When you're thinking about how to present your website to the world, what's the best way to try and make it look? We've tried to answer that question in this guide, which gives you some advice on Best Practice for a professional-looking website.
There are so many websites out there on the Internet these days that you could be forgiven for thinking that to make yours stand out, you'll have to really make it look different in some way.
So how about bright colours and big, bold text to make it "jump off the screen"? As we hope to show, this isn't always the best way to present yourself to the world - a subtle approach usually works much better, is easier on the eye, and engages more visitors to your website with the message you're trying to get across.
Let's start with some basic text, that you might want to put onto your website. The example below is for a physiotherapist based in Guildford who has started creating a website on our system using the Social ColourMax design.
Although the wording reads well, it is a chunky wide block of text, that would benefit from being broken up a little. Here's a version that's better spaced out, with some basic formatting to break up the text a little. (see section C4 of the Help Guide for how to format your text) Just the text itself is shown...
This is now much more likely to be read through than the paragraph of dense text in the first example. It's just much easier for the eye to scan through it and pick out the details. As you can see there's now a link in the text as well (Section D1X of the Help Guide explains how to make links), so already colour is coming into how the text looks. Don't forget that you can change the colour of this link text, as explained later in this guide.
Some people like to use CAPITALS, but on the web you are advised to be very sparing. It's best to use CAPITALS only where there's a very particular reason. Using it throughout just makes the page harder to read, and the visitor can feel SHOUTED AT when they look at it.
In fact, there are very few cases where capitals are appropriate. In the days of the typewriter, the only choices to emphasise text were to use bold or underline, but on the web as in professional typesetting, its usually much tidier and more professional to emphasise text using bold. Remember that bold is designed for emphasis, so its best not to use it throughout a page, or you lose that ability to emphasise.
It's much better to use normal unbolded text to maximise readability, then if you want to emphasise something, such as your name to aid memory you still have the option.
Images are very powerful in all manner of communications, and the web is no exception. Not only do they aid memory and reinforce a message, but are great for creating an attractive welcoming web page that encourages reading.
A single wide column of text is harder to read than a narrower column, which is why newspapers and magazines are in columns. Its also the reason why many websites, including this guide using narrow columns. The WebHealer website system provides the very simple of option of placing an image to the left or the right of your text, and if you include one or two suitable images on your pages, especially the home page, then you will have more chance of engaging the attention of your website visitor.
But where to get images from and do you need to be concerned about copyright? See our EZ Guide called Finding Images to Enhance your Site.
Sometimes it can be difficult to find a suitable image, or you may want to take a very low key approach which avoids images altogether. Another way of breaking up the page with a little splash of colour is to use Quoteboxes. Quoteboxes create a boxed area of text so you can emphasis a key message. You can also use them for inspirational quotes or testimonials. See our Quoteboxes guide for more details.
Colour is another way to add variety to a page, emphasise text and aid communication of your message. Good use of colour is key to creating an attractive professional looking website.
The best way of applying colour is to decide on a house style, thinking through in advance which areas of text or elements (e.g. links, subheadings or Quoteboxes) should be coloured in which way. We created the Colour Scheme Designer to help you create this consistent "house style".
Caution is still needed with the Colour Scheme Designer of course as you can still get carried away and create something very bright like this. I'm sure you'll agree that the colour scheme in the example earlier is easier on the eye. This is much more important than making a website looking "interesting" as your primary objective is to encourage the reading and understanding of your message.
Rather garish isn't it. Did you know that some fast food chains choose bold contrasting colours like this to deliberately stimulate the senses of customers, so they eat more quickly and leave more quickly! Its not exactly the effect you are after with your website.
The key is to find subtle, muted colours, which go well together. The Colour Scheme Designer can give you a full range of colour choices and a preview of how the colours will look together, but it's always best to save changes and exit to website to see the overall effect. One tip is to try dark text which isn't black, which blends well with the background.
Hopefully you have found the information in this guide helpful. At risk of repeating ourselves, the key message is to keep the design simple, so as not to distract from the contents. It isn't always that easy of course - in fact the simple process of choosing complementary colours can be surprisingly difficult at time. If you would like extra help from a skilled designer at fair and reasonable rates, then we do have arrangements with a number of designers who have been trained to customise our systems. For examples, visit www.webhealer.net/designers and to have a chat with someone suitable, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.