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Learn Website Design Concepts

by Webmaster in Design on 2009-11-11

If you go to google.com and search for “website tutorial”, “website design tutorial”, “how to design a website”, chances are you won't be able to find a result that will take you from the beginning of the design process, to the end of the html process. And that is exactly what I'm going to do in this elaborate design tutorial, and for free!

Not only am I going to cover every step in detail, but also provide the reasoning and principles behind the decisions I make. Other design tutorials out there only focus on the instruction aspect, but to truly become a better designer you have to understand the principles and concepts that go into effective website design. All of these principles will help you understand how to make a website.

Website Design Principles

Many webmasters wish they could design great looking sites, but simply can't. They've given it a few attempts, but either due to lack of application knowledge (with apps like photoshop), or lack of “artistic talent”, they give up. And that's fine, because it keeps the market for design healthy! ;) But no, it really doesn't have to be like that. If you're an aspiring designer, there are a few key principles that I want to outline first. They are what helped me through my path to becoming a good designer, and they should help you too if you follow them.

It's not the 90's anymore

When the early pioneers of the internet age began designing websites in the 90's, they became fixated on the filters offered by programs like Photoshop. Lens flares, bevels, drop shadows, glows, were used to their fullest extent. You need to avoid abusing these filters, or I should say, you need to avoid misusing these filters. There are instances in which these filters can be a great benefit, but you have to know how to use them properly and not just slap them on anything and everything.

Usability, Not clutter

Usability is all about making the visitor's experience a good one on your site. Things should be easy to read, easy to access and most importantly, easy to understand. When a visitor visits your site, they should know exactly what your site is about within the first couple seconds. This is obviously where design, and layout come into play. You need to avoid cluttering your site in the physical sense. I'm not talking about having “too much content”, but rather how you choose to display that content. Things should be laid out with spacing and margins.

Text Do's and Dont's

One of the really big fads that was prevalent in the early part of this decade, was the use of small fonts. I was one of those idiots because I thought it “looked” cool. But for all practical purposes, I always scorn people for using size 10px or less for fonts. Never go below 11px font - and even 11px should only be used sparingly. Size 14px (which is what this is) seems most ideal for paragraph's of text. You can get away with 12px of course, but as screen resolutions are increasing, 12px suddenly becomes smaller. Line-height is very important. Line-height is the spacing between each line of text in your paragraphs. Standard line-height I find is a tad bit too thin, and I like to expand it a little more. It makes it easier for people to read.

Colors and Contrast

The color theme of a site is obviously important. A lot of aspiring designers have a tenancy to use too many colors, simply because they're there. But I like using no more than 2 primary colors and a third “secondary” color that I will use sparingly throughout the design. A simple color theme is easier on the eyes, easier to “comprehend” and overall just looks better. Of course there are exceptions to this, but 9 times out of 10, it's always better to keep the color theme simple.

The color theme also needs to connect with the visitors and the purpose of the site. For example, I wouldn't use blue and florescent green/yellow for a site about health - it simply doesn't make sense and I think that's a given.

Contrast is hugely important. It's very important that your content and navigation are correctly contrasted. The foreground text needs to either be very dark, or very light in comparison with the background color. I see a lot of sites where the text will be a light gray and the background is white - err! That's very annoying and hard to read.

Design around the purpose of the site

A lot of designers, those experienced and not, always use the same “formula” for layout and design elements. To really make an impressive and effective site, you need to fully understand what the purpose of the site is, and what the goals are. Whether the site is based around selling memberships, or just general ad-based content - the design should cater most effectively to the purpose. And that's what I will be demonstrating in the tutorial proceeding this page.

A common mistake for the aspiring designer is thinking they should be able to open up photoshop, and design a great looking site on their first try. Nope, doesn't happen like that. You wouldn't pick up a guitar and start writing music without first learning a few songs right? Right, and it should be no different for web design. I recommend that beginners simply try to recreate existing designs that they think look good. If you do this a few times, it will (1) help you learn the application, (2) help you become a better designer. You subconsciously learn when you recreate an existing design. You automatically pick up design sense when you do this, and it really helps and goes a long way when it comes down to designing your own sites.

Reference: http://www.garysimon.net/webdesign_tutorial/1