Effective visual communication is as much a part of web design as any other aspect. It is crucial in making a site look appealing, but it also does a much more important task. Effective presentation of information and functionality is an essential aspect of having a good site.
Think of it this way – if a site presents information effectively and has a user-friendly interface, it is still useless if the site is ugly or doesn’t match with the client’s brand image. Conversely, no one will wait to see a nice looking page if it takes forever to load or is a pain to navigate.
Remembering that, here are some simple and short tips to help you build a website with better visual communication.
- Don’t make users work – Make sure all your content is well organized and easy to get to. Visitors don’t like to waste their energy trying to find content. Your design should be a helpful conduit between the user and the information, not a hassle they have to work past.
- Don’t make them wait – Try to optimize your graphics so that they load quickly. No matter how fancy a feature of your site is, users will be unhappy if they have to wait for it to load.
- Make sure your navigation is usable and easy to find – This is similar to point one, in that users don’t like to be forced to work to navigate a site. They want to be able to travel anywhere on your site with just one or two clicks. Having a lot of content isn’t worth anything if users can’t get to it easily.
- Keep a consistent theme – Make sure every page looks like it belongs to the same site. you don’t want to confuse your visitors or make them think they accidently left the site.
- Remember the basic rules of design – No matter how much you like a design, keep in mind what the client and the audience wants. As much as you want to make sites that are fun to make, the designer is usually not the target audience.
- Be aware of emerging technology – There is a bit of conundrum with keeping up to date with the latest web technologies. They tend to make better looking sites and are more fun for designers to play with, but they also tend to not work well with older browsers. However, if you learn them now, you will be prepared to implement these technologies when they finally are made compatible with the wide range of browsers.
- Try to make your site as accessible as possible – You never know when visitors may have special needs or disabilities and you never want to make them feel left out. Make your site easy enough that children can operate it. You won’t ever have a customer complain because the site was too easy to use.
- The site was made for a purpose – Sites are made to sell products and services, showcase work, distribute news, and a number of other things, but few are made to simply look pleasing. You are trying to appeal to an audience, and your design is supposed to serve that purpose.
- Design is all about the user – Try to think like a user and not a designer. Keep it simple, appealing, and most of all, easily usable.
If you remember these rules, your visitors and clients should always be happy.
Spyros Thalassinos has even more great tips at Make Your Ideas Art.