View Full Version : When making something stand out just doesn't work...

11 Nov 2007, 17:54
I've noticed on a lot of sites that when they try and make a certain link stand out, with colors or by making it an image(most commonly people making a big "Forums" button), I actually have a hard time finding it, even when it is right in front of me.

Anyone else have these troubles? Is this a huge issue to consider with Design, or am I just weird?

11 Nov 2007, 23:31
You have a good point. The issue with links is quite common because there are so many variables that come into play. To simplify things these variables, I think, can be broken down into 3 distinct parts: The design, audience expectations and the interaction of the two.

The design: If every website had similar layouts the link issue wouldn't come into play since they will be placed in mirrored locations. So much for that. When designing a site, think simple (even for the most complex, visually of layouts).

Select key (practical) areas for your links and stick to them across the site (for continuity). Distinguish them from other variables such as background, similar images and text (e.g., contrast, underline, bold, color variation). Use common fonts or symbols that your audience can identify easily with; if they have to keep guessing what is which the design of the link is flawed. Group and categorize your links (sort of a link hierarchy). Balance your links with the right amount of space between one another (I like the 5 pixel rule is good for text; distinct separations for images). Limit your parent links for the most common clicks and set the rest as sub-links.

Audience expectations: Your audience will expect the links in certain locations based on their preferences and experiences. Their expectations will vary. In the beginning, when they are not familiar with your site, your audience will quickly look for identifiers to help them find the links. Your audience will have one thing on their mind and that is to reach the content. So if they can find the links in less time or steps the better. Once your audience is familiar with your site navigating your site should no longer be a problem; but first, you'll need to get them to stay long enough to become regular members of your community.

Interaction between the design and audience expectactions: Develop the site with the mind of an audience member. As you want to be treated with intelligence and respect so do your audience. Avoid dumbing down your audience by displaying annoyance if they're unable to navigate your site. Think first before replying. If a sizable amount of your audience complains that they can't find a particular link or source of content then it's better to investigate and come up with a viable solution. It's not only good for PR but your audience may very well be right.

It's more than OK to be creative with your site design. If you have a vision of a design that will showcase your talent and personality then do so. Just approach your design with a practical mind and keep your links with the K.I.S.S. rule (Keep It Simply Simple ;)). Your audience will thank you for it and your sanity will be left intact. :)