1. Lines and Linework
These terms refer to borders, frames, and rules, and do not refer to pen-and-ink or pencil sketches. Yes, I am talking about actual lines here. Horizontal or vertical, thick or thin, regular or irregular, they help define and delimit spaces around various elements on your pages. Good linework increases both the readability and “directionality” (see #5, below) of the design as a whole.
Most people don’t think about this, but any enclosed area, form, or contour in your design is a shape. Shapes in most layouts are square or rectangular, but nothing says they must be, and circles are useful, too. You can also use images to create other, regular or irregular, shapes. In addition to shapes, I’ll include here “white space”, or the lack of shapes. White space can be just as effective as lovely graphics and shapes.
One thing that custom sites have over the typical template design website is the addition of texture. Texture imparts a “surface” feeling, and is tactile in printed matter, so choosing the paper stock — matte, weave, coated, etc. — is a design decision, too. Textures on layouts meant for broadcast or the Internet are visual only, but still key. Most textures do not add to the drag of drawing the website, as most textures are implemented in “chunks”, or in pieces that are fitted together.
Color and branding go hand in hand. You need to know what your colors and thus your brand is ahead of time, before starting on your website. Color is probably the element that most designers are at least acutely aware of, if not schooled in. However, color is not a requirement in many designs, and some art educators suggest creating a design without any color first. The artist, in this view, should then add only as much color as needed to enhance or complete the design. Another school of thought holds that color should be one of the first elements determined. Experience and experimentation will help every artist develop a good color sense and strategy.
Effectively designed layouts, in magazines or on your computer screen, usually have a sense of motion. A good design will lead the reader’s eyes through the design deliberately, using color changes, shapes, linework, and copy placement direct viewers’ attention to what the designer wants them to see.
Here’s a good test for your website, as well as others’. Open up your website and close your eyes while it is loading. Now, open your eyes and pay attention to a couple things.
- Where did you eyes go first
- Where did they go second, third, fourth, etc.
- At which places did they not look
You’ll need to be very practiced in this as your eyes will tend to race over the website. You should only concentrate on 4 or 5 main focus points. More than this will dilute your effectiveness.
Finally, pay attention to what your competition is doing and improve upon their design. It’s amazing how many good ideas you can get from your competition, and your sites will not even look similar if you are changing up your design elements.