Visual Design – Color Pallets

As equally important as whitespace is the choice of colors throughout your site. These colors can represent your company’s existing logo properties, a particular color scheme used throughout the products you sell or simply just a series of colors that are pleasing to the eye.

If you’re just starting out a business, choosing the color scheme is much easier because you can essentially start from scratch. You may even begin by choosing the desired website design and then using it as a starting ground for your branding.

What colors do you use?

Surprisingly, not a lot of thought goes into this question for most web designers. The problem is that most people simply start with a cut and paste approach to website design and copy elements off a template. For example, lets say you downloaded a fresh new template that was all black and red. You got it because you liked it and it was cool. Rather than come up with your own color scheme or layout options, you forced yourself to use the ones in the template.

Now this isn’t such a bad idea if you just want to whip a fast site together, but if you’re in it for the long haul, you are missing out on future opportunities to market and brand your site better.

Think about a big name company’s image. Is their logo one of those logos that you can take a half-second glance at and still know what it was you saw? You have to remember that when you’re starting a business, your choice of colors and theming is the most important thing for your image and/or brand.

How do colors benefit readers?

Besides the overall look and feel of your site, your visitors are going to benefit greatly from your choice of layout. That’s because colors play a large role in visual response. Ever wonder why most of your local big-chain restaurants use the color red in their logos and marketing materials? This is because some scientist did a study a while back and determined that the color red is closely associated with the feeling of hunger and generally speaking, a red sign pointing out a flashy restaurant is supposed to make you more hungry.

The same can go for your website. The proper use of white space, the choice of colors and even the style of font and logo design can all keep your users browsing or drive them away. Of course, a lot of web users don’t care what your site looks like as long as you have the information they were looking for, but as you get more and more into the Internet, you deal with more and more competition. This means that any edge you can obtain is something worth considering.

My two cents

This post was more of an eye-opener rather than actual help, but that’s because nobody can tell you how to design your site. Only you (and others with similar sites) can know what your visitors like or don’t like. If you really want to find out, look at other sites in your field or start polling your own visitors to see what they think.

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Visual Design – Layout

A crucial design element of your website is the layout. Believe it or not, there are phycological studies on the layouts of other media such as magazines and newspapers. Small, but important details including where certain text is, how big the titles of pages are and what colors are used are all attributed to the success or failure of a website.

The best way to get ideas for your own site’s layout is to look at other related websites that contain similar content and see what it is that you like and don’t like about it. What I do is look at a site for a few minutes, close my eyes and then try to remember the things that stood out.

Choosing the right layout

As you scour around the Internet, you may notice design patterns spanned over the various websites you see. You might have noticed that most news sites tend to favor white backgrounds with black text. You’ll notice media sites like YouTube and Hulu that design the rest of the site around their video players.

The point of any layout is to draw attention to a specific area of a page to generate the most focus on that spot. This will ensure that if you’re blogging, your content is being read or if you’re showing videos, that your videos are being watched.

Just take a look at my site. You can see how things are organized within a matter of seconds. Every page conforms to the same layout in general and this was done to keep everything looking clean as well as to allow the content to flow. When you create your own site, you want to make sure that the design flows and matches, but not to mix everything together. This can confuse your visitors and will probably make them leave your site.

Themes and templates

Both of these are generally the same. The difference is how they’re applied. A template is a set of pre-built files that make up a website that allows you to fill in or change information to correspond to your own needs. A theme does the same purpose, but it’s applied to a pre-built structure. The main difference between themes and templates is that you can change the theme of an entire website without affecting too much of the content. A template needs to be re-edited if it’s changed.

If you’re running a blog site, using is theme is the only way to go. This is because WordPress is a full software package all rolled into one that allows you to apply different color and layout themes as needed.

Here are a couple of place to look for great themes and templates:

  • TemplateMonster – This site has thousands and thousands of web templates and they even have themes for content management systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. Their prices range from about $20 to $150.
  • WooThemes – WooThemes makes themes specifically for WordPress, ExpressionImage, Drupal and Tumblr. They have some free themes, but the paid ones seem to be of much higher quality and generally have more features.
  • StudioPress – If you want to up the ante (and the price) on quality WordPress themes, you need to go here! In fact, if you want to see a sample of one of the themes they offer, you can look at my other website.
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