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Chapter 2. Creating Effective Layouts > Planning How to Emphasize Important Inf...

Planning How to Emphasize Important Information

A well‐designed Web page draws the user's attention to one key piece of information without that element looking so far out of place that it looks wrong. Planning for where and how you'll emphasize an element on your site saves you time later. You'll already know how to handle that special announcement before you have to add it. A little planning now also prevents strange or awkward‐looking retrofitted elements, so keep these points in mind:

  • Emphasis is good, but your page can have too much of a good thing. Good Web designers tend to break a page into three levels of emphasis. There should be one major piece of information on the page, and the second and third are lesser pieces of information. Convey the emphasis to the visitor by using text size (larger equals more important) and text position (higher and in the middle equals more important). You can also use color to help convey emphasis.

    When using color to show emphasis, be careful! Too many colors can make a page look garish. Another consideration is that many people might not be able to see the colors as you see them. For instance, a user might be color blind or visually impaired, so make sure to incorporate more than one cue to bring the visitor's attention to your major point of focus. We discuss usability and accessibility further in the next section.

  • Be sparing in your use of special font treatments to create emphasis. Keep the number of treatments to a minimum to avoid visual confusion and amateurish‐looking pages. Keep it simple. Plan areas for headings and for content text for any special promotional items you need to include on your site. Make sure that these elements match the look and feel of your site. Don't create elements that clash with the rest of the site; it creates a bad impression for your site and organization and also confuses visitors. Remember, no one will be standing there to explain your design choices to your users. The site must convey its message all by itself.

  • Remember that nothing is emphasized if everything is emphasized. If too many things are fighting for attention, the site is difficult to use, and visitors are confused by too many messages that demand equal amounts of attention. This sort of thing can make users feel bombarded, and they'll miss out on the information you're working hard to make available to them — or worse, they'll leave your site and go to one that doesn't confuse or assault them.

About fonts

When choosing fonts, each color and size of text used counts as a separate font. For instance, if you have Arial text but it's in three different colors and five different sizes, count that as eight different font treatments. In a case like that, rethink your design and eliminate some of the treatments. A good rule to live by is to limit the number of fonts on a page to three. Notice how the fonts in the top image shown here compete for attention; this site uses too many fonts, which creates a confusing layout. The bottom image shows the actual page, which uses only a limited number of fonts; using fewer fonts helps bring emphasis without confusing the visitors. For more information about working with fonts, see Book II, Chapter 4.



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