The Do’s and Don’ts of Popular Web Design Elements

Thursday, January 29th, 2009
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CAUTION: Condiments Ahead!

The Do’s and Don’ts of Popular Web Design Elements

Your web page is like a delicious meal, only instead of feeding the stomach, it feeds the brain (and the eyes, hopefully). The main purpose of your website is to deliver content, and like a good chef, a web designer knows just how to accentuate the main course with a little pinch of seasonings and condiments here and there. So how do you know when and where to use what, exactly? Let’s take a look at some common elements of web design, and how they should and shouldn’t be used.

If link rollovers were a condiment, they would definitely be ketchup. Ketchup is one of the most widely used condiments in America, and can be find everywhere from fancy restaurants to kitchen-side dinner tables. Rollovers have quickly become a simple and accepted way to facilitate page navigation. They make it easier to see what parts of your webpages are interactive, and a good web designer knows that sometimes you have to prompt the end user to let them know when it is their cue to click. They also add a little flare and get away from the days of the good old static blue text.

So what about fonts? Fonts are easily like salad dressing. There is a nearly unlimited variety of them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should use them all in one sitting. When is the last time you had a Cobb Salad with Ranch, Catalina, Bleu Cheese, Thousand Island, and Fat Free Italian all on one plate? Hopefully the answer to that question is, “Never.” On the other hand, a little spoon of Ceaser dressing can turn a pile of random roughage into a delicious treat. A good web designer will know which fonts are best for what situations, and keep them all within one unified theme to make it easier on the end user.

Flash is definitely the hot sauce of the internet. People tend to smother their websites with it, without thinking of the long-term ramifications. It all depends on your content. Flash can make delivering the content easier, prettier, and in the case of a media related website, actually give you more credibility on the subject. On the other hand, if you’re trying to get large amounts of information across, and are worried about SEO, a full frontal Flash assault isn’t always the best way to go, and can end up burning you in the long run if you’re not careful.

Ah, mayo, the smoothest criminal of all condiments. It has a variety of uses, from sandwhiches to potato salads, and is not unlike our age old friend, Color. A good, unified color scheme can really smooth out a pages aesthetic scheme. Subtle uses of gradients and shadowing can turn a boxy, awkward website into a multi-tiered three dimensional universe of awesome. On the same hand, a poorly planned, jarring color scheme can make you feel sick, and detract from your content, no matter how relevant it is to the user.

And last but not least, Microsoft Silverlight is like Worchester sauce. No one really uses it. Really, no one even knows what it is, what it does, or even how to spell it (Thank you Spell Check!).

The key thing to remember: Any of these elements, if not used in moderation and with situational awareness can overwhelm your website and detract from your content. Content is still king. You don’t go out to fancy restaurants and order a hot steaming bowl of ketchup with a side of mayonnaise (At least I hope you don’t). However, used correctly, these elements of web design can spice up a web page and make your content a little easier to swallow.

Now that’s good eats.

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