Gone are the days when budding web designers could do with mediocre technical knowledge and minimal understanding of the craft. They had the freedom to learn on the job and slowly build their skillsets.
As I said, all that is in the past. Today, newbie designers need to be technically astute, should have a thorough understanding of their craft and must be able to hit the ground running from day one. Displaying a lack of knowledge is not an option; the web design domain has become intensely competitive with design firms and even freelancers trying to push the creative envelope to steal a march over their competitors.
But somewhere along the line, in the battle to remain competitive and come up with pixel perfect innovative designs, the essential fundamentals of web design are either ignored or forgotten. Many newbies are so consumed by concepts like Flat Design, Responsive Web Design, Long Scrolling Home Pages, Adaptive Photography and others that they aren’t really aware of the fundamentals of design. This is a cardinal error, because the integration of the latest cutting edge designing concepts is only as good as your knowledge and implementation of design fundamentals.
So, what are these fundamentals that all newbie designers should never forget? Take a look:
- 1. Don’t break the rules (take this one with a pinch of salt)
While making your way through a designing course you will be asked to follow a few rules and stick to core designing principles no matter what. When you actually start designing professionally, you’ll be asked to break a layout rule here, a rule of symmetry there. Now, this isn’t a bad thing because rules at times can restrict creativity. But do not overdo the ‘bending of rules’ bit.
Smashing Magazine has an old but gold article on 10 Principles of Effective Web Design. I suggest this article to anybody who wants to know about the designing principles that are simply non-negotiable. There are some rules you can break and there are others that cannot be compromised with. Learning to identify the former and the latter will help you come up with the high quality designs.
And since we are on the topic of design principles, Design Principles: Visual Perception and The Principles of Gestalt, is another article you must read.
- 2. Client First, Creativity Later
What does your client want? That’s important.
For designers who think web design is a balancing act between trying to create a website that sticks to the client’s project brief in letter and spirit and a need to showcase their creativity, here’s a wake-up call – Design is only about the client. Do not think beyond the project brief. That’s a recipe for disaster. Stick to what the client wants and conceptualize a design that helps the site come good on the client’s expectations.
Much as you would like a website to be a showcase for your ability, it isn’t. It is a platform that amplifies a client’s brand message. Creativity should be a derivative of the project brief, and should help you enhance the delivery of the brand message. Nothing more, nothing less!
- 3. Do not Ignore the Importance of Color
Many designers who are just starting out are under the impression that color is to be used purely for decorative purposes and do not see it as a critical design element.
Here’s news for them. Color is one of the most important design elements and is usually the difference between an ordinary and extra ordinary design. Do not decorate a page with color; use it to improve upon the website’s message. Understanding the use of primary, secondary, tertiary, cool & warm colors to up the designing ante will help you experiment with different themes and incorporate color to support other content that form a part of the design layout.
- 4. Simple Wins, Always
Website visitors are notorious for their impatience. They’re not going to put in the time and effort to admire your site and its design. They want access to website information quickly, understand it immediately and just move on. As can be imagined, in such a scenario it is simple website design that scores, and scores well.
Bear in mind simple doesn’t mean dumbing down your design. Simple refers to using only those design elements that are absolutely essential for meeting the demands of the client’s brief. The idea is to not complicate the UX and still ensure it satisfies visitors visually and functionally.
This isn’t easy, but as you go along, you’ll learn how to do it.
- 5. The Right Fonts are Everything
The font that you pick for your design should play a supporting role for your content.
The right font is readable, has the right size, the perfect color combination, and helps readers understand the content hierarchy.
Mix and match the fonts you use, but make sure they blend in easily when they have to, and stand out when needed. You could have a separate font for the headline, the body of text and the call-to action buttons.
Spending some time on choosing the right font is definitely a good idea.
- 6. Keep Learning
Web design is in a constant state of flux. It’s evolving continuously. You need to keep abreast of the latest developments and ensure you are able to adopt the latest technology, trend or concept on client projects, whenever possible. The process of learning never stops and you need to invest time, effort and sometimes money to ensure your knowledge of web design is up to speed.
Skilled Up has a curated collection of web design resources that will help. There are many others that you will find on the web. So do not stop learning.
- 7. Take Help – Don’t Let your Ego to Enter the Picture
Do not be afraid to take help of people who know better. Remember you are just starting out. There are others who know better. So, take help and look for it in the right quarters. If you are working in a design company, your seniors will help you out. But if you’re freelancing, join web design discussion forums to connect with other designers and find solutions for any problems you might be facing.
Also connect with the best names in the industry on social media. Follow them on Twitter, comment on their work and just try to build a meaningful relationship with them. Make it a point to explore every source that has the potential to help you become a better designer.
Don’t just take note of these fundamentals; make sure you implement them in your web design journey. And yes, don’t restrict yourself to them. If you come across an essential component of the web design process that you were ignoring till date, make it a part of your armory. As you keep doing this, you will find your designs improving and becoming more results oriented.
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Ezequiel Ortuno is the founder of EZQ Consulting – a Houston based Web Design Firm offering exclusive mobile apps and web design services to businesses. The firm works closely with clients for their marketing strategies to maximize their business growth and ROI.