The purpose of having a well organized and beautiful website
Sometimes, when I read articles by web designers my eyes glaze over after a few hundred words. I think they serve as informative guidelines for other designers; however they simply don’t address lay people in easy to understand terms. I’m going to break down some web design principles beginning with aesthetics in a few short posts.
The dictionary defines beauty as a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, which pleases the senses, especially sight. I would add proportion to that definition.
Simplicity and Navigability
How do these concepts relate to your website? If you recall, it was the architect, Louis Sullivan, who coined the phrase form follows function. In terms of website design, we now look for several things:
- Remember most people are looking at your website on a mobile device, at least at initially. There has to be a certain flow that is logical to human eye as the viewer scrolls downward. You don’t want the viewer to be overwhelmed by busyness, multiple columns, too many images, or massive amounts of text.
- You/your business, what you do/sell/, and contact information should be prominently displayed in the visible area prior to the first fold, that is, the area displayed on your device before you need to scroll.
- Pages should be logical, coherent and displayed above the header. I will return to these design fundamentals in a later post.
Interestingly, architects are the worst violators of these principles. Google ‘prominent architects’ –and start clicking on the websites of those who are currently in practice. You’ll be scandalized. Sometimes their sites are so ‘artistic’ that a viewer can’t figure out how to enter the site from the splash page or how to navigate it once they are in.
Color happens to be my strongest point and the misuse of it drives me crazy. Recall when you have done a search for a medical practice or a physician. Invariably the website is blue and white. I’m sure all these good doctors use a specialized design service aimed at the medical profession. Unfortunately, they all look the same- sterile and impersonal. While white evokes hygiene and cleanliness, and blue supposedly stands for trust, security, competence-there are absolutely no mitigating colors or nuances found in the background fields. Occasionally, a biotech or a pharmaceutical company with a big budget will insert a few random colors into the design-but this is rarely done with any skill -we simply see grass green before one fold, sky blue in another, turquoise in the footer etc. One would think they were selling swimming pools.
When I created Refine Medical Spa’s, I decided on a clean, elegant and warm presentation, suited to the urban nature of this aesthetic practice. The tones are warm, complimenting all skin colors. No harsh blacks or whites are used-there is nothing jarring here. The header and the footer are charcoal; the background is a barely perceptible cloud grey, which makes images pop. Subtle touches of tan throughout along with thin gold framing around each photo contribute to the overall feeling of refinement and sophistication. Unlike many websites featuring plastic surgery or medical aesthetics I used photos of mature men and women of all races and shapes.
Another site I created, this time for an integrative medical practice, features pale and dark greens suggesting wholeness and nature based modalities. Since one of the partners exclusively practices Chinese medicine, I used images of Chinese landscapes, of themselves beautiful and peaceful. No blue or white whatsoever and yet it succeeds in evoking tranquility, health, and serenity.
Lawyers are also notorious for having bad or outmoded websites. Again, with new sites there is a total uniformity throughout. A photo of the lawyer looking personable in the header, three boxes opening to the areas of practices and some text in which the lawyer tries to make himself seem caring-and then more boxes with more verbiage. The worst is when all the information about the lawyer, the practice, their victories, and any legal forms is crammed into blocks of text on the home page. Your eye has no idea where to focus. With all these boxes the designer must add color and it ranges arbitrarily from fully saturated teal to orange –mercifully not on the same site. I’m not sure how anyone expects to stand out with websites like those.
One of the few law practice sites I truly love belongs to my real estate attorney –and unfortunately was not created by me. It couldn’t be any simpler. A sepia photo of the scales of justice and a gavel reside in the header. Then we see one simple line before the fold: ‘We are passionate about providing our clients with the best service possible.’ Directly below, there is a sepia photo of said lawyer speaking to the client. The reason you believe he means it is how he looks-part Yul Brynner, part Gary Copper: engaged, warm, and very confident. His website is timeless and would have looked just as good in 1930-had we the technology -as it will in 2030.
Recently I landed on the website of a famous tennis star. I liked the layout very much. Under the header blocks of text appear next to photos of the said person, then a horizontal band appears with a quote and then more squares before the footer. Each photo is filtered through a different color. Somehow maroon, purple, mustard yellow, charcoal, white, and grey all live together on these pages. I thought the color selection was hideous and arbitrary until I realized the design and colors were representational of multicolored WWT courts. I then realized the whole website was patterned after a tennis court. I still hate the colors, but I respect the ingeniousness of the designers.
Another website that I lit upon this winter had to do with cutting edge home technologies Unfortunately it was designed to look like something from Great Depression. 1930’s graphics with maroon as the predominant background color, highlighted with a few touches of what can only be described as clotted cream has quite the opposite effect of conveying innovation and advancement.
There is an entire psychology behind marketing and colors and the values and ideas those colors hold for us. Your website is part of your overall marketing strategy and a critical factor in presenting yourself or your business to the world. People will judge you by it, just as they judge you by your appearance, unfair as that may seem.
Each week I will feature a different aspect of website design. Please stay tuned.