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I enjoy connecting people and cultures through language – written, spoken and visual.   On these pages I will be sharing my experience, insights and the occasional image , so that it may in some way be beneficial to your  lives and work.   I look forward to your feedback, comments and ultimately to starting a dialogue.

How Important is Good Design?

Part 1: Websites

Design is such an integral part of our lives, that we are usually not aware of the role it plays.  We are surrounded by houses and furniture  wear clothes and shoes, drive cars, buy packaged foods, books, videos, the newest electronic gear and are exposed to some form of advertising for all of these. The products, the brands they bear and the communications have all been designed – generally to attract our attention, influence our decision to buy, own, use and return to again and again.

And where do we see, hear and buy? On The Web.  The medium that has taken on a predominant role in how and where we get our information, form opinions and buy and sell products.   With the advent of the internet and the digital age, we are inundated with a constant flow of high speed communication that is interactive, prompting us to constantly act or react.   The result: Shorter attention spans, the need for instant gratification, smaller, more easily digestible nuggets of information – or what the 24/7 news media have dubbed “sound bites”.

A Website’s ability to grab our  interest is very much a factor of its design. No matter how relevant or interesting the content, presentation is key.

What constitutes good design?  There are probably as many different opinions on this subject as there are websites.  Is Web 2.0 with the promise of  superior interactive experience and cutting edge design the answer?  As someone whose life & work has revolved around the visual and contextual aspects of communication, I’d like to share some of the principles that I have found effective.

Understatement:  Yes, minimalism- clean, uncluttered, with lots of white space, so the message gets through. Too many websites appear to be designed as if they were prime real estate where every inch of space must be amortized (a pet peeve).
User-friendliness: Design for easy access with clearly defined and easy to read menu buttons and intuitive navigation .  With the few nanoseconds of initial attention a home page generally gets, tiny, unattractive menu elements, confusing or complicated navigation will inevitably lead to a quick click away from the site. The potential user/customer has been lost and will probably not return.
Color: Focus on two or three signature colors that can be repeated or varied in tone and shade. Less is definitely more here.  The result will be twofold:

  1. Impact and message penetration.  If our visual receptors are bombarded with too many stimuli, the message is lost in multicolor overload.
  2. Subtle but effective building of your Brand identity – even if you haven’t formally defined it. This builds familiarity and loyalty to your Brand, whether it is a personal or corporate brand, a product or service you offer.

Visual Imagery:  If properly used, strong but simple visual elements and minimal imagery enhance a site and make it memorable, inviting return visits. The principles that characterized successful print advertising are eminently relevant “an intelligent, often witty headline and text-only ad can be as emotional if not more so than “big headlines and color pictures”.

Content: Even if you have a lot to say (I should take my own advice), focus the content per page on a few well-defined messages, so that the sheer volume doesn’t intimidate and turn away even motivated, interested visitors.

A rule of thumb that has proven effective:  Place your key messages – the ones most likely to generate interest, grab attention and hold it  – in the upper half of the page, especially the home page.  Here is where well-structured navigation will enable you to provide the information in a succession of doses that are easy to absorb and retain.

In a Web 2.0  age “Less is More” rules.

If you’re thinking of creating a Website or would like to upgrade an existing one, think about using these tips. You will see results.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE, BLOG OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this blurb:   If you are ready to make use of the tools to drive your business by enhancing your brand and connecting with global audiences in a language they can understand,  visit
www.ellistrauss.com
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