Quiet Structure and Web Design

July 8, 2007

Lately, I’ve been working on the look and layout of my other blog (it’s definitely time for a change, and kind of a work in progress because I’m trying to learn how to do everything myself because I’m one of those people who just have to know how everything works), so I’ve been thinking about web design – the other sites I like, what colors and features are appropriate, and what message I want my designs to send.

At it’s most basic, a website is an information delivery system, and the layout or template is the packaging.  Yes, a plain white background with black type will accomplish the content delivery part, but that doesn’t exactly stand out from the millions of other blogs on the net.  Other sites have way too much going on – too many badges, widgets, and general bells and whistles – so the design obscures the content.  Obviously, the goal is create something that falls between the extremes.

Daily Blog Tips has an excellent post on web design and the 43 mistakes you should avoid.  I agree with pretty much all of their points (especially about not using flash, but sites with tons of flash that take forever to load really annoy me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one – I’d actually go as far as saying not to use flash at all).  However, the “never have links open in a new window” seems to be less important now that tabbed browsing has gone totally mainstream.

Some people will say “if I write good content, it shouldn’t matter what my site looks like!”  Yes, quality content (content meaning writing, images, podcasts, video, and anything else that can be put up on a website) is always key, but the packaging is really just as important.  There is such a vast quantity of information and content on the web that an ugly package just won’t get picked up.

You wouldn’t wrap an expensive gift in yesterday’s newspaper, would you?  (actually, I do know some people who would do that – maybe that explains the sheer amount of unattractive sites on the web).  But on the net as in life, appearances matter.  I’ve read the argument that design matters less thanks to RSS feeds and aggregators, but people have to suscribe to your feed somehow and anyways, don’t you want to make a good first impression?

I’ve realized that I like sites with “quiet structure”- when the architectural elements are de-emphasized in order to make the content more conspicuous.  Plus, they’re a little easier on the eyes than other designs, and that’s definitely something consider.  Much has already been said about CNN’s new layout, but it’s a good example of the quiet structure idea.  Check out this excellent article from Andy Rutledge’s Design View for more on creating a site that has a quiet structure.

I also tend to like sleek, simple designs, especially for authority blogs or sites – the web equivalent of an Armani suit.  Simple, uncluttered lines in subtle colors that convey sophistication, taste, and a bit of style.  After all, a poorly designed website doesn’t exactly instill a sense of trust in your readers.  You can probably tell from looking at this blog that I don’t like to add superfluous design elements.

Of course, bold design and luscious color definitely have their place, and when used well, can take a site from good to great.  The look of a site also depends on your message and what you’re promoting – if you run a site on say, traveling to Southeast Asia, it should be colorful and bright.  The look should match the content – this seems obvious, but there are many sites out there that don’t seem to get it.  A good spot to look for information on color and color schemes is Colourlovers, a community for designers and anyone who works with (or just loves) color; there’s a neat blog too.

What are some of your favorite sites, in terms of design?


One Response to “Quiet Structure and Web Design”

  1. […] Lately, I’ve been working on the lookand layout of my two other blogs (it’s definitely time for a change, andkind Read full story… […]

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