Design layout is important no matter the medium, but a primary consideration for web design is that it must be thoughtfully planned and organized for a non-linear context.
What do we mean by "non-linear context?" Let's start first by contrasting what we mean by "linear context." Linear context is present in the layout of a printed newsletter or magazine article, designed to lead the reader from the first page through the last, top to bottom, left to right on each page, following the natural flow of static reading material. Web design, on the other hand, functions within a non-linear context that begins on a home page, but includes links that provide jumps to other pages (or even other sites!). From other pages, additional links offer choices for the user to decide their own direction... back and forth, top to bottom and back, page to page.
No GPS Will Help on This
No formula exists for web design that can account for all the possible ways a reader may move through the site, but a good designer can help make sure that when a reader lands on a page, they are provided visual clues to the information you want them to have or be enticed to continue scrolling on the page. Understanding how best to use the moving parts of a site—videos, pop ups, flyouts, animations, etc. to command attention is key toward leading a reader without making them aware of the reins. Consistency in design layout that accounts for and influences navigation through the site is an essential part of creating an engaging and informative experience for your users.
In web design and development, a professional designer will work with you to:
- select compelling images
- create headlines, subheads, and bullet lists for maximum scan impact (Fact: The average webpage viewer scans the visible part of the page in approximately three seconds.)
- promote navigation through site pages in a way that presents your most important information first
- optimize images for fast load time
- insert subtle element movements (animations) that draw attention to specific information and to create interest
- select fonts that are easy to read on many devices
- assemble a color palette to enhance the user’s viewing experience as well as integrating with your brand identity
- arrange elements in a responsive grid that maintain a consistent look and focus, based on the user’s viewing device
Ensuring your site’s most important information is viewed by a visitor is essential to recouping your site investment. Accomplishing this is one of a designer's main goals when designing and developing your site.