The trick to designing the perfect layout

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Have you ever considered why all books and magazines have the same layout? Even when the design is different or striking, the layout remains congruous. Successful design, whether it’s in publishing or on the web, will tie together all its defining elements in a way which creates an engaging user experience.

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The trick to designing the perfect layout

  1. 1. The Trick to Designing the Perfect Layout Have you ever considered why all books and magazines have the same layout? Even when the design is different or striking, the layout remains congruous. Successful design, whether it’s in publishing or on the web, will tie together all its defining elements in a way which creates an engaging user experience. You’ll find web designers who think that layout and the design of a page is simple, it’s not a big deal and it comes naturally but understanding why it is important too. Why do we design things in a certain way and why are these rules so rarely wavered from? The challenge in design is getting your user to look at the different page elements in the right order and although it may seem simple once you think about it there are several rules to consider.
  2. 2. Layout Design Rules There are basic rules behind the layout and design of a page. Web designers need a basic understanding of layout, typography, colour, illustration and photography and the eye reacts to each element. Without an implicit of understanding of the basics you can’t graduate onto more intricate and innovative designs. The most effective designs will follow the Z pattern, which is the natural Western reading pattern, from top left to top right to bottom left to bottom right. It’s simple and it works. We have collated eight essential layout tips below: • Use borders to draw attention to information by framing in. Useful for calendars, special notes and contents tables. • Where borders aren’t appropriate allow the edges of text columns and artwork create the illusion of borders. • Use drop shadows on the borders of boxes or images to draw attention to them. • Use contrast in the scale, colour and page position of important elements of your design. All elements should be functional and support the content. • Use a grid to support organisation. Flexible grids allow you to organize elements on your page and four or five columns is optimal for flexible design. • Multiple columns should be used for organizing text and visual elements of your design to make it easier to read. • For the best results on a standard page use 2 to 3 columns for your body text. • Single wider columns should be used for pull-out quotes and content drawn from the body.
  3. 3. Where is the real focus? There’s a quick yet valuable trick every designer should know to help locate the focus of their page. All web designs begin with hand drawn sketches to work out exactly where the eye naturally focuses. You need to begin by drawing a diagonal line across your page from top left to bottom right. Then you need to draw a second diagonal line at a right angle to the first. Where these two lines meet is known as the area of maximum attention. Take a look at a page from a magazine or a website and virtually sketch these lines, you’ll see your eye naturally falls to this focus point and more often than not a key feature will appear at this point too. This diagram illustrates the point perfectly.
  4. 4. This diagram is a perfect tool to use in client meetings. If they have concerns about your design you can utilize this tool to back up your design choices and it should help the client have a wider and clearer understanding of exactly how you came to your decisions. If you can provide them with a tried and tested design rule they are less likely to question your designs and value your expertise further. By all means take their concerns into account but you know and history shows that this standard layout works and sticking to the single set of rules gives you the freedom to get creative in other aspects of your web design.

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