Mark Boulton has written an interesting article over on A List Apart concerning the use of whitespace in page and web design. Particularly interesting is the concept of micro whitespace, the space around words, letters, between lines, paragraphs and list items and how it can increase readability. There’s also some interesting points about how whitespace can convey elements about your brand (take a look at someone like Apple for good use of whitespace). I was particularly caught by a couple of paragraphs:

A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to see Erik Spiekermann give a lecture. Part of his talk addressed his redesign of The Economist newspaper, which was partly motivated by the client’s realization that their design was too heavy and the content too difficult to read.

In newspaper design, information is dense. Sometimes, as in web design, it’s difficult to add whitespace because of content requirements. Newspapers often deal with this by setting their body content in a light typeface with plenty of whitespace within and around the characters. This was part of Spiekermann’s solution for the redesign of The Economist.

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Please Use CSS

I haven’t built a site using tables for layout in a long time, something like five years. In fact, I’m so allergic to tables sometimes I have remind myself when it’s OK to use them (as in, for tabular data). The reason for bringing this up is because part of my new job involves building, modifying and updating HTML emails that generally use tables for layouts. It’s been that long since I’d had to trawl through a table layout I’d forgotten how bad it was, it’s like some sort of torture looking through td tag after td tag. Seriously people, if you build websites and you haven’t switched to CSS, do so immediately and save yourself from going insane. Here’s a few links to help convince you as to why you should switch, but I’m 100% behind the maintainability reason:
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Fast Design Process

UIE has an interesting article by Joshua Porter about The Freedom of Fast Iterations (via Matt), which details the benefits to a fast and continual design and redesign process, especially for web design (he singles out Netflix). It’s an interesting idea, small improvements rather than giant leaps forward with full releases. I certainly prefer that as a user, I like to see neat little touches, although sweeping changes do have a wow factor. As Porter suggests, it does mean you build it up far less, it’s a much shorter feedback loop and you can use the live services to get real testing and opinions (surveys are always a variant of the truth, I always find I adjust my answers slightly rather than comment naturally).

Get Connected

They’re one of the reasons for the web to exist, they’re part of the net at a fundamental level and without them it would be a much harder place to visit. I’m talking, of course, about links. They’re everywhere and are what makes the web work. Without them it’s just a collection of pages that are hard to find and impossible to ‘surf’. Links are one of the most powerful and useful features in the online environment, and one of the simplest. We all include them on our websites, but do we think about the usability of links? You, the page author, may know something is a link, but how do you convey that others?

Most site builders are well aware of the need to make links standout. This need is obvious when you look at the paragraph below. There’s no way to tell if there is a link in it, let alone where it is.
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Online Marketing Mistakes

There are so many sites, books, newsletters, e-zines and articles concerning online marketing that you may be wondering why it’s worth reading yet another piece written on the subject. Surely you know everything there is to know by now, but if that were true the search for the answer to the eternal question: What is the best way to market my business online?, would be over, and it isn’t. There are varying forms of the question, which include the cheapest, the best value for money, the most effective way to market online. I’m not sure there is one, and every time someone claims to have the killer method, so many people jump on the bandwagon it gets swamped and almost immediately becomes completely ineffective anyway. No, I’m not here to propose The Ultimate Solution to Online Marketing™. I’m simply here to point out what doesn’t work, at least in my experience (there’s bound to be someone out there who claims these methods have made them millions and will sell you an e-book telling you how for a mere $49.95).
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The Importance of Good Site Design

The mantra goes that content is king, practically every expert out there will say the same thing, but is that necessarily true? Design is often sacrificed in favour of content, as it should be surely? Well, I’m not totally convinced. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the information or products on your site is what draws people to it, and keeps them coming back, but it’s the design that makes a site and it can have a major impact on visitor numbers and sales.

We’ve all been to sites that offer us products or services but have a bad design, and I’m not just talking the wrong choice of colours, or a misaligned image, nor having bad navigation. I’m talking about the sites where it looks like they got a nine-year-old to design it in art class; fonts of all sizes and types, coloured backgrounds, poor images, random colours or background music. It automatically makes you think twice about what you’re doing, if your details will be safe, what the product will be like and just how much hassle it’ll be if you have to return it. Continue reading

The Case for a Designer

More and more people are taking the plunge and building a web site, and for the most part I encourage people to experiment and try it out. With the vast array of HTML editors available and the growing capabilities of the WYSIWYG sector in particular, it seems that now the web really is open to anyone. There is, however, a big difference between building a site and designing a site. When faced with producing a business site I would recommend hiring a designer, and let me explain why. Continue reading