5 Fundamental Elements of Website Layout

January 29, 2015In Web Design4 Minutes

A truly effective web design is judged not by a creative director or stakeholders but ultimately by the site user. The greatest importance has been placed on relevancy and usability – with design playing second fiddle. Layout, while related to the overall design of a site, is truly about the experience of moving through an interface, being able to easily identify and locate what is needed as quickly and intuitively as possible with a website layout.

To begin, while it may seem rudimentary, it is helpful to get thoughts on paper – even sketches. Many designers jump right to the comfort of their CS thinking that inspiration and innovation will come. Taking a moment to gather information and content from a kick-off, truly taking into consideration the needs, wants and desires of a user, will bring the ultimate scenario for the user experience goals.

Laptop and iPhone homepage displayed

Technically speaking, Wireframing has become an important step in any screen design process. The action of planning and laying out how the user will process information will allow a greater definition of information hierarchy and result in an optimized solution right from the start. Content, again, is the driver in this case. Wireframing acts as a blueprint for the site before it becomes the colorful, type and image-driven beauty it will transform into. As with architecture, it’s important to ensure the stability of a structure before breaking ground. Through this process, weak content and information will often become highly visible, resulting in tweaks that are more easily accommodated at this stage.

Build A Grid
From here, building a grid to house the UI framework will be easier with wireframe content in hand. A grid will enable easier structure throughout sections of a site and guide specific screen size requirements helping to create responsive templates which have become commonplace. With content in place, a solid wireframe and a grid in hand – the fun part begins when the design takes shape.

Color and typography are initial decisions that will drive the layout’s tone and image selection. With these elements in hand, the conception process moves along. When working on an interactive concept or design its important to ensure the client is engaged through the process.

Create Balance
Because the users’ needs are paramount, striking a sense of balance, regardless of the layout, is key. Choosing a single focal point, particularly on the main page, will bring a sense of return to the main information hub, leading the user around the site. This balance can also be accomplished by employing the rule of thirds or golden ratio – dividing a page into thirds vertically and horizontally, providing natural composition points. This methodology is tried and tested. However, it can be seen as dated with scrolling and parallax developments.

Of course, every client and project requires its own set of individual implementations – however, that being stated, the primary objective remains: the goal of the site is to communicate. Creating and delivering a balanced, useful and appropriate site for the brand or company will result in the union of content and layout.

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