When categorizing a web site, there are many views designers take on labeling a site with good design or a bad design. I will point out some features that you should look out for, and consider when breaking apart the design of a web site. I will not go in depth in what a site should contain as far as content goes. This is a holistic view of the design view in general.
Themes: Designers are a very powerful tool in converting mundane, complex web applications into warm, inviting experiences that can influence the decisions of millions of people. Designers can help people understand what a site is trying to communicate by making things seem simpler, delightful, and to the point. That is where design themes come into play. What is the site trying to communicate? What is the purpose of the site? What is the target audience for this site? Design themes are applied to individual sites one at a time. What design themes can sites have? Grungy, Metallic, Sketchy, Textured, Illustrated, Corporate, Organic? The design theme breakdown can go on and on. There are plenty of things to consider when deciding on a design theme, but this is only a primary step into completing a well-rounded designed web site.
Usability: When discussing usability in web design, usability does not mean if the site works and can be used. We all hope that your web designer and developer can make a simple link work! Usability simply means, a tool or function in a human-made object that can be used with ease. In other words, does the navigation easily point you to the content you need to go to. Does the widget on your page easily inform your visitors what it is supposed to? Are the tools and functions in your page easy to use, and useful in your site. Believe it or not, this is a very important factor in your site design. How to direct your users to these functions involves good site design. Design these tools as part of the layout design, as if it was one of its appendages – Its legs, hands or ears! Consistency in design is the key.
Color: Have you ever been to a web site where blue links are over a black background? How about a site where over 5 totally different colors exist in one page? Color has the tendency to depict a well designed web site. Chances are, that if you have bad color schemes, or for that matter, NO color scheme, the site will fail in design. Color schemes should have consistency with the company identity – the logo. Will the color scheme contrast or compliment the logo design? Once a decision has been made, create a palette that will work with the theme of the company or organization. A good rule of thumb is to use no more than 3 hues. Now, that doesn’t mean, only use 3 colors entirely. From there, different shades and saturations can be derived from the primary 3. Monochromatic schemes only use one hue, but that does not mean only use 1 color throughout the entire design. Use different shades and saturations of that one hue. Go ahead, give it a try!
Balance: The balance of a site can differentiate a good design from a bad design. It is customary for beginning designers to either left align everything or center align everything. Good balance uses combinations of all. Whatever combinations of graphics, headings and text your site has, you should try to visualize all elements in your layout as boxes of black and white. That will allow you to visualize heavy content from light content. For example, if you have a graphic intense header at the top of your layout, try to balance the layout with a graphic intense lower area.
Typography: Typography is another important basic design element. Bad typography = bad design. There are two major sides of typography: Serif and Sans-Serif. Which one do we use? Well, the answer is relative to your design theme. It is very common for modern clean designs to use sans-serif, but serif fonts can work as well. It all depends on your typography. Typography is the art, design and layout of your readable type. Does it clearly communicate while aesthetically soothing your designer point of view? Typography can be considered and art form in itself. It may take years of practice to develop great typography skills, or you may just be a natural at it. Just remember that Typography is an enormous field that has both digital and physical applications. Don’t limit your type to bland boring blocks of text.
There is a brief outline of what goes into designing a good web site. Yes it may seem like a lot to think about, or like a lot to go through to accomplish this task, but with plenty of experience, a good designer can accomplish these things without breaking a sweat! Take a look at the Magic Logix portfolio section for a brief gallery of some good design examples.