One Pretty Thing Per Page

December 10, 2011

Among fashionistas there is a fear of over-accessorizing. Mind you, I write this as a heterosexual man who typically treats clothes shopping like a dental examination. Nevertheless, I am familiar with a tactic that some fashion stylists advocate: right before a woman goes out for the evening, she should turn around quickly in front of a mirror and take off whichever accessory stands out. I advocate a similar approach to web design, a philosophy you could call “one pretty thing per page.” Or in other words, don’t over-accessorize your website.

In design terms, you need to have balance. You can’t have a large, extravagant logo and expect it will go well with dozens of colorful photos. And from a reception point-of-view, you can’t expect your audience to appreciate your content (including your sales pitch) if they’re being overwhelmed with graphics and format flourishes. Not to mention the subtext you convey when you demonstrate a conspicuous emphasis on style over substance.

Your goal in designing a successful website isn’t to impress our audience with all the accessories in your jewelry box, it’s to communicate a message in an aesthetically pleasing way. And in the absence of a clear, objective visual strategy for your site, the best way to control your own accessorizing impulses are to only allow yourself one pretty thing on your page, whether it’s a large colorful graphic or a bold layout decision.

There will be a time and place for all those other ideas in your head. The wisdom comes from knowing when to keep your bag of tricks to yourself.

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