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Web Page Layout Suggestions

Recently I’ve been researching a number of web sites.  There are few sites that hit the mark when it comes to delivering a usable and compelling online experience. Today I have a few short musings about page layout.

The first place most users enter a web site is the home page.  It is important to note not everyone will enter your site through your home page.  Ask yourself this question: Are your users able to quickly orient themselves while entering other pages of your site?

Just because you can make your site look like Vegas, doesn’t mean it needs to look like Vegas. Many companies and developers feel compelled to cram as much onto the home page as possible.  Users are presented with so many options they don’t know where to start.  How many times have you visited a web site and quickly become lost?  It’s similar to a cover of a book or first impression. Smartly limit the number of options you present to the user. 

Headline Suggestions
There are certain simple steps anyone can take to help their user get more from their web site. One of the easiest ways to draw users into your web site is with a compelling headline on your homepage. Headlines are a great way of quickly orienting your users. It is an invitation to read further if the user feels the content is relevant to their needs.  Frame your headline to appeal to the interest of the user, not your self interest.  Many people use headlines to determine if it worth clicking on a link and reading further.

More Screen Real Estate to Use
Our displays are getting larger and people are using higher screen resolutions.  Several people think that you should maximize the use of your on screen real estate. Because you have the space to use doesn’t mean you must use the space.  Use an appropriate amount of white space around text and images. White space is like breathing room or a margin around elements.  It assists in keeping the page from being overcrowded and helps create a balanced design.  You don’t need to fill up the entire screen with content.

Consistent and Intuitive Navigation

Keep your design and navigation consistent throughout your web site.  Standard places for navigation are horizontally along the top or vertically along the left. One of the quickest places users get disoriented in usability tests is navigation testing.  They read a link title and click on the link based on their expectation. They become disoriented or disappointed because the link didn’t accurately reflect the content. When users click on the navigation they should be taken to a page that reflects the navigation title. Navigation headings should be succinct and to the point.

What Looks Like Advertising
There are very few web sites you can visit without being inundated with advertising.  Several web sites need the advertising to generate revenue.  I recall reading a case study years ago regarding pop ups and advertising.  Some users actually placed stick it notes on their monitors to cover annoying advertisements.  Today many users have trained themselves to ignore ads.  News sites are one type of web site where people seem less averse to advertising. One common suggestion in the usability and design world is to make sure your links and images don’t look like advertising.  Your users might ignore important information.

Make sure your web pages are easy to use and easy to understand. The information you present needs to be relevant to the user and shouldn’t overwhelm them.  You want to create an experience that compels users to return or take action.

Additional Resources:

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Contrast is one thing that makes the page attractive. The use and mastery of it in color, value, size and weight will greatly affect the site’s appearance and edge. The latter can also affect the look of organization of the page. At a glance, a page may appear organized or the exact opposite. That is the secret of contrast.

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