| Design Basics, Web Design

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“85% of people believe the quality of a business owner’s website is an important factor in earning the consumer’s trust.”

—Nielsen//NetRatings, 2007

Obviously, quality is an important element to infuse into your web site. But what exactly determines quality?

What is high quality?

This is a tougher question to answer than may be initially thought. After working for years with clients who hold little or no design training, I’m amazed at how accurately they can spot quality, but how poorly they can describe and quantify it.

Frequently, I have clients who recognize that one web site is more appealing, or easier to use, but they don’t understand why. Often they see that one photo looks better, but they don’t realize it’s because it is properly lit and uses professional models. Or they sense that one site is easier to read than another but know don’t know that it both the style of the writing and the layout of the type.

I’m delighted when design principles trump the trends. Proper line length; the use of different sizes and weights of type to show visual hierarchy; appropriate use of color and animation; layouts that are in balance. These are all signs of a high-quality web design.

Quality is attention to details

This is true whether you’re talking about a leather coat, a manicure, or a hotel stay. It’s the sense that the maker/producer/presenter has thought of “everything.” In your web site this means that all the elements have been considered and you’re not just choosing “default” settings for your layout, your fonts, your colors, your content, etc.

Quality is anticipating needs

When you eat at a 5-star restaurant you get that relaxed feeling of being waited on, without being pestered. With a web site, you need to anticipate the information a user will be looking for, and place it exactly where they expect it to be. This anticipation drives the organization of information, the way a navigation looks and acts, and also the layout of pages, forms, and search tools.

Quality is honoring tradition and also pushing the boundaries

Quality goods have a timeless appeal because they do not relentlessly chase trends, but rather they build upon structures, processes and details that have proven successful. Yet they have unique qualities that are coveted. In web design this means: knowing the standards that work across browsers; relying on design elements such as line length, font size, and color usage that are readable; writing in a succinct and friendly manner. All this, while creating and building a unique brand, experience, and voice.

Quality often has a simplicity to it

This is probably hardest element of quality to define. There is an essence to quality that radiates simplicity, yet is not adverse to detail or decoration. I think this goes back to the fact that every detail has been considered. When a designer starts to really analyze a detail, he or she may decide it’s unnecessary. Or, that element gets refined until its perfect. It is usually easy to spot the overuse of color, animation and eye-popping graphic effects that make certain sites look cheap or garish. Therefore, in web site design (or other design) people will mimic simplicity with a minimalist design. However, lack of details is not the same as attention to detail.

Quality is not cheap

People are willing to pay for quality. The upfront expense pays for itself in the long run as the product endures. It keeps functioning, and it stays in style. The same is true for quality web site development. Make the investment and you’ll see the returns.

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