Web design is about 3 things: communication, ease of use and art. With nothing immediate to compare it to it’s difficult to understand how this balance works. The only thing that seems to make sense is this: developing a web page is like designing a poster.
The web is huge and growing exponentially every year. (To give you a flavour of how massive the internet is see this infographic on Mashable.) There was once a time when people would read online page almost like a book, but with so much information floating around (much of it either irrelevant or repeated) we no longer read websites; we scan them for information and hurriedly move on.
Like posters, they need to capture your attention. They need to draw your eye and tell you in a split second what they’re about. We’re quick to navigate away if a page doesn’t look like what we’re after, and by making/ breaking design conventions, similar to those used in poster design, we can get this across subconsciously.
It’s not just about being attention stopping, but about the content. If a poster or page is going to work, it needs to share something with you: a date, a location, a price or all of these. Once you’re over the initial wow factor you need to start digesting the information. One way of doing this on a page (or even a website) is the “bite, snack, meal, take-away” approach (takeaway being my addition to this e-write article on writing for the internet).
*Bite – a quick taster of what it’s all about
*Snack – a digest of all the information there is. Your 3 second elevator pitch.
*Meal – the full feast of information for anyone who’s still keen
*Takeaway – something to enjoy later or on the move: a pdf or downloadable version. Smartphones and weak 3G data speeds mean this will be an increasingly important feature for some websites.
Posters have always taken this approach, with headlines, subheadings, and even those tear-slips that people put at the bottom to allow you to take a phone number with you.
Easing people into the information and making it simple to follow is the best way to share this information. With more and more data / webpages available, this is really important. Infographics, born of a data heavy age, follow this method and are developing new ways to display information. With their poster-like layout, they’re the new way to tell a story using numbers, images and text to bring it to life. These are where posters meet web pages.
What we’ve only started to see over the past few years are interactive posters. By touching, swiping or moving we can manipulate the information available, focussing in on details or playing with them. The space where poster meets web page meets touch screen is the design frontier.