Four out of five Web designers trapped on a desert island wish they had simpler websites. It's true. Simplicity is the main attribute Web designers seek. Imagine them in their nightmares, tangled in endless links, struggling through thick puddles of weighty images, dizzied by rows of blinking, slurping, burping mailboxes.
Don't feign shock. You know they're out there too. Poorly designed sites that weren't meant for the weak designer. How can I prevent this tragedy, you ask? That's simple. Call for Help. We are here to give you some pointers lest you stray toward the land of ICQ and the dancing hamsters.
Is It Really That Simple?
Simple doesn't mean throwing everything away in favor of a short list. But it can help the creative process. Simple means that your viewers don't get dizzy looking at your site, that they can see quickly and clearly how to move through your site, that they aren't visually offended while visiting your site. All of the above could prove to be a good site, but then it would be called "art."
Simple isn't just a solid color with a few lines of text and an image. Although successful sites such as Webmonkey enjoy heavy use of neon green,
"But I just want a site to show off my Pez collection," you say, "and that's pretty simple." So be it. Show it off, but don't torture your admirers in the process. Even the simplest ideas require some work in design. Let's take this Pez idea.
When in Doubt, Throw It Out
Displaying collections involves a lot of images, so be creative in your planning. Think about your Pez collection. Surely you want people to see the details of each Pez, but you don't need to fill a whole page with a lifesize image of each one. Break them into categories, offer smaller thumbnail versions-- an enticing peak, if you will.
Because you already have your art in the form of the Pez, then you won't need to pile navigation images, header images, and random, fun Pez images all over your site. Use what you have, make sure your images have a reason for being there, and throw away the rest. Or at least move them to the side for now.
Use Your Tools
Now that you're thinking simple, think alternative methods. You have a set of tools to make your site. Use them. Tweak them. Force them to do for you what you need them to do.
Although HTML was created to do certain jobs, almost all of it can be stretched and tweaked to fulfill your needs. If you reluctantly took out some image that you wanted to help divide the page and break up your content, use table background colors instead. Any square or rectangle you make with a table can be made whatever color you want. Not only can you the put text over the color to fashion an image of sorts, but you are adding only small amounts to your file size. Repeat after us: Adds no size, fancifies.
Control your design by using the text attributes in HTML. Unfortunately, you still don't control the fonts that your viewer will see, but you can change the color or size, you can bold it, italicize it, align it, and link it. You can format text between the <blockquote> tags to indent the text and give it a little white space around the edges. Don't be afraid of white space. It gives the eyes a little room to relax and makes it easier to focus.
Once you have your basic elements laid out, play around with tables and alignment, with indenting text and bulleting your ideas. Once you are familiar with your options, your mind will open and the ideas will start flowing. There are a million ways to accomplish an idea. You just need to find the best way.
For more information on design, check out ZDNet's Devhead site, where you can find great articles on various design aspects such as usability, accessibility, graphics, multimedia, and the industry standards.
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