You want to make a web site, how fun. However, before you get all excited about all the stuff it can do, the bells and whistles, the things that spin, play music and give you prizes, you need to get out a piece of paper and plan a few things. It is all about making sure you communicate not decorate, when you are planning, organzing, and designing your next website. Here are some examples of just what I mean:
Too Much of a Good Thing
How many times have you gone to a site that is filled, just filled with stuff, you don’t know where to look? Here is a extreme example: Ling Scars — This site is over the top. But, there are plenty of sites that have better designs but still are confusing such as: Brides — much ‘prettier’ but still hard to know what is important and when you scroll down, it gets worse.
Imagine you are in a room with 20 people. If everyone is yelling for your attention as you enter the room, all you feel is overloaded and you want to leave. At best you feel bombarded and uncomfortable. Same with the web: too much information, too much to look at it is easy to feel like you don’t want to look at anything so you leave. One thing you don’t want is your customers to leave.
What you Need to Do
So first take out that piece of paper and write:
1. Communication Statement — one sentence about the most important thing you want to communicate to your customer when they come to the site
2. Hierarchy — where you want the customer to go in order of priority
3. Priority — what HAS to go on the site
Keep that piece of paper as a reference when you begin your site design. Go to your design tool of choice and begin. My process is I continue on paper and sketch my basic layout and then go to Photoshop to translate the sketch into a digital design. But however, you work, the most important thing to remember is to start with only the elements you listed under Priority, nothing else. Start with the minimum and add only when the need for that element is clear. The justification for adding that element, which was not on your Priority list, should be based on your Communication Statement.
For example, I am a designer, therefore my site is about the work I do. My Communication Statement for my website is: Showcase my Design Skills. So I start with my Priority list of what has to go on the site: logo, navigation and intro copy. The site looks nice but doesn’t have impact. I go back to my Communication Statement and see that I need a visual way to show example of my work on the home page so that I can Showcase my Design Skills. I add a slideshow to achieve this.
The key is to add elements that support what you want to communicate versus interfere with it: communicate not decorate.
Here are a few examples of how a site was redesigned and the clutter removed.
Examples of Sites that Fixed the Problem
Example 1: Celebrity Chef: Guy Fieri
His old site is cluttered and confusing whereas his new site is streamlined with only a few elements. The stylization of the elements communicates the brand without extraneous images.
The second example for an opthalmology lab. — the old site was busy with garish colors and images that didn’t related whereas the new site as a simplified color palette and a much clearer hierarchy.
Sites that Got it Right
When your site communicates clearly with your ideal visitor, a bond is created and the visitor stays awhile.
These days many sites are built using server-based Content Management System (CMS) tools such as Joomla or WordPress. The general impression people have is that with CMS tools, the ability to control the design is very limited. I build 95% of my sites these days using WordPress and I can state firsthand that you can create beautiful, clean designs using CMS if you are willing to work at it. Here are a couple of WordPress sites that are beautiful in their understated, clean design
So the next time you go to create a website, start with a plan, build with restraint and like a good meal, spice carefully.
Eliza Alys Young is an independent creative professional with 15 years experience in digital media. She has a background in art, graphic design and photography and uses them all in her business: Design Intense. Eliza has designed several hundred websites, as well as taught web design. After eight years living in the Dominican Republic, she is back in Florida, designing for clients and writing her blog: Amor y Sabor (Love & Flavor).
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