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Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

I have been designing websites for many years now. Most of the sites that I designed were liked by the client immediately. Occasionally, I was asked to change some design elements and every once in a while a client would ask me to start again from scratch.

This is because there is no right and wrong in web design. One site may look stylish to one person but look awful to another. it is a matter of taste. In one or two isolated cases, I was asked to design a site in such awful garish colours that I was ashamed to add the site to my portfolio. I know it is a matter of personal taste, but there are limits!

One common thing asked for by many of my customers is that they wanted their site to look unique. The truth is that some businesses can get away with quirky ideas. People with trendy bars, businesses in the art world and the like will have a customer profile that is accepting of things that are different.

Most of us though, need to follow some well established web design conventions. The menu to navigate the main parts of the site should be along the top or down the left hand side. The logo should be a link that takes the user to the home page. The method of contact should be obvious and if the phone number is not prominently shown throughout the site, the page with contact details should be very obvious.

Also, colours and contrast should be sombre. Bright reds and oranges should be used sparingly. The background should either be very light with very dark writing on top or vice-versa. Having a rich colour as a background is a big mistake or even worse, a bright photo as a background image can make the site look cheap and nasty and the text unreadable.

So whilst certain aspects of your site will be original, there is nothing wrong with following some well established conventions so that the people who visit your site know exactly what to do to find the information they want. This is especially true of the site's navigation. Flash websites were popular a few years ago and many of them had fancy menus that opened up when your mouse hovered over a nice looking graphic. But this meant that a significant number of visitors never found the menu!

So be brave with your website. And sometimes, one has to be brave to follow the crowd and be conventional even though it is tempting to be highly inventive.

Tue 15 February 2011 11:37:07

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