O (microcosma) wrote in naivedesign,

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General Design Tips: The Three Commandments

The key to design is making your site look aesthetically pleasing, colours that don't clash, etc. and making it accessable and readable. All the impressive glow text filters and funky navigation stuff come secondary to the first aim. If it makes it hard to read your text or find your way around your site, then it has to go.

1. Make your text readable.
  • Dark text against a plain light background is the easiest to read. Failing this, make your text light against a dark background. Don't use patterns as backgrounds. Make sure there are at least four shades between the two colours, and don't choose colours that clash and cause screen glare.
  • Dropshadows and glow text filters often make your text hard to read. Even more often than that it just looks like you're trying too hard to impress people without thinking about the way it fits into your layout.
  • No one likes to read tiny, tiny fonts. They're really cute, they're really trendy, and they're really going to make people short-sighted. Font size should be at least 8pt unless you...
  • Take advantage of the fact that you can set a line height. Don't scrunch your text up. Make the line height around 1.5 times the size of the font and it will make reading it so much easier, especially if you're using a small font.
  • Don't use really horrible fonts like times new roman, especially if they're small. It looks nasty to most people, and even if you like it, it's hard to read. A rounded font like tahoma, verdana or arial is much easier to read and looks a lot nicer in most cases.
  • Don't use fonts that don't come with Windows. If people don't have your font then the text will show up in times new roman, or, even worse, gibberish. If you're using an obscure font, even a relatively common one like redensek, provide a download link, or make sure there's a backup in the CSS that defaults the font to tahoma or something if the original font is unavailable.

2. Keep your site navigable.

  • Name the links to pages after the pages they're going to, or make it clear which pages they link to. No one wants to see a linkslist that says "Night Blossom, Day Blossom, Moon Child" and find that it leads to your Mum's page about dogs, your friend's page about chronic diarrhoea and your blog. If you have to name your links weird things, make sure you have a TITLE tag or a byline that states their destination.
  • Make sure the navigation is in an easy place to find. Tiny squares in the upper-left corner of the screen that are dark blue against a black background aren't doing anybody any favours. You want people to read your content, people want to read your content. Let's give everybody what they want.
  • Don't have any broken links. They're frustrating and they really make your site look unprofessional. Make sure all your links within a site lead to an actual page.
  • Link everything to the homepage, or the page with the navigation on it. People need to be able to find the navigation to be able to navigate: this should be obvious, but some people seem to like to test their visitors' navigation skills by scattering their links across several pages.

3. Don't blind your visitors.

  • Colour scheme is of the utmost importance. Maintain a healthy contrast between text colour and background but try to keep overall contrast to a minimum.
  • Opposites look good together, but certain shades can clash and cause horrible screen glare.
  • Very bright layouts really hurt people's eyes. Think about the way you are using bright yellows and oranges and try to minimise the glare produced.

- Mary (foetusinfetu)
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