Considering aesthetics in designing your website

For those seeking to design a new website and are new to the process, there are many things that will have to be considered. The developer must ensure that the outline of the website is coherent and the data informative, along with ensuring that the appearance of the website is pleasing to the user. It is not enough to have just good information on your website, but it is important to present the information in a way that it is thoroughly absorbed by the visitors to the site. To this end, the aesthetics and appearance of your website should be a top priority.

Layout Design

Instead of thinking of your website as a page in a book think of your website as a photograph. Like any photograph, the layout composition and appearance must be taken into account. Images should enhance the information, not distract from it. The background should not clash with the font color or graphics. One key point to remember is that as the human eye moves in such a way over a graphical image, it does not always take in the correct information in the order you might think. Your website should direct the eye accordingly, to ensure the data is absorbed in the proper order you intend.

Above the Fold

Another thing to consider is the layout of your page. If a person has to scroll down on a single page more than a few times it can become cumbersome, especially if the page is being viewed from a mobile browser. Keep your pages short in length, so that no more than 3-4 scroll downs will be needed. If you have more information, make use of hyperlinks and other pages on the site to discuss key concepts. Avoid cluttering up your page and try to keep the most important information “above the fold”. In the days of newspapers, this referred to where the newspaper was folded. The most important story was above the fold because that is how they attracted the attention of potential buyers. The same can be said of a web page that requires scrolling because it may mean that important information is relegated below the fold. If your data will be enhanced with graphics, and you have many graphics to choose from, it will require you to make some executive decisions about which ones, instead of all, to use.

There was an interesting study that was done by Jacob Nielson (read more about it here: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/reading_pattern.html) called “F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Web Content.” Basically, users scan the page quickly in an “F” shaped reading pattern. See the heat map image below. The implications of this study are that:

  • Users won’t read your text thoroughly in a word-by-word manner. Exhaustive reading is rare, especially when prospective customers are conducting their initial research to compile a shortlist of vendors. Yes, some people will read more, but most won’t.
  • The first two paragraphs must state the most important information. There’s some hope that users will actually read this material, though they’ll probably read more of the first paragraph than the second.
  • Start subheads, paragraphs, and bullet points with information-carrying words that users will notice when scanning down the left side of your content in the final stem of their F-behavior. They’ll read the third word on a line much less often than the first two words.

Fonts, Headings, and Text

To better organize data, make use of headings and subheadings to keep the words on the page from jumbling together in an endless stream. The human attention span will often lose interest after about four paragraphs of endless words. Well-written papers often make use of headings, subheadings and bullet lists to better organize data because it makes it easier for the reader to absorb and remember the information. On this same note, remember to be uniform in your use of a font, making sure not to use more than two fonts as this can cause some visual confusion.

Remember, just like in life, first impressions make a huge difference. It doesn’t matter if your website contains the best data on the planet about your subject. If it is not easy to look at, and is confusing to follow, visitors will quickly become discouraged and leave. Remember these few key pointers during your website development. It is also a good idea to take a look at other successful websites and determine what aesthetic methods they employ to make your own website the most user-friendly and appealing it can be..

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