Emphasis in Design

- August 6, 2008

Imagine for a minute that you’re watching your favorite band in concert and everyone is playing their instrument as loud as possible and in a random manner. The result would be a noise that is almost intolerable. The same goes for design and usability.

A well structured and organized website with good eye flow is essential to getting your message across to the user as quickly as possible. You must have a hierarchy of importance with content, photography and graphics. This relevancy is also a key ingredient to Search Engine Optimization.

Over this 3 part series we will focus on Emphasis in Design using content, photography and graphic elements.

Let’s get started by covering a few text formats to be aware of when designing your web page.

Headline
(Known as an “H1” in html. H1’s are highly important in SEO)
Ask yourself this question: What is my main message? What do I want someone to read if they are only on my site for a few seconds? This is where you place all of your emphasis. Emphasizing a headline doesn’t necessarily mean making it big, bold and bright yellow. That would be the equivalent of someone shouting in your ear. It’s not very pleasing and can be quite an eyesore. A better way to grab someone’s attention is to use a more elegant font with a lot of white space. Ever heard of the saying, “Less is more”?

Subhead
(Known as an “H2” in html. Also very important in SEO. It is possible to have H2, H3, H4, H5, H6. Keep in mind that the relevance is reduced by the higher number.)
The subhead is the supporting message to the headline. It gives a little more information in regard to the main message and entices the reader to continue on.

Body copy
This is where you provide complete information about what you want to communicate. It is subordinate to the headline and subhead and should reflect that.
This is a simple concept but often abandoned. I’ve seen companies, even Fortune 500 companies, miss the mark on this. Design is a “give and take” and sometimes you have to give a little to make your content interesting enough to look at.

Lets take a look at some examples:

Here is a prime example of how NOT to layout information. Everything has the same emphasis and wants all the attention.

This is a Headline
This is a Subhead
This is Body Copy

This Example is a little better but still confusing as to what gets the attention.

THIS IS A HEADLINE
This is a Subhead
This is Body Copy

In this last example, we can clearly see what content is relevant and important.

This is a Headline
This is a Subhead

This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy.
This format is exactly how search engines read your content. Now you can see how important it is to have correct emphasis on a web page. Not only will your users thank you, but the search engines will love you!

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