June 19, 2008
Lately I've been thinking about what makes a professional looking website. Is it some careful balance of style and balance and color, or are there some tricks you can use? I guess the answer I'm coming up with is a little of both.
A related anecdote... at work I was charged with coming up with a rough screen layout for an editing page with collapsible sections. I came up with something as follows:
Now technically we haven't gotten feedback for the new look but I suspect they'll love it. The changes are small, rounded corners, a softer color, and making the whole section colored. But it really points out how engineer-y my old thinking was; I had a mental block that said headers are headers, and content (in this case the checkboxes) is content, and never the twain shall meet. But now I can see the elegance of this approach, of treating each chunk as a collapsible block rather than as a series of sections with "appropriate headers". (My design re-used an old trick of mine, of using slashes and the letter "v" in a sans-serif font as arrows, rather than a graphic, but I don't think that's the big deal.)
So, what else makes a professional site? What are the clues, subtle or obvious, that speak "corporate"?
So looking at sites like Ford.com IBM.com, or my friend Tammy's atomicpink (she does design work for hire) and musing they look different than my look, I think it's some of the following:
- Nuances that move beyond just colored blocks: gradients, pinstripes, rounded edges. A lot of these are actually pains to pull off! And it probably does take some legitimate skill to do well.
- Use of stock photography... people just sittin' around, looking like they're lives are somehow better with your product
- There are certain layouts that are becoming defacto standards... all 3 of these sites use layouts based on a TV or billboard, with everything appearing above the fold. And no-one seems to use "flow layout", in general fixed columns are considered a better idea.
Heh, Celtics parade today. Wasn't there some highschool rule about avoiding wearing green on a Thursday? Oh well!
The meme of calling "synchronize with repository" (prelude to "checking in" code) "stink-ronize with suppository" is spreading at my office