One of the challenges that all web designers face is the restricted space of the webpage format. Sure, you can set up your page so that it seems to scroll on endlessly or build in dozens of links, but these aren’t design strategies that will necessarily work to your advantage. Rather, setting up your sites in these ways can make them seem overwhelming and crowded, chasing users away.
Instead of piling tons of content onto your site with little regard for the aesthetics and function of the layout, it’s important to be intentional about your site’s design. As you start building, consider these three factors for creating an organized, visually appealing website.
Take Some Measurements
You wouldn’t try to move furniture into an apartment without measuring, so why try to cram multiple columns and text boxes onto your site without determining how much room you have to work with? Now, you can’t measure your website in feet and inches – you’ll have to think smaller and work in pixels – but you still need to know the physical constraints of your site.
Most websites stick with the three-box format, consisting of a top graphic area and then two lower content boxes, because this layout works well on just about any screen. You want your website’s pixel dimensions to fit on smaller screens since many people access standard sites via tablet and can’t really adjust their workspaces. Larger screens can accommodate more content, but it’s easier to display less content on a larger scale than to cram more onto a small screen.
Fixed Versus Flexible
When you’re choosing a site template on WordPress or other development platforms, one important decision you’ll need to make is between templates like News Pink Chrome with a fixed width layout and those that feature an elastic or relative width setup. Fixed websites are great because once you measure and layout your site, you’ll always know how it will appear. Pieces won’t shift around based on different screen sizes or browsers. Unfortunately, this stability can also pose certain problems.
When you use a fixed width site, users working within a smaller browser may not be able to see important features on your site, including login buttons or menus, and this can cause you to lose potential users. With so many sites to choose from, most won’t stick around to figure out how to navigate around this glitch.
In contrast to fixed width sites, responsive sites are elastic and able to fit any screen resolution as a result. This has become the gold standard for professional sites because you never have to worry that your site will be cut in half by a small notebook computer or tablet. It also means that users with large desktop screens will see your page at an appropriate size for their overall visual field, rather than a miniaturized version meant for a smaller laptop.
During the layout process, apply a grid whenever possible to your website or design program. Grids help you keep all the elements of your site properly lined up, maintaining even spacing, and helping you attain a professional appearance. Without these guidelines, you risk setting up your site with dozens of tiny, unintentional offsets in the layout and that’s distracting. Grids are an analog solution to this common digital problem.
The layout of your website is one of the first things that users notice, along with your logo and font choices. It’s important to have a plan for the overall arrangement of your site, rather than tucking features wherever seems right in the moment.
Take some time, sketch out your plan, and focus on the details – when you see the final result, you’ll be glad you did.