by Terry Young
How design, layout & color
A recurring question we have been asked over the last 12 years has been, 'Why do most professional web sites seem to look the the same?' This is no coincidence, nor is it a lack of imagination on the part of the designers.
There are many reasons for web site uniformity. If a site is to be successful, it must keep the site's visitor around long enough to buy a product or make contact. On screen there are no limits to page layout, so why would page elements in most professional sites all seem the same? One phrase I have heard used is template looking.
Layout is important for basic historical reasons. Humans have thousands of years of visual experience and have come to expect things in certain places. This history has also dictated that with any visual medium people expect to see things flowing naturally from left to right and top to bottom.
This has to be carefully considered when the design is created. Flow is very important, as it leads the viewer's eye to the information they need to see without making them over-analyze or search through the page. This is where creativity has to be mixed with conformity if the end result is to grab the viewer's attention.
The major layout rule is to keep things easily scannable. Rather than 20 paragraphs on a page, keep text to two to four paragraphs written concisely relating to that subject of that page.
Some sites cram every available screen millimeter with text, color and images. Most web users are trying to find the information that fills their needs quckly. With this in mind, content should be spaced out so it can be scanned over quickly.
Many design elements, such as color, are non-verbal, subconscious ways of getting a meaning across. Modern color aesthetics have evolved from times when color identified how useful, edible or dangerous an object was. For example, yellow and black stripes would put most people on alert.
Understanding how color and shape subconsciously affect viewers is crucial in advertising.
Corporate businesses should use colors symbolizing seriousness, trust and security. Such colors are blues, blacks and grays. A healthcare entity would best use pale greens and blues as these denote health, calm, efficiency and cleanliness.
Companies dealing with nature, such as landscaping, would use mostly greens and browns as these denote nature and earthiness. However, a florist should use colors found in flowers like yellows, pinks, purples and oranges.
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Terry Young is the founder and CEO of Internet Marketing and Design. Since 1997,