This is a new column where I talk about my design approach and thoughts surrounding different aspects of my design practice.

Websites… what wonderful things!

What I love about websites is that they can be so beautiful and so expressive. People now are accessing websites from so many beautiful places – reading your blog from a seaside cliff sipping tea, browsing your shop from a warm cafe – and websites are not just coded, clinical things. They can receive imprint from visitors, absorb attention and reflect what people enjoy looking at, and mirror the beauty of the website’s owner to the world.

They are organic. The best ones flow like water to fit the screen you see them on.

CaptureThey usually represent ‘the real’, as digital. When translating something which exists in three or four dimensions into something that’s basically read as a flat screen, space and volume matter.

Some websites are for personal projects, some for business, some for commerce, and each can be designed to best support its purpose. Knowing your purpose with your website is important, because the design will functionally, emotionally, psychologically and visually support your purpose.

Where in the past a website might have been viewed as just a one-way communication tool, and where now we have a lot of emphasis on social media and marketing with possibly less genuine feeling behind messages, we’re in a space where we can really define what we want our websites to do and how we want them to represent us. The technology is there to make communication and sharing of ideas two-way, and the knowledge of spreading your ideas is also well-developed. Implementing this in a genuine way which carries real feeling is then what your designer can help you to do.

Websites are not isolated. A truly great website for a business relies on the business understanding themselves, their customers and their purpose. I work mainly with sole traders or small businesses, so let’s define this even further to be that the person commissioning the website may be in a perfect place to start to learn much more about themselves and their own passions (which the business is hopefully a part of) before any code is put to server. (That’s a joke about putting pen to paper)

ph store

When designing, I try to express distance and space as well as a range of focus points in the page. As you’re reading this article all the text is at one focus point and the background is flat, but at least the photos can give your eyes some space to focus in the distance. For a whole website, this practice works a bit better because we’re not just looking at one text-dense page.

Having a sense of rhythm in spacing and layout as well as in distance can help a website be more comfortable to spend time on, and more enjoyable and interesting to browse.

Like the design philosophy of a Japanese tea house, space and neutrality gives the viewer space to see themselves in the site.

The principles of a zen-like design are:

  • Keep the components of your site’s visibility in balance
  • Consider your options wisely before using them
  • Keep your visitors enlightened (offer them knowledge)
  • Maintain clarity and reduce noise pollution

– Alexander Dawson, in Distinctive Design: A Practical Guide to a Useful, Beautiful Web (2011)