Web design is the creation of web pages using coding languages. Although you may think that the design process would be similar to designing for print, the way that people experience a website is different – they can enter a site at any page and will scan for information. Web users are goal driven and if they don’t find what they are after quickly and easily they will soon click on to another site. This means that for a website to be effective, the designer must create something that looks good, is easy to navigate and holds interest. If the site is for a company, it has to reflect that company in the best light possible and be in line with their brand identity.
There are many potential pitfalls for web designers but they can be avoided with proper planning.
One of the potential mistakes a designer can make is to keep the same colour for a link once it has been clicked. Users like links to change colour because it helps them navigate and tells them where they have already been. Whilst this function helps people avoid re-visiting pages that weren’t useful or that they don’t need to go to again, it can also help them re-visit a page that was particularly useful or interesting to them.
Designers are now able to fix a font size using CSS style sheets and sometimes they are tempted to do just this. Whilst it may seem a good idea to a young designer that wants to make sure everyone sees the page as they intended, not everyone has perfect eyesight. By disabling the ability for a browser to increase the font size, anyone with poor eyesight is immediately disadvantaged and perhaps even totally excluded from the site. This is obviously not a good idea.
Text is useful for web pages because it gives people something to read and it is also good for search engine optimisation. Search engines such as Google like text so that they can determine what a page is about and if it is relevant to searcher’s queries. Having said this, putting text on a site in a big block is not good. As we have already determined, web users scan pages to try to quickly pick out the important points. A big block of text is very off-putting. It needs to be broken up and made as concise as possible. Important wording will benefit from emphasis in bold.
Many people are creatures of habit and they like certain things to be predictable. When they browse a website they are no different. If a site starts doing things they don’t expect they will have an incentive to click away. A website should follow the normal conventions of the web and act like other websites do in terms of functionality. If clicking the company logo takes users on most websites back to the home page, they won’t want it to unexpectedly take them to a game on another site. Give users what they want.
If a designer knows what the point of the website is and who the target audience is, they will be able to design a better site. This needs to be communicated to them in the design brief. It is down to the designer to ask the right questions and for the person briefing to give as much information as possible to help them. The designer will then need to use that information to come up with an amazing website. If the designer has a proper brief and they use their design skills and knowledge of potential pitfalls, a fantastic website is possible.