Layout, Color & Sound

By Vince Barnes (Back to article)

The Layout of a web site encompasses multiple dimensions. First there is the question of how to lay out the items that are to appear on a page; then there is the hierarchy of pages in the site. To a degree, these aspects must be considered together. For instance, is the site going to have a "cover page" like the cover of a magazine? If so, the layout of the cover can include a more extravagant graphical image and perhaps less detail, much like a magazine cover. Also, if the site is going to have a complex hierarchy, there may need to be a two (or more) dimensional navigation mechanism which has to be accommodated in the design of pages. Modern trends in site design seem to indicate that covers, while they are great for a personal, or family web site, are usually not the best idea for a business site. The key to informational sites is to provide information access in the simplest possible fashion. For commerce, the key is to provide access to products and product information with as few clicks as possible, including the checkout process. If a business site is to have some sort of cover, it should include and index (links) to all of the most important information the site contains. It is not a good idea to waste your visitors' time with superfluous levels of "click-throughs".

There are several things to bear in mind when laying out a page. Western languages, including English, are read from left to right and top to bottom. This provides a natural flow for elements on a page. For instance, titles should be above the body of material; introductory material should be to the left of the material it introduces, much like a left margin. The layout of a page in a legal notepad follows this principle. Following this basic concept yields a page whose layout is intuitively understood by the reader. This is a good thing!

Provide space between different ideas on a page so that the separation of the ideas is clear. Too much information crammed onto a page has the effect of concealing most of it. All intuitive navigation is lost when the eye is overloaded, and the usefulness of the page is diminished.

Color is also very important. Too little, and the page looks dull and boring; too much and overload sets in -- the visitor will leave in a hurry to save their eyes! If you have an artists eye, fantastic! That is the talent needed to use color most effectively on a page. With my particular level of color skill, I find it best to consult a graphic artist! To be most successful with your site be realistic. If you have color skill, you don't need me to advise you. If your color skills are not that great, or if you are not sure, it is best to consult an artist. If that is not possible, make sure you don't overdo it! Too little color is better that too much.

When it comes to sound, the notion that too little is better that too much needs to be taken to its extreme! With two exceptions, ANY sound is too much! There is no such thing as too little sound! Sound on a web page is an irritation, plain and simple. The first exception is on a page whose known intent is sound, such as a music sampler page or some humor pages. The other exception is where the viewer has been previously informed (that is, prior to linking to this page) that they are going to hear something, such as by a link to a flash presentation, or to a video page. The golden rule is: don't subject your visitor to sounds unexpectedly. One of the joys of web surfing is the ability to absorb yourself with following an information thread around to global net without disturbing anyone around you. As soon as you hit unexpected sound, that joy is abruptly shattered. The page that offends in this way is not likely to be revisited!


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