Web Design Key Factors – Anno 2016
25 years ago when the internet was just beginning to get noticed by commerce, you could almost say that any web site, any web design was good enough. Now we all know that that is not entirely true, nevertheless, if you had a web-site, you had more, much more than anyone else, thus you stood out, and as my late dad always used to say, it does not matter how they talk about you as long as they talk about you. But those were the days where French wines sold itself.
Today, in 2016 everybody and their aunt have a web-site, at least of some sort. Roaming the internet their is still a significant amount of sites that not only look awful, and are not user friendly, confusing, not clear as to what they are communicating or selling. Today there are so many sites communicating the same stuff or selling the same stuff that you’ll “bounce out” of any site that looks awful and/or is confusing and annoying. Web Design has become key!
So it is key to web design is a site that has the user, the visitor and hopefully the customer in mind. And that’s where design comes in. The following list is a cross section of the most important factors to make sure your site hits the mark. Think about you doing a speech to children or telling them something. If you use terminology that a rocket scientist would be proud of, most likely the kids will be staring at you wide-eyed with a look that tells you “WTF are you talking about…now in English please!”. Alternatively if you speak to rocket scientists and you give your speech the coochy-coo approach, you’ll probably lose them before the first 2 minutes are up. Web Design is as important as the design of a speech!
So what factors are important for web design? I’ll list a few here in no particular order, simply because the order does not matter. Whether you have a car without a wheel or without an engine, you still won’t be able to drive it.
- Content – Logic
- Graphics – Visualization
- User friendly and logical Structure
Think about the first time you saw someone you really liked. Most likely (but not impossible) this person was not looking like a drained rat, just coming in from a rain storm, right? The person looked great, was dressed probably great and smelled great. Although we all know that beauty is not just on the outside, our initial instincts react without filter to our senses, color being one of them. In the next articles I will give some examples of what I believe is great web design and what is not, so you can judge for yourself.
2) Content – Logic
This is a topic very near to my heart. I have never been able to study, by diving into a study book in the middle, read a chapter or paragraph and remember or even understand what the chapter or paragraph was about. I need to see things within context, connect the dots and slowly but surely a picture is formed in my mind, one I can understand. This talks to two factors. Text that makes sense, is clear, concise and logically built up, and (this will be discussed later) may have a picture to illustrate what the text is saying. And we all know that a picture speaks a thousand words. My childhood hero Johan Cruyff a soccer legend put it once like this…”Soccer is a simple game, but it is difficult to play simple soccer”. The same principle applies to web content. Use the KISS principle if you can and when appropriate: Keep It Simple and Stupid, for any web design.
Font is more important than you think. Not only will the size of a font make web content legible or not, but the color of the font, the style of the font can also make text more or less legible. Font also sets a tone. Whether you use Edwardian Script to create an English feel, or Gigi to create a French feel, makes a huge difference to the look and feel and understanding of a site or page.
4) Graphics and Visualization
Graphics, that is good graphics and relevant graphics can enhance the look and feel, as well as the understanding of a page or web site. A picture speaks a thousand words holds true for pictures, graphics or info graphics.
As with web content, i.e. text and images, the overall layout must make sense. For instance, the Chinese write in columns from top to bottom and read those columns from top to bottom and from right to left. Image if we design a web-page like that, people would not know what hit them. Images must also be placed in the right areas, you can’t just riddle the page or site with images everywhere, or ads for that matter, it is important to put images, graphics and ads in key spots, without over powering the page.
6) User Friendly and Logical Structure
As with web content and layout, the site as a whole must be user friendly, the structure must make sense and the navigation must be logical and easy. There is nothing more irritating than not being able to find out where exactly I am on a web-site, where I should go, and what I should do to get back to a certain area. All of the above can be set up in a proper way by using the right categories, and menus. And I mean the right menus, not more menus. In my humble opinion the menu structure at amazon.com is a nightmare, simply too much. That site is under so much pressure to offer money making content and options that it has overdone the menu structure.
As with everything in life balance is a good thing. balance in the sense of not too much text or too many pictures…where it does not make sense. But also balance from a design standpoint. Balance in lines, balance in colors, balance in graphic design. Again, have a look at Amazon.com, in my opinion a site that has no balance…simply too much of everything.
Any site, whether with the perfect design, layout, structure and balance….if it does not have speed, we’re all outta here!! Speed is a factor of many things, whether plugins, images, css, scripts or simply errors. It is important in design, from scratch or with plugins to speed up your site. One of the easiest ways is to do so with a CDN, aka a Content Delivery Network. A CDN pulls the pages from your site to their own, very fast server and functions as your arms length, third party cache. So when a lot of people hit one page at the same time, the CDN offers them the page at a much higher speed than if your (hypothetical) server would try to do so.
This is the first article in the series about web design. In the next article I will discuss the above factors in more detail and with some examples.