Sunday, 17 August 2008

Designing Effective Virtual Environments

How often to you surf the web, and come across a site that is full of clutter. Clutter is the stuff that has no “place”, doesn’t belong with its surroundings, and serves little to no purpose. Honestly this happens to me quite often, so it’s no wonder most web pages are abandoned within a few seconds of viewing.

Whether intended or not, a person’s home and the way you present it are physical manifestations of your personality just as the design and content of a corporate website are virtual manifestations of a brand. Environments, both real and virtual, affect human perception and behaviour.

Here are few points to consider when designing online environments to attract, comfort and retain visitors:

Visual Elements: On a website, color, typography, iconography, and other imagery should be considered as carefully as an interior designer considers surfaces, furnishings, and art. Are they appropriate for the target user?

Colour: There are appropriate uses of colour for specific messages targeted at specific end users. Once an appropriate colour palette is defined, a designer can use it to direct users to specific content, organize that content, and create an appropriate environment.

: Too many typefaces in one place is like cramming a room with furnishings from different eras. Stick to a theme, and visitors will be more comfortable and get a better sense of the message the type is sending.

: Imagery (photos, illustrations, icons) should enhance an environment by promoting a message or feeling. Iconography can be a helpful cue for web users, or it can be unnecessary and even misleading.

Content: A clearly defined hierarchy of information is crucial to helping users understand what a site has to offer and finding the information they seek.

Navigation and User Feedback: If a visitor has to think about where they can click to get more information, or click through multiple pages to get to specific information, they are not likely to stick around.

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