Website Design Principles

There are many components that go into making up good website design. However there are four main principles that contribute the most impact to an effective overall design. These four main design principles include the following elements: balance, emphasis, unity and rhythm. To build a website that has pleasing design features and is highly effective in getting its message across, each of these four components has an important role to play.

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The first principle we’re going to look at is ‘balance’, which is to do with how the difference shapes, sizes and color elements are harmonized. Good website design needs to incorporate a high level of visual stimulation, yet at the same time, should not distract the visitor with too many inconsistent or conflicting components. Each part of the page has its own visual emphasis that is dependent on the color, shape or size of the images or the text blocks. This is not to say that good balance on a website is simply achieved by having all the elements placed symmetrically on the page layout. For example, you might create good balance by having an image on the right hand side of the page with a strong block of text on the left hand side. An even more advanced design technique involves the used of asymmetrical balance. This is done by combining different objects on each side of the page with each of these elements having a different visual weight color, size or shape. An illustration of this kind of asymmetrical balance might involve placing a strong visual component in the middle of the page where the balance might be achieved by adding lighter element on the outside edge of that same page.


The next style element we’re going to look at is ’emphasis’, which is intended to draw the viewer towards the focal point of the page. What this essentially means is that you want the most significant content to be clearly identified on the page. Typically the focal point is a component that is very different from the other design elements on the page. Of course there are a number of ways that emphasis can be achieved, for example you might use a large, bold font or you may opt for using high contrast colors for a picture. However you use emphasis on your page the end goal is to enable the most important design features to really stand out.


The next of the style elements were going to examine is ‘unity’ This is where all the elements on the page appear to be a single cohesive unit, where all the elements look like they belong with each other. Another way to express this might be that each of the elements on the page: the headers, sub headers, pictures, other graphical effects and the various text blocks all appear to be part of the same cohesive idea. Good unity can be achieved by using consistent font styles, repeating similar colors and textures or positioning related elements close to each other.


The final element were going to look at is called ‘rhythm’. Rhythm has to do with the repetition of elements that helps your visitors to recognize the pattern of the web page. The idea here is to attempt to generate a consistent pattern or structure to the design of the page. For example the continuous repetition of the same components creates an even, smooth rhythm to the page, whereas abrupt or a contrasting elements in the text or the graphic images can produce a much more active or upbeat pace. Ultimately the viewer should perceive a holistic style from the website despite the fact there may be differing visual components that make up the overall design.

Visitors to your website make an instant decision on how coherent and appealing your overall design appears. They make subtle unconscious psychological assessments that create an almost instant impression of how effective the design of the website seems to flow. This assessment contributes towards their decision on whether to stay and explore your website in more depth or to immediately hit the ‘back’ button and search for another site. If the website is coherent and visually appealing and appears to have intuitive navigation, they are much more likely to explore the site further, buy your product or service or sign up for your newsletter. Another clear benefit is that they are far more likely to return to your site through having bookmarked it, or even signed up for your email list.

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