Join Sue Jenkins for an in-depth discussion in this video Communication: Leading viewers through a design, part of Design Aesthetics for Web Design (2013).
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The fifth concept on foundational topics and web design is communication and exploring ways to lead web visitors through a design. Designing for the web requires that the designer not only consider the meaning and relative importance of the site content. But also to reflect on the user's experience and to anticipate visitor's habits and needs. To that end, there have been a lot of studies performed to analyze internet user experience. And the results have virtually changed the way we structure and build websites today.
According to the Nielsen Norman Group's examination of how people view a webpage. Heat mapping evidence shows that the eyes travel in a very specific way across a webpage. They say, quote, Eye tracking visualizations show that users often read web pages in an F-shaped pattern to horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe, end quote. Here is an example of how some heat map show that data. Where the red or hottest areas depict where the eyes spend most of the time.
Here's the same heat map with an F-shaped pattern overlay to show how the eyes travel from point 1 to 2 first, then down and across from point 3 to 4, then down again to 5. What this type of discovery tells us is that the most important content needs to be easily accessible for visitors who may be rapidly scanning your site. It was further determined by the Nielsen Norman Group that users will not read text thoroughly. Your first two paragraphs on each page need to include the most important information.
All sections on every page should be clearly labeled with headers, subheads, paragraphs, and bulleted lists. And you should really use images to draw attention to important areas, both inside and outside the F zone. Following this logic then, we have a clear map for how to arrange our sites content. We begin by placing the branding and main navigation. Of course the navigation can go across the top or on the left or on the right. But for our purposes we'll start with the branding across the top.
Next, we can add a tagline and a section header or perhaps some kind of graphic, a slider, or a rotating banner. Below the banner, we will place all of our page content with clearly labeled headings and paragraphs and images to highlight areas of interest. Navigation to subareas in this section could go in a sidebar along the left or right edge of the layout. Lastly, we can drop in our footer and arrange the content in some meaningful way. Such as two or three columns with images or icons as needed to attract the desired amount of attention.
Some of your customers may not provide you with content that matches this kind of detailed organization. Especially when you want the layout to have visual consistency from page to page. For instance, they may give you headings but no subheadings. Or they may want you to use longer phrases for navigation text. For those cases, you can either ask your client to write additional copy for you. Or you can suggest copy that they can edit and approve. Either way, this can give you what you need. Such as a photo or you need text for Heading 1 and Heading 2 for each page.
Typography is also a major concern. Keep your typefaces to a maximum of two for the headings and paragraphs unless the nature of your site requires adding additional fonts. Choose a readable font for the paragraph so the text is easy to skim. This also allows you a bit more freedom of expression in both size and style for your titles and headings. Color is key to communicating effectively. Choose a color palette for your user interface, backgrounds, and text that's appropriate to your client's needs.
Whether that's blue or green or brown or some other color. Many professional designers stick with neutral backgrounds and pops of color, so that the images, titles, and headings will stand out from the text. When you can, try to work with a grid-based layout. This type of system can help keep your content organized. Think about telling a story in each section. And then organize the content in an F pattern there too. Highlight the most important parts in each section using headings and images.
Less is more is a great principle to follow here. Keep it simple and people will be more likely to see it. Think of ways to breakdown content into bite sized pieces such as using lists. If you have a list embedded in a paragraph, consider breaking it out into separate bulleted lists. It's far easier for the human mind to comprehend information when it can be skimmed quickly. So when in doubt, break it down. Use white space and consider how the content will flow on your page. People tend to read in the F pattern first.
And then, they zigzag through the longer pages from left to right and down in a fluid S-shape pattern. Build your design file for flexibility, so you can easily change the colors, fonts, and sizes of elements, in case your customer has any change requests. For example, you might want to make the header background shape a separate shape from the body background. And use different text boxes for headings and paragraphs. Also keep your design files clean and organized by labeling everything and using folders to group layers.
So for instance, if we did want to change this background to a different color since it's a different shape, that's not a problem at all. Lastly, pay attention to the details and don't overdo it. Add anything that might be missing but definitely remove anything that's nonessential. So, for instance, I might not need those little bullets in the footer. And I can easily hide them, like so. Communication is a hot topic right now in web design. The easier it is for a visitor to get to the content, the more likely it is that they are to purchase a product or service, bookmark a site, and share the site with their friends through social media.
The tips discussed here are just some of the ways you can improve your designs to lead visitors through a webpage. When you reflect on the user's experience and anticipate their habits and needs, you can structure your content in new ways that engage visitors both aesthetically and intellectually.
- Understanding aesthetics
- Picking harmonious colors
- Structuring your layout
- Using space to organize your design
- Communicating with the right fonts
- Aligning objects to achieve balance
- Adding movement with scrolling and animation
- Achieving proportion by scaling objects and text
- Creating CSS for different devices