BrainFuel Web Design Tips: Typography, Less Is More, Details, and White Space

Here are four tips that will help you make your web sites better.

Typography. It has to be super legible. I’m not talking about fonts like Arial, Verdana, or Times New Roman. I’m talking about type you set in Photoshop and then plan to integrate into your site. Sometimes a font is good to begin with but Photoshop ruins it with its fancy Strong, Sharp, and other settings.

Cramming to much on the page. Don’t try to do too much on your homepage. Some of the best sites I’ve seen have been really light on the content. Take the Clip-n-Seal web site. It’s a winner because it’s so simple and concise I feel like they’re not wasting my time. I can immediately focus on the content and figuring out what exactly the product is and does.

It all comes down to details. One thing about details is using REAL content in your designs. Throwing Latin in your layout and calling it a day doesn’t work. Unless your audience is Caesar as I understand he was pretty good at reading Latin. By using real content, you get to play with headlines and actually see how the types of content shape up.

White space. Important yet difficult to explain. Essentially the space between elements. If you want to make something prominent on the page, it might be a good idea to leave some space around it. I think you either understand this concept or you don’t. I’m not certain if it can be learned.

6 responses to “BrainFuel Web Design Tips: Typography, Less Is More, Details, and White Space”

  1. Nice summary Chris. I especially like the tip about “Less is More” because it forces you to figure out and focus on what’s at the core of your message/business/philosophy.

  2. I completely agree with the comment about white space, it really is something you either get or don’t. Use that padding and margin! I’d say it’s also the root of “cramming too much on the page,” among other things.

  3. I second all of that. Especially the first point. I’ve been on a typography bender lately, so I’m big on that.

    The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web is a site by Richard Rutter that is applying the concepts of Robert Bringhurst’s book The Elements of Typographic Style to concepts relevant to web designers. The site itself is elegantly simple and should be required reading for anyone designing for digital media.

  4. White space may also be called “Negative Space and is also known as “Notan.”

    White space impacts font legibility as well as the amount of content you may “cram” on a page and still have a good looking, easily grasped site design, so white space may be considered the most important aspect of page design.

    Negative space (or white space) is often considered a great mystery, comprehended only by the “Art Elect.” That’s because white space must be experienced to be understood; and you can’t “graps” it by reading about it.

    It’s quite easy to train your instinctive “right brain” to use negative space in your designs, including photography, not only page layout. So here are three further tips.

    1.) Squint until the page or image you are viewing becomes a matrix of color or shaded areas. In other words ignore the detail and just learn to see the form. You’ll be able to discern which form is more successful, or “better.”

    2.) Crop or print large photos, then take two “L” shaped pieces of paper such that you can move them around and “frame” various areas of the printed photo. Keep moving them around until something “pops” and you “know” that the area you have just framed is a worthy design. Use the above-referenced squint method here too.

    3.) There’s a book titled “Notan” by Dorr Bothwell. It’s out of print, but you can find used copies on Amazon for 2-3 dollars. The book features a series of easily completed exercises that will train you to understand and use white space.

    Search the web under all three terms, but be aware that without making some positive effort (three are mentioned above), you won’t grok the concept of white space unless you’re a “natural. Some people are “naturals,” but almost anybody can train themselves and once you do, your work will improve by at least one order of magnitude.

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