visual elements

in web design.

Images and other visual elements, play a major role in web design. Light or heavy site themes and individual-page themes, it is all about balanced distribution of visual elements, much like a painter plans and works on canvas.

One can define various local rules for how a site shall appear visually. What colors, shapes and types to use where, can all be pre-defined. From very tight and strict down to the last pixel and color transition, to quite loosely and free around a vague theme. What to go for does of course depend on the type of site, as what goes well on a private site like mine, may not work at all on a business site.

On this site for instance, where I have pre-defined the overall site-wide design to come through as the distinct but discrete theme you see here, while giving myself great freedom in what to add and how to distribute non-content visual elements on individual pages.

Whenever possible, the “free” visual elements are used to reflect and support the content in a small way on individual pages, while making sure they don't collide with the overall visual theme.

Examples of such “free” elements in use are found for every headline on this page, and a few are attached to paragraphs.

building a vision

Whether we start designing based on a more or less complete plan, or build up towards a vision as we go, a degree of homogeneity must exist for the final web design to work. Otherwise we inevitably will end up with many design ideas that are fighting each other, and even if our plan is to design a veritable chaos, it is unlikely to work well.

Something must tie the final design together, and that “something” can, at least in theory, be almost anything. Even “nothing” may work in some “minimal design” cases, but then visitors may need an overly inflated imagination to read anything into it.

Overall visual designs are often built around a “content-delivery style”, and not so much the content itself. Content vary, but the style with which content is presented usually remains more or less the same throughout a site.

Part of my style is for instance to use visually separate sections for grouping and presenting main content. These sections create a number of light 3D edges that open up pages for edge-crossing elements. Non-square looking elements are far better suited than square looking ones for edge-crossing, so already at this stage a prominent part of the design is determined.

content presentation first … all else later

On B2B and B2C oriented sites the visual design is often kept strict and somewhat minimalistic, and as much space as possible is left open for presenting content. How content is presented on such sites is of course surrounded by design decisions, as the better the presentation the more likely these sites are to sell products and services on offer.

Especially on business sites one may as well start with how to present content, before focusing on anything else. Even before choosing and/or coding up the basic HTML template and interactive solutions, as the difference between average and great business sites is all in getting content presentation right.

From my point of view there is something seriously wrong when sites have visual designs that point one way, while their “content-delivery style” (or lack of “style”) points in totally different directions. It is as if these sites were put together by chance, with no real decisions made for what they are launched for and how they should be perceived by visitors.

We have probably all seen sites that seem to have been designed around much too narrow themes. After a while, when site-owner has nothing more to say under and around the chosen theme, the design theme and content seem to split.

What all too often happens next, is that the site literally runs out of steam and falls silent or disappears. In the best of cases, such sites are redesigned and given less focused and more inspiring design themes in time to avoid the bad faith.

having a plan that works

Even the simplest of plans for what a web site should come through to visitors as, is a lot better than no plan at all. Spending time on planning before doing, always pays off.

It is also much better to spend time on planning for content delivery and how to design around that process, then to focus entirely on visual design and push all thoughts on content delivery off till later. “Later” may easily end up being too late to get the visual design right for delivering the content the site is supposed to cover.

Sections were introduced on this site to make it easier for visitors to focus in on different types of content, with few thoughts on making it easy for me to vary design. At the moment of writing there are four subject-oriented sections on site, plus one site-oriented-information section.

My chosen visual design theme and solution, has very little to do with what I write about, but a lot to do with how I deliver content. And, as mentioned earlier, the “content-delivery style” is pretty much the same throughout the site.

Behind it all, and affecting the visual design and all else on site, there is a lot that comes out of various parts of my personality. Fairly faint and not easily described, but I do think, and feel, that it comes through to visitors anyway, without disturbing anyone.

sincerely  georg; sign

Hageland 11.apr.2014
last rev: 24.apr.2014 advice upgrade advice upgrade navigation