2008

Principles Of Quality Web Design

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A fine balance of aesthetics and functionality – that’s what a good website should have. Yes it should be both informative and visually interesting – to hold the surfer’s attention. In order to be able to hold a customer it becomes important to maximize both beauty and brains.

Web design is essentially communicative in nature and must put across clearly the seller’s message – a beautiful website that does not speak for its products or services is not usable and therefore not functional in the long run. In fact a good website is a single cohesive unit which combines its visual elements and functionality into a comprehensive whole.

A website should attract both by content and design – the design should complement the content and act as the bridge between the user and the information. Graphics, colorful or otherwise should lead the eye back to the information without hampering the readability or the organization of the page.

The website design should also facilitate easy navigation with the main navigation block being placed in a way that makes it clearly visible. Each link should also be provided with a descriptive title for better understanding of the user. Secondary navigation should consist of search fields and outgoing links which however, should not be dominant features of the page. Also, a good website should have a coherent theme which holds the design together.

The arrangement of words on the webpage also matters. The magnetic poetry of words can be graphically represented in components or blocks of the web page. Every web page should ideally have a container which could be in the form of the body tag of the page, a division tag or a table – the container should contain the contents of the page. The width of the container could be variable in that it could expand to fill the width of the browser window or remain fixed so that the content is of the same width irrespective of the window size.

The identity block is as important as the content block which should highlight the company logo or name and ideally place them on the top of each page of the website. The objective of the identity block is to increase brand recognition. The site must also have an easy navigation system. The navigable items should preferably be placed near the top of the layout.

The focal point of design should be the main content block. It is only a matter of seconds before a visitor will enter and leave your website. Therefore, more often than not, content should take precedence over everything else on a website. The footer is to be found at the bottom of the page and contains important information pertaining to copyright, contact and legal information. Ideally, the footer should separate the end content from the bottom of the browser giving users the indication that they are at the bottom of the page.

Having white or empty space on the website is equally important as graphics and illustration. Whitespace is what makes a design breathe in that it helps the eye to glide around a page and makes for balance and unity.

A good website should also follow essential rules of the grid. The grid is all about proportion. A sophisticated use of grids always accompanies good graphic design. The concept of dividing the elements of a composition into a distinct mathematical pattern is as old as the days of Pythagoras. The golden ratio or divine proportion was a pattern that occurred so often in nature that it was given this name by Pythagoras and his school. The application of this divine ratio to graphic design postulates that generally compositions that are divided by lines which are proportionate to the golden or divine ratio are aesthetically superior. In that sense, this divine proportion gives us logical guidelines for the design of layouts that are visually appealing.

If we simplify the golden ratio we arrive at the Rule of Thirds which states that a line that is bisected by the golden ratio gets divided into two sections one of which is approximately twice the size of the other. If we divide our layout into thirds we get a simple grid work in place where we can lay out the various elements of our composition. That in turn can lead to a well structured web page anatomy.

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