To many people (web site developers and clients alike) websites are viewed as a form of advertising vehicle, or on-line brochure, the fact is that consumers have a completely different perspective of what a web site should be. The reason that social networking sites are so successful is because they give site visitors an extremely high level of interactivity. Contrary to popular belief, the success of social networking sites has very little to do with the social networking aspect of the site. Clearly, if social networking was all that people craved for in their life, they would use their telephones or simply wander the streets to interact with complete strangers. However, the ease of website interactivity encourages people to immerse themselves in an activity that they wouldn’t dream of doing through any other medium. The design of social networking sites has been instrumental in their success. The sites are all cleanly designed, have a very specific purpose that’s instantly identified on the home page, and offer instant interactivity from the moment a visitor enters the site. The urge to get involved can quickly become addictive.
The role of design is paramount to success. The combination of colour, layout, typography, site message and ease of interactivity all combine to create a “feeling”. You can test this yourself. Simply visit websites at random. Some will please you, some will make you smile, some will annoy you, and yet others may sadden you. But all you have in front of you is words, pictures, colours and design elements. And yet, used in different combinations, they can invoke a wide range of different feelings. So the success of a good web design really boils down to its ability to invoke the feeling that the site owner wants from the site visitor. That feeling should then become the “trigger” that encourages the visitor to interact with the site. Or to put it in simple terms – get them to push buttons.
TRADITIONAL SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT
When you start looking around at the many quick-fix website solutions, such as on-line website builders, you’re virtually forced into a design standard that has become outdated and obsolete. The assumption is that you will want a left, right or centred content area, a navigation menu positioned at the top or side of the page, and an overall colour scheme that is [highlight background=”#3F51B5″ color=”#FFFFFF”]“harmonious” rather than relevant to the site’s objectives[/highlight]. Whilst these elements ARE important, and form the basic structure of a website, they do not necessarily have to adopt a universal layout. Furthermore, once a traditional site layout has been developed, there is a tendency to base all pages of the site on that same layout.
Now you may be thinking that consistency of layout across a site must be important, and you would be right. However, don’t be confused by the term “Layout”. This doesn’t mean that all the pages have to look the same, or (with certain exceptions) that things have to be in the same place on every page. To better understand this concept just pick up any modern magazine. Every page will look different, but what may not be instantly recognized is that every page conforms to a standard publication layout. This is what gives consistency to a publication that comprises of seemingly different design treatments on every page.
Serif Website has a Predominantly Light Gray Colour Scheme
When it comes to colours, there is often a tendency to go overboard. Many website tools allow you to create colour pallets of 5, 6, or maybe as many as 10 colours. There is a great deal of colour theory involved in selecting a colour palette for both websites and [tooltip data=”traditional print media” position=”top”]Tooltip addictive[/tooltip], but just because we have the ability to create an extended colour palette, it doesn’t mean we have to use a lot of different colours.
- If you look at many successful websites, the colours used are limited, subdued and not immediately obvious.
- Having developed a particular palette, its then relatively simple to deploy the scheme in making the site work the way the client wants it to work, and how visitors will expect it to work.
- Colour choices are more effectively used to help “target” websites to a particular audience.
- Even the Serif website has a predominantly light gray colour scheme, and for very good reason as will be discovered later.
Graphic elements can be used to add interest to a site, but long gone are the days when decorative dividers and animated gifs were the rule rather than the exception. Today’s web sites must have more effective graphic elements that segregate content into containers, or help to focus attention onto specific site objectives. Such graphics can be used to either make site features more prominent, or to even make features less prominent, basically helping visitors to IGNORE certain features of the site that must be there, but that do not necessarily contribute much to the site objective. A typical example is website terms and conditions. Whilst every site usually has such conditions, you very rarely see a site where a link to the terms and conditions page leaps off the page to hit you in the face. So there has to be really two broad ranges of colour and graphics in a website. One is designed to focus attention, whilst the other is designed to diminish importance. A good web design will have both ingredients.