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Thursday, Sep 12, 2013

Web Design Standards

This is the second part of our series on the basics of web design. To learn more, go back to read the first article entitled “Web Design – An Introduction”.

We’ve already talked about keeping web design “Simple.” In some ways, “Standard” is just an extension of being simple. You shouldn’t try to do new, experimental things with your website in the hopes of impressing people; keep it simple. Proven, functional styles and back ends work best because you don’t have to worry about them malfunctioning or displaying incorrectly to some users.

A standard site uses time-tested layouts and navigation. Why? You don’t want your visitors to get lost! Web design should be intuitive – a customer should not be scratching their head, wondering where to go to peruse your different services or products. As a business, you want to win the attention and time of potential customers. This time is a precious commodity, and you can’t afford to waste the attention span you’ve gained with a fancy, one-of-a-kind layout and navigation system that a visitor has to figure out.

A common way that many people try to mistakenly flout the standard design practice is with font choices. The problem is, what you see when you’re making a page is not necessarily what everyone else will see. If you had to download a font, chances are that the average visitor doesn’t have it. When you use a specific font, the information about that font is not (using most methods) “saved” onto the site. Instead, it only shows if the viewer already has that font installed on their computer. If they don’t, a default font will be used. This default font (a) might not look good with the rest of your design (e.g., graphics with text) and (b) might have different size and spacing, messing up your painstaking organization and layout.

You want your site to look the same, no matter who is looking at it or what they’re looking at it on. “Standard” fonts like Times New Roman, Arial and Helvetica are standard for a reason: they’re incredibly common, easy to read and work for just about any application. Other standards like the almost omnipresent usage of vertical, scrolling navigation are the same. Stick with the standards and you won’t have to worry about anything going wrong.

Standard can be summed up thusly: don’t flout convention just to try being creative. Functionality is the first concern in web design. No one will care how artistic your site looks when you view it on your computer if the navigation is confusing and the text doesn’t display properly when they look at it at home. And standard doesn’t mean “boring,” either! Going standard with your site means that you’re taking the reliable route. There are other places where you can add flair, but don’t compromise on the basics.

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