Designing for the Web? Read this First!
by Sarah Dawson
Recently Deb, Launch’s new Website Project Manager, wrote about her journey in making the switch from traditional to digital media. Going from traditional media to the digital world can be a big jump, especially for designers, who go from worrying about pre-press items such as bleeds, spot colors, and outlines to making sure they are using web-safe fonts and learning how to design for desktops, tablets, and mobile devices. It takes a little bit to get used to the different priorities and best practices, but I found that it helps to first develop a solid understanding of how certain design fundamentals change when you move into the digital space. While web design trends such as parallax scrolling and flat colors change each year, the basics remain the same.
Less Is More
Many web designers want to fill a website with as much content as they can, but sometimes the hardest thing to learn is simplicity. A website should be designed with easy-to-navigate menus, clear and bold calls to action, and an obvious flow so your user doesn’t get lost.
Before you even start designing, however, you need to consider your content. Determine what products, services, and other information pertaining to your business are important enough to require individual pages, and then organize them into a hierarchy of what will be most relevant to a user. This is especially important when it comes to responsive web design. Many designers make the mistake of trying to put everything on their home page, which can feel overwhelming to a first-time visitor. Because of the near-instant availability of information on the internet, a visitor needs to be able to find the information they came for in a matter of 10-20 seconds, or there’s a good chance they will leave your site.
Once you decide on the most essential pieces of content—whether multiple pages on a site or individual items on a single page—you should build the design of the page/site around these points. Place the most important elements so that they’re displayed “above the fold,” with the less important elements below or on separate pages.
Add Some Color
Traditional graphic designers already know that color palettes are essential to keeping a design consistent while establishing a brand. But on the web, it’s easy to get lost in your designs with all the possibilities and different pages of a website. It’s important to remember that a website is an extension of the company’s brand, and it needs to look consistent to ensure consumer recognition. Pick two or three colors from the brand’s logo, and then be sure to add a neutral color like white, black, or gray. Learn all you can about the importance of color palettes and how to use them.
Toss in a Few Relevant Images
Try to avoid stock images whenever possible, especially clip art. Users want to see actual images from the business. If you are creating a website for a restaurant, use high quality images of their food. If it’s a car dealership website, use photos of their actual cars and sales floor. Most users don’t want to be bogged down by text, so images are your chance to tell a visual story of your business.
Making the switch from traditional to digital design work can be exciting and fun—I hope this encourages you to take the plunge and helps you along the way!