In the first part of this article, we looked at some basic principles for creating clear and effective website designs like logos, branding, content and colour schemes.
In this section we’ll look at probably the most important page of every website – the homepage, and then focus on why website designers need to pay attention to even the smallest details like line height, font sizes and he use of white space.
So, what’s so special about the home page and why does it need to create an impact? Well, it’s simple really: a homepage’s real goal is to establish a connection with the visitor. It tells any viewer what your website is all about and what it stands for. It has to get this message across effectively and quickly, as statistically speaking you only have on average between 7 and 10 seconds to grab the reader’s attention before they go elsewhere. If you don’t make this impact, then potentially you’ve lost a sale.
So how can you ensure that your homepage grabs the attention you want and delivers to the best of its ability? This question will be covered in greater depth in a later article, but for now all you have to remember is if you want to maximise the impact of your home page, then:
- Only put interesting and relevant information on your home page – it keeps visitors awake and engaged.
- Keep it short and sweet: use bullet points and short sections only. Clearly define each section so the viewer knows what you’re referring to.
- Make the site navigation obvious: use a site map, preferably at the top left hand of the page that gives clear instructions on how users can navigate through the site and also include a search function.
- Include your email address, company name and phone number on the home page. If you have testimonials and customer ratings include them too. Remember it’s important to earn the trust of your reader.
- Make sure there are no errors or dead ends linking from the homepage – it can irritate readers and looks unprofessional.
Ensure that each page of the website has a clear focal point so that readers can readily focus of the main message of each page. Make the focal point prominent: give it a larger font size, use colour if necessary and make sure it’s the dominant message on the page. The reader needs to know what’s important and why they’re looking at that particular page.
It may seem a little pernickety, but paying attention to line height is important for the impact of any webpage. Different elements of your website will require different line heights and spacings: paragraphs, lists, images, navigation, headings, sub-headings and captions all need to be distinct and will all require attention. By making each of these sections distinct, your website will become clearer and more easily digestible and understood.
It goes without saying that font sizes should be large enough for people to read. Using any font with a sizing of less than point 11 is inadvisable. Readers don’t appreciate having to strain to read any copy. Accessibility is important for all websites. Many sites are now increasing their font sizes to point 13 and above to make reading easier.
The use of white/negative space
What is white space? Well, it’s that section of the page that isn’t covered by text or images. Why is it important in? Well, because it makes reading and navigation much easier and clearer. It might seem unnecessary, but the correct use of white or negative space is a key element to aesthetic website composition. Leaving certain areas of each page uncluttered gives a sense of order and balance. Cramming material into every available corner of the page only leads to confusion. Separating headlines and paragraphs and leaving space in between these looks much better, and makes it easier for the reader to focus on the important message on the page.