How to create a great website, pt 4: Creating designMay 07, 2009
If you aren't a designer then there's no need to bother yourself with designing a website on your own. Stick to what you're good at and what you enjoy doing. There are two wiser and more effective ways to get the work done -- either hire a great designer or pick a ready-made design template from a design stock. Be cautious and ask questions. A good design doesn’t mean special effects, mind-blowing graphics and a growing number of designer-wannabes visiting your site.
What makes a great design?
Design is good when it keeps you away from thinking. No, it
doesn’t mean a good design is a stupidizer. It’s just that your target
audience is mostly after content, not design. Design should only support
content, give it a form, and make the digesting part seamless and
natural. Good design doesn’t necessarily impress, but it definitely
doesn’t disgust. Good design leads you to what you are looking for
Aesthetics is a question of taste. Taste is subjective. Some of us like ornaments, some hate them. Some of us like gothic letters, some say they are ugly. I like browns, you dig blues. There is no bullet proof choice for aesthetics.
But design as a form and as a layout of content and functionality is a question of understanding, not taste. Cut thinking out from understanding the layout of your site and you have reached a bullet proof design.
Great design is about being handy, not about being being just “beautiful”. Design isn’t art, it’s usability. Design is the fork between the eater and his food. Design carries content and functionality. Now let me eat!
Autopsy of a great designThere’s a number of design rules one must pay attention to when creating
a website. Here’s the most general list of them. Website design must
Intuitive. As said before, design mustn’t make you think. Buttons must look like buttons, links must be easy to hit, menus must be in conventional places. Menu and button texts should also be “designed”, they ought to be short and understandable.
Fitting. Design has to suit its content and it must be built to work on different screens. No holes in layout, no crowded spaces allowed. It should feel as if the design was tailored for its content.
Welcoming. Sites have two kinds of visitors. New and returning. First group needs much more “design attention” than the other. Returning visitors already know your site’s specialities. Newcomers, on the other hand, need to be showed around or they’ll get lost. Build a landing page with a general intro (what’s this site about), blocks introducing the most important parts of your site (key products, clients or team members), block of latest news, and list contact info.
And then there are those words that usually come in the mind when talking about design. Aesthetics, uniqueness, impressiveness, beauty. They are the dot on the i, no the i itself. These additional values make a design great. But a design can be “okay” or even “good enough” without them. Look at Craigslist or Google for example.
Do it “yourself”: design from a stockSo what to do if you have no time or money to create a special design
tailored uniquely for your business? There are thousands of ready made
design templates out there. Just google “website templates” and you’ll
be overwhelmed. Most of them are total crap, true. But still hundreds of
usable options remain.
There are both free templates and those that cost a little. In tools like Edicy and it’s numerous competitors, design stock is part of the service. Then there are the websites devoted to offering templates, by the thousands. It usually requires help from an IT guy to make those work on your site, but it’s an easy task for any techie.
The rule of thumb is that simpler templates with less sections, less pictures, less colours are better designs. It takes a designer to chop down useless components from a crowded template. On the other hand, adding a missing block of text or illustration to a simple design should be doable -- if you stick to just adding content and not trying to design anything.