So I’ve come to realise my design skills are fairly lacking. I was wondering where you would start in regards to page layout. Basically I’m struggling when it comes to working out how to layout a page, the design of it I guess you could say.
How do you go about laying out a page for a website? Do you start on pencil and paper? Do you use a 960 grid? What steps do you take? Do you find another site and copy the layout idea?
An easy way to do it, is just use already made layouts. Like these:
I lack any kind of design skills too, but it’s not as big a problem as it might seem if you approach things practically. To start with, forget about all the other fancy sites out there and look at your content (which is supposed to be King, after all). Look at what kind of content the site needs to display and work out the most logical way to present that information that will make it easy for visitors to find and understand.
From there, create a basic layout—a wireframe—of where each bit of content should go. By the time you’ve done this, you are most of the way there with the design. All you need to finish the process is touch it up a bit with some attractive (but hopefully unobtrusive) decoration.
Concentrating on what’s important will get you most of the way to a good design without you even touching all the artsy fartsy aspects. Far too many designs start with some kind of fancy layout and then force the content into it in ungainly ways … often littering the site with unnecessary fluff content just to fill those nice pretty boxes that the graphic designer “needed” to have there. It’s all cart-before-the-horse stuff, and the site visitors are the ones who suffer for it.
For me, I start by writing down, with a pencil and paper, my content and structure. I usually already have something in mind and this is a great way to brainstorm to make sure I get everything down and don’t miss anything. I will then probably jot down a couple of layout ideas(designs) around that content. Similar to what Ralph said, I would create my design to fit the content, don’t try and fit your content into a design. However, after you have your content, there’s no harm in creating a really appealing design if you can. Once I have jotted down a couple of ideas, I’ll move to the computer and do a bit of browsing, getting some inspiration and ideas for my design(only do this if you can’t think of anything - it’s better to start designing a custom layout without someone elses ideas in your head (although this is hard, i often browse the internet casually, see something and think "I have to use that!). I’ll then go back to my pencil and paper and start on my actual design. Although depending on the site, I’ll usually use a grid. Then after all that I’ll create it on the computer…
What ralph.m and bo5ton said.
Basically, if you are worrying about the layout first… you’re doing it wrong.
First get a list of all the content that you want to display on a page. Then, you probably need to cut that in half since too many people try to cram too much onto one page. =p
After that, order the pieces by importance. More important items get more space and are closer to the top, while less important ideas take a back seat (or get cut from the page entirely).
From there, the layout should start to create itself. From there, you can choose colors based on your sites ideas (if your site is an environmental site, earth tones and natural images work, if it’s a bleeding-edge tech company, lots of “steel” colors and black with bold shapes and fonts tends to work, etc.)
There is a lot of art behind design, but there is also a lot of science. And science can be measured, taught, and learned. =p