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Blog - Website Design

 

Clean Design: Keeping Your Homepage Free from Clutter

Posted Wed, April 17, 2013 by Julie Short

Client’s often want to cram it with as much content as possible on a website’s homepage. However, the designer is striving to maintain the integrity of the design. In this blog, I'll give you a few ways keep your homepage clean and why it's important to help your clients see the benefits of a clean design. 

More and more people look to search engines to find content, instead of a site's homepage. The search engine takes the user directly to the information they require and can completely bypassing the sites homepage. Obviously, this deep linking seriously reduces the prominence of the homepage. 

Add to this factor the rise of RSS feeds and more people accessing information via mobile devices, and you begin to see the focus shifting from the website homepage towards the individual pages of content. That is not to say homepages are no longer important, they are simply not as important as once they were and so do not justify the level of competition they receive in some organizations.

Don’t rush the homepage
By starting with standard textual pages, which makes up the majority of the site, you get to set the design style before it gets diluted by the land grab for homepage real estate. Once the client is on board with the design they will perceive it as being more important and so are less likely to allow it to be railroaded by content demands.

A homepage should reflect the sites content at the highest level and signpost the user to key content deeper in the site. In the majority of projects I work on the client hasn’t finalized all of the content in the initial design stage. It is hard to create an effective homepage until you have a full understanding of what content it is meant to signpost and represent.

Communicating the importance of white space
In the case of homepage design the heart of the conflict between designer and client is often a perception of the importance of white space. Every designer knows that white space is a fundamental tool of good design, but designers often won't express why whitespace is necessary in a way the client can associate with. 

Or in other words; the more you add, the less importance anything has. Designers sometimes sell white space on the basis that it looks better. Instead sell it on the basis that every item you add to the page detracts from the main message. 

You might want to suggest that a user has 10 points worth of attention they can give to the homepage. Every “module of content” added to the homepage takes a minimum of 1 point. More points should be assigned to more important elements. This approach will quickly show that the more you add to a page, the more likely important elements are going to get lost in the crowd. Use this as a method to focus the clients mind on what is important.

A clean homepage will help users navigate a site easier, make it look better and keep the visitor's focus on important content. 

Posted in : Websites | 
Tags : website design


Design Basics: Embracing Constraints

Posted Mon, April 15, 2013 by Julie Short

If you’re a creative person you might believe you are at your most creative without any constraints. In reality however, this isn’t true. Your creativity needs a focus. If creativity guides you without any boundaries, it’s easy to go overboard. Constraints limit the actions that can be performed by the user and increases the usability of the design and reduces the probability of operational error. Restrict yourself to just a few design elements and a set deadlines to positively direct your design efforts. 

The Hazards of Creative Freedom
The greatest gift a client can give is creative freedom. On the other hand, the worst thing a designer can do is allowing themselves total creative freedom. It should be in the client’s interests to leave the designer to do their thing because a good designer can identify the key elements required to make the project a success. The client can tell us the problem they need a website to promote a new product and it’s up to the designer to create a solution. The good designer gets to the design stage with a big list of constraints from the discovery phase: they know the demographic, branding guidelines and, through various conversations with his contacts there. For the responsible designer, the truly open brief doesn’t exist. And even when they have got a set of constraints from the client, they might well impose still further constraints upon themselves.

Time
The first constraint to put upon yourself is time. Speed helps in the early stages of a design because you get down key concepts without focusing on details. Working fast also helps switch your brain functions. It encourages use of the right side of your brain and it’s the right side of the brain that does the creative heavy lifting. If you have a serious time limitation, you aren’t able to rationally analyse your work. You simply don’t have time. Instead, if you force yourself to rely on the subconscious and intuition, you will be using the, creative, right side of your brain. You can produce acceptable designs working from the left side of your brain, but they will have been processed rationally, based on existing solutions. Force yourself to use the right side of your brain and you can get away from these rationalised processes and make decisions based on instinct and gut reaction - and it’s here the original and innovative processes can take place.

Separating Creativity and Art
It’s worth noting that there is a separation between creativity and design. Exactly what we’re calling these is semantics, but the above process is one to encourage free, unrestricted, thought with the goal of promoting innovation. This is the creative process. The design process requires you to take the creative work and pull it into a more cohesive shape. For a website designer this requires assessing how the creative designs can also be usable, functional, designs. We’re building websites not making art.

Your design should guide the user through the process. It shouldn’t overly embellish. Sometimes the embellishments are appropriate, but you need to understand why they’re needed. Understand what elements (font, colour, image type, text size, line weight) are required for the design and embrace them. These are the constraints that will allow your creativity to really shine and offer site visitors the best usability experience. Try utilizing symbols to creatively increase site usability. Symbols are useful for categorizing, clarifying and cautioning users about certain actions. A good example of symbols being used for constraint in design would be the error sound that a site makes when an entry is incomplete or invalid. This serves as a warning to the user that additional actions are necessary.

Focus
Setting limits is not solely about not using design elements. It is much more about focusing on the few genuinely important elements that are required to convey the message of your website, and adding in other design elements only when they support the key elements. Choice doesn’t give us freedom. 

Constraining user behavior instead of enabling it may initially seem counter-intuitive, by limiting user actions they can actually focus on perfecting those limited options. Understanding and implementing constraints will help users engage your design with minimal error. Too much choice is often confusing, disabling and dissatisfying.

Posted in : Websites | 
Tags : website design


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