Tips for web design Precedence

Precedence (Guiding the Eye) Good Web design, perhaps even more than other type of design, is about information. One of the biggest tools in your arsenal to do this is precedence. When navigating a good design, the user should be led around the screen by the designer. I call this precedence, and it’s about how much visual weight different parts of your design have. A simple example of precedence is that in most sites, the first thing you see is the logo.

This is often because it’s large and set at what has been shown in studies to be the first place people look (the top left). His is a good thing since you probably want a user to immediately know what site they are viewing. But precedence should go much further. You should direct the user’s eyes through a sequence of steps. For example, you might want your user to go from logo/brand to a primary positioning statement, next to a punchy image (to give the site personality), then to the main body text, with navigation and a sidebar taking a secondary position in the sequence. What your user should be looking at is up to you, the Web designer, to figure out.

To achieve precedence you have many tools at your disposal: Position — where something is on a page clearly influences in what order the user sees it. Color — using bold and subtle colors is a simple way to tell your user where to look. Contrast — being different makes things stand out, while being the same makes them secondary. Size — Big takes precedence over little (unless everything is big, in which case little might stand out thanks to Contrast) Design Elements — if there is a gigantic arrow pointing at something, guess where the user will look? Spacing When I first started designing I wanted to fill every available space up with stuff. Empty space seemed wasteful. In fact the opposite is true. Spacing makes things clearer. In Web design there are three aspects of space that you should be considering: Line Spacing When you lay text out, the space between the lines directly affects how readable it appears. Too little space makes it easy for your eye to spill over from one line to the next, too much space means that when you finish one line of text and go to the next your eye can get lost. So you need to find a happy medium. You can control line spacing in CSS with the ‘line-height’ selector. Generally I find the default value is usually too little spacing. Line Spacing is technically called leading (pronounced ledding), which derives from the process that printers used to use to separate lines of text in ye older days — by placing bars of lead between the lines.