As promised last week, today I’d like to talk about the 8 important aspects in web design. I’ve decided to dedicate a separate post to cover the 16 favourite fonts by professional web designers.

  1. Failure to Communicate

    Designing a web site means delivering the client’s or project’s message. So a clear communication is the key factor here. It’s also about finding the right solutions for the project’s tasks and needs. When the client says he/she wants a fun website, with some movements, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire site has to be done in Flash. Often the client doesn’t know any better, at first the Flashy animation might be welcomed but later on the same client may be facing many problems down the road when his visitors start complaining about the lack of content, slowly loading pages or poor usability of the site. It is important to have the communication going both ways – the Client tells the Designer what are the site goals and needs, the Designer educates the Client about the possible and better ways of achieving these targets.

  2. Usability = Success

    Usability is all about making your website visitors feel at home when browsing the pages, searching for some information and actually finding one, it’s about making them feel welcome and encouraging to come back again and again. It’s like when friends are coming over to your place and asking for a cold beer: “Where do you keep it?” Your answer would be none other but “Where else, in the fridge”. The navigation on any website should be as obvious and easy to use. Sometimes it’s much better to compromise the design for usability rather than having a website with a stunning design but a nightmare to use.

  3. Meticulousness is the sign of Professionalism

    If there’s something that stands out in any web site’s design it’s the attention to details to the point of achieving the perfection. It’s the right combination of colours, typography, content, content labeling, graphics. Antoine de Saint-Exupery was absolutely right when he said that “You know you have achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away”.

  4. Accessibility and Standards

    Every web designer’s wish is to see that one day all web browsers on any platform will render and interpret websites exactly the same way. But until that wish comes true, we must pay a special attention to the accessibility and follow the standards. I don’t want to sound as a parrot, repeating the standard dogmas, so I link you to Andrew Rickmann’s article that explains it all.

  5. Typography

    Just like everyone notices a quality paper and easy on the eye layout when we flip magazine or newspaper pages, the same way a good typography unobtrusively adds the high caliber craftsmanship to a website. I’ve previously listed 16 bits of Exceptional Typography Resources that should help everyone to get it right.

  6. Colour

    I was surprised that none of the 35 interviewed designers mentioned anything about the significance of the Colour for Web. We all heard about the importance of making a great impact during the first few seconds when landing a new visitor to your site – in my opinion the right colours, colour combinations will be the first things that grab people’s attention. Don’t miss the 8 bits of Colour Inspirations

  7. Content is crucial

    If a website has no content, what is the point of having a website? Not every website should have lots of textual data, however the content should represent the essence of the site, talk to visitors and explain what this page is all about. It can be achieved either by well-written articles, or well-presented media (images, video, music). Meanwhile, there’s a new type of sites that emerged in the last several years – blogs, and that’s where it’s crucial to have an outstanding written content, that can be cleverly accompanied with some interesting media elements.

  8. Trademark Style

    Web and Graphic designers are not artists, not in a traditional way. A painter never becomes famous without developing a unique sense of style, an instantly recognizable trademark. Van Gogh, one of the prolific painters of all time, created numerous masterpieces. I haven’t seen all of them, but I can immediately identify if a painting belongs to Van Gogh, because of the master’s unmatched talent to get people see the world through the artist’s eyes. There’s a one of a kind Van Gogh style that can be spotted by everyone in anyone’s painting. With Web/Graphic designers it’s a different story – if they use the same style, same techniques they bring nothing new to every project they work on, and most importantly no individuality. The website should represent the client, the project, not the designer.

What do you think about the above-mentioned 8 principles of Web design? Which aspects of web design do you consider paramount?

This article was inspired and partially based on the results of the interviews conducted with 35 web designers by Smashing Magazine.

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15 Insightful Bits in response to “Web Design Dissected Into 8 Bits”

  1. I would say usability and content. People can forgive an ugly design if the content is great and stuff is easy to find.

  2. I think the overall architecture is most important which I guess maps to your point about usability.

    There are lots of different ways to navigate through a site and picking the right one for the context is very important.

  3. Bes

    Excellent post. Here we go:

    1 : Failure to Communicate – aaah, the essence of communication tumbling down because one doesn’t understand how a website works, or what it is all about. Fancy images, fancy flash, fancy labeling around the site that doesn’t explain itself, all results in users not knowing what a website is about, and thus not knowing much what the website wants to say. In my view, a website should constantly work on improving its communication methods.

    2 : Usability = Success – good example about the fridge. Some people keep cold beer in the patio if they live in San Francisco, by the way. =P You are right, so many beautiful sites are horrible at navigation and clarity, yet those site owners keep stressing how beautiful their site is. Beauty is nothing without the actual mental meaning.

    3 : Meticulousness is the sign of professionalism – Excellent point! If I listed all the changes I make to my site everyday, the changelog for each page would be at least a few pages long. Small things count. Even italicizing quotes helps a reader reader faster and better, and understanding things better too.

    4 : Accessibility and Standards – Again, extremely important. As time passes, many people are forgetting that not everyone reads, sees or hears the same way. Flickr is great, but what about those who cannot see well? We should try to make our sites as much accessible as possible, for both different human beings and different browsers, etc.

    5 : Typography – I have to work more on this. I like great fonts, and at the same time, I want to use something that everyone can see without having to change or install anything on their systems.

    6 : Color – Again, an important point. I have been experimenting with color a lot, going from red to blue to white to shades of grey to orange to blue to blue and grey and green, etc. I have to change some colors soon, again, as part of the “spring redesign.”

    7 : Content is Crucial – This is the most important part in any design. Content can be anything from written words to visual designs and more, depending on the site. The content should indeed “represent the essence of the site”; I completely agree.

    8 : Trademark Style – I am guessing if it is natural, a person cannot recognize his/her trademark style?

    I think your list is great and a good cheat-sheet to keep in mind when designing or redesigning a site.

    For me, I consider the content aspect to be the most important, then small details and effective communication and accessibility and usability [in no specific order]. The rest can be worked on all the time and are important to keep in mind also, but the above are essential.

  4. I think content is the most important thing. Marcus from have shown how an basic, unappealing site can garner a huge amount of traffic.

    The idea is simple – give people what they want and they’ll come back – with friends!

  5. Vivien

    Bes, thank you for another great review of my thoughts :-)

    Inspirational Quote Maniac, you’re right about some blogs that get lots of traffic and have tons of loyal readers just because of the great content, despite a poor interface design.

  6. Very sound advice!

  7. One of the nicest things about the web is definitely that, even if one designer designs many different projects, there are still little hints they’ve been there – comments in the code, the way they structure the content, the amount and style of graphical design used etc.

    Colour’s ability to alter moods and set tones is definitely overlooked!

  8. Vivien

    I agree, every designer/developer has his/her own special way of putting things together, coding practice. As long as they are just “little hints”, there’s nothing wrong with that.

  9. “if they use the same style, same techniques they bring nothing new to every project they work on, and most importantly no individuality.”

    We were just discussing this issue the other day. That is why we want to make sure we have more than one designer instead of one designer and everyone else codes.

  10. Your decision to hire different designers certainly makes sense, Gina. There are some designers out there who constantly turn out distinct designs.

  11. All designers probably do have 1 or maybe 2 specialities or ademark Style” (whether they know it or not). There’s nothing wrong with having a sweet spot.

    The fact is not every designer can be the best designer for every type of project. The better the designer, the broader the spectrum of projects and styles they can adapt to. But although a designer might have the best possible creativity and design in the world for brief X, when they reach brief Y there might be 1000s of designers who are better than him/her.

    Practically it’s probably good to strive to be a generalist, but in reality people have trademarks, styles and natural talents.


  12. Agree with Inspirational Quote Maniac. Content is most important.

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on