When many traditional publishers first made the transition from print publishing to online publishing, they were stunned to find that they were failing to get their message across. What had worked in print was failing miserably online.
The quality of the writing hadn't changed, but the medium in which it was presented had.
Presenting content on the web--whether it's an article, a marketing piece or even a sales pitch--must take the Internet and how design elements can be used to attract visitors and keep them on your site.
Studies have shown that you have less than five seconds to capture your visitors' attention. When you spend so much time, effort and money to drive traffic to your site, it's a shame if visitors just turn around and leave moments after they arrive.
When a visitor arrives at your site, you want that visitor greeted with a pleasing user interface. With so many alternative sites just a click away, you must do a great job of making your content inviting. A well-designed site integrates varying colors, fonts, type size and spacing to create a pleasing interface.
What follows are some of our tried-and-true formula for designing a great user interface:
some web designers fall in love with their own artistry. They want to impress visitors with style, color, and imagery. What they fail to understand is that on the web less is almost always more.
Designers shouldn't be afraid of white space; it gives the visitor a bit of breathing room.
As a good example of great design, Dean & Deluca could have been tempted to populate their homepage with dozens of products, but they chose instead to keep it elegant and appetizing.
With so many colors to choose from, designers often make the mistake of using obscure colors just for the sake of being original. They also make the mistake of choosing background and foreground colors with insufficient contrast. As a rule of thumb, if someone has to strain to read what's on your web page, they are not going to bother to read it.
When choosing your color scheme, don't be tempted to use every color in the palate. Choose a few colors, use them consistently throughout the site and your presentation will be sharp, clear and user-friendly.
Once again, the many typefaces available can create way too much temptation for a designer. Every designer longs for originality, but originality rarely works when choosing the typefaces for your site. There are several tried and true typefaces that work well across a wide variety of websites.
Dense paragraphs may have worked wonders for Charles Dickens, but Dickens would never have made it as a web copywriter. Keep your paragraphs short, sweet and to the point.
When you do create blocks of text, it is often helpful to use design elements to make those blocks stand out.
On a webpage, never have long lines of text going across the screen. Employ large fonts, wide margins and plenty of sub-headings to break up the text. We suggest no more than10 to 13 words across on any line and 1.5 point spacing between lines.
The last think you want is a site that looks like a DMV Form.
Economy of text is probably most important on the homepage. Unless you are publishing an online magazine or newspaper, you should only be giving your visitors nuggets of information on the homepage, and then use "Read More" buttons to lead them to inside pages with the full content.
Here's a homepage I happen to love: Media Temple. When it comes to design, this hosting company gets it. All the elements I've discussed minimal copy, great spacing, simple colors and fonts) are evident on this homepage.
WHEN THE ARTICLE HAS TO BE LONG:
There will be times when you need to publish longer articles or stories on your site. This often happens with tutorials and certain blog posts. When you have articles like this, give your readers a variety of reading choices. Allow them to easily print the story with a "print" link or save it as a PDF file., if it is compelling, share it with others.
The Internet is an unforgiving place. No matter how great your message is, if that message is delivered on a poorly designed site, the message will not reach its desired audience. That is why it is so critical to have your website designed by someone that understands both online content and online design.