The specialists didn’t reach a consensus about the Internet birth date, but anyway, 30 years ago, Internet was just a term used by a very limited number of people. It developed so fast and in such a manner that I hardly believe that someone really believed in its exponential success. Ten years ago, making websites was still in its infancy but the Internet was a solid component of our everyday life. Nowadays, the big picture is very complex: the Internet “moved” from the “old desktops” to handheld devices and soon it will be totally in the cloud and accessible using more discrete devices- see Google Glass or any similar project. This fabulous evolution wasn’t possible without the incommensurable endeavours of the website crafters and every Internet user should be thankful to them.
Not every member of the web design community was able to keep this fast rhythm and many simply quit; the remaining ones have a very difficult job but the fascination of launching amazing online presences keeps them still in the same position. The purpose of this post is not to highlight the statute of designers, but to offer them a short, but effective refresh of the basic principles of web design. We have responsive websites, new and new jQuery scripts or new techniques and it’s possible to ignore what is most important- the fundaments of web design. The new era, the responsive one, consecrated the ability of any website to be perfectly rendered no matter of the accessing device but it brought another immense advantage to web design. The responsive era confirmed the value of web design principles, therefore it’s more than obvious that these are valid and useful regardless the time or the designer’s approach. Here are seven basic principles that are universally valid, so when designing new websites keep them into your mind.
#1. A website should be simple but complete
The best designer’s mentality is to consider that, every time and everywhere, the in between solution is the most convenient solution. If you put on an axis the bynome simplicity vs. complexity, the best website is situated on the reference point (see the image below). Any online presence must be simple and any useless feature should be removed; in this manner, the user may better focus on his needs. A part of the designers create too simple websites and their works misses important features while others make too complex projects that drive users crazy. If you want to create a good website, then it must intersect the axis through reference point!
#2. The user has never had time and patience
The Internet is full of opportunities, everyone is a single click away of his desired information. This opulence of information is very benefic for the user, but what about a website owner? Well, he quite probable isn’t very satisfied with this situation. A basic and everywhere in the Universe valid web design rule states the user never has time and patience. It’s simple, unless he finds what he needs/expects, he may consult tons of other websites, therefore create any website by playing the role of a user.
#3. A website must be consistent
The internet users developed a new sense: very few people allow the luxury to read the content of a website. They scan the page and if it’s interesting enough, then they read it. A consistent website is one that helps the users scan it by having enough common elements in order to let the user know that he is still visiting the respective website. Also, each webpage must have its own particular features. To conclude, the designers should use some common patterns, as logo or navigational menu to assure the consistency of a website. “Don’t put the user to think!”
#4. The navigational menu is capital for users
I previously mentioned that the navigational menu must be consistent. Sometimes, the difference between a good website and a poor one is made by the navigational menu. A good one has enough items to allow good navigation- more or fewer items may ruin a website. Unfortunately, there is no recipe to exactly determine how many items a menu must contain; it all depends of the craftsmanship of the designer.
#5. Spacing is as important as the information itself
Many designers are fully focused on the written content and neglect the white space. It’s not a good idea because also the white space (other people name it negative space- anyway, it is the totality of the unused space) is part of the website.
From the user perspective, it is not a bad fact to consider it as a unused space, but from the designer perspective it’s totally wrong to embrace this manner. White space must be manipulated to let people breath and not intoxicate with information. Definitely, it is as important as the information itself. Not convinced about this..? Please imagine a website without any white space- wouldn’t it scare you?
#6. Visual hierarchy lets the webpage speak without words
A wise designer knows that relying only on the written content to transmit messages to the users is a great mistake. It’s a basic principle of web design that states that visual hierarchy should be used to make clear the designer’s ideas. Good alignments in addition to a wise space use are the main ingredients of a good layout and this combination is well known in web design community. It’s useless to say that you should treat this aspect carefully!
#7. Don’t ever ignore the typography
The typography is a capital aspect of a website. It’s true, a letter is small and easy to ignore but small details make the big difference. A font may emphasize the message and it’s better to select one that is in harmony with the purpose of the website. Much more, flat design is gaining more and more adepts and one of the key features of this trend is the typography, therefore you have enough reasons to use only the best font solutions. Much more, the current state in the smartphone design is to have bigger screens but anyway these are way smaller than a monitor. Having less space, it becomes obvious that typography may hurt the eyes of the viewers…you will care more about typography, won’t you?
I hope that this post will work as an effective refresh of the basic design principles and will help the readers in making better websites. Do you create websites by taking into account these ideas or do you have another set of principles? Use the comment form to share your thoughts with us!
– Written by Daniel –