Articles in the Optimized Website Design & UX Category

What are the best practices for optimized website design and user experience? How can you design an attractive, user-friendly website that maximizes your ability to be found in the Search Engine Results Pages and drives conversions? Read our expert tips for optimized design and user experience, compelling aesthetic design, website architecture, usability and more.

August 6 2008

Emphasis in Design

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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!

July 30 2008

Web Design Trends and Inspiration

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I am moved to write about design trends by this recent post by Nick La of Web Designer Wall. This well-researched list of 2008’s Design Trends mirrors many of its kind that gather and categorize the types of new styles that we see everyday on the internet. In an ever-changing online world, it is critical for Designers to keep up with the latest technology, news and design trends. Websites become dated in less than five years and we designers must keep pace or be left behind.

But what does that mean to our clients, most of whom do not troll the internet looking for inspiration every day? I do not expect any client to re-design every time a new trend appears, but I think it is crucial in choosing a look and feel to know what you are up against. Knowing where your ideas and tastes lie in the rainbow of website styles will help you gauge whether your new site will fit nicely into what users expect from modern web design, or alienate your users with its antiquation!

This is where a Design trend index comes in handy! The blog poster has scoured the internet, and cataloged their findings. The post is a snapshot of what is happening right now in web design. Whether or not you love every design, you will probably get some great ideas, and see how wide ranging these style trends are! Gathering styles that you like, or can relate to will also help in your re-design; to show your design firm where your tastes lie.

Even if you are not re-designing, you may get some great ideas for some simple updates that will bring your site up to today’s high standards. The least you will get out of researching current design trends will be a pleasurable stroll through beautiful and functional works of modern art!
Enjoy!

July 11 2008

Design vs Marketing: Why Collaboration is Key

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Good landing pages and e-mails can drive traffic, increase conversions, and promote branding. But these small, important snippets of your company promotion are a lot more work than they appear. The planning, targeting and design will provide fruitful rewards if they are approached in a well rounded and experienced manner.

Speaking as a designer, I am often tempted to jump right into a promotion, in an effort to make a beautiful creative off the bat. I want something striking, well laid out, and well, pretty!

However, what I often forget is the importance of closely collaborating with our Campaign Strategists, or Marketing team. They are the troops on the front line, the ones who are speaking with and studying, not only the client’s campaign every day, but general marketing trends. They have an up-close view on the client’s campaign, brand and other current promotion efforts. They also have updated knowledge on placement of elements, calls to action and effective headlines. Without all this important information, I cannot hope to make a creative that speaks to that unique client’s unique customer.

So although it forces me to bend my pretty design, add in content that destroys my white space and color buttons beyond my original plan, it is my job as a designer to resolve these issues, and work with a Marketer to make a creative that represents our client in the best, and most appealing way!

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