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Ten Effective Ways to Improve a Dull Web Design

One of the biggest issues web designers face is how they can improve a website design that doesn’t quite hit the mark. Often, some necessary changes bust out a great design in seconds, other times; we struggle for days to complete a few things that should be very simple. This article can become an inspiration in how to improve a boring design that is lacking in things that you can’t quite easily determine.

1. Add some contrast:

Add some contrast
Add some contrast

It is often very easy to make a web design livelier by adding some contrast. Human eyes tend to be drawn on places with extremes or unexpected differences. By employing this knowledge, it’s easy to create stunning designs. There are a few ways you can apply contrast in your website. The most obvious method is to use color contrast. Color contrast is no brainer, but many web designers find it rather tricky to execute. Improper implementation of color theory may result in conflict, instead of contrast.

Experiment with colors to identify the best contrast for your design, for example, both white and red contrast well with black and they can be used together to create emphasis.

Other than colors, you can use boldness and size to create contrast. Visual redundancy may occur if too many elements in the designs seem to have the same boldness and size. Make sure headlines and prioritized elements are significantly bolder and bigger than the rest. Check your design carefully and make a list of elements that should stand out visually. If they should get the most attention, use selective contrast to add interest and liven up the design.

2. Be unexpected:

Be unexpected
Be unexpected

You can get people attention by surprising them. This can be applied to your design in a good or bad way. Adding a loud tune to surprise your visitors is a bad thing. Instead, you can do something graphically untraditional, but pleasant. Your visitors may not know the real reason why a graphical element is unusually implemented, but it can make them spend a couple more seconds looking at the webpage. A web design shouldn’t go all out to sneak up on your visitors and deliver a powerful punch line; it simply adds little twists that visitors don’t expect. These little touches allow web designer to personalize the website with a pleasant creativity. They can go a long way towards incorporating a finished feeling that the website may be lacking.

Make a list of the dullest elements in your design and determine what changes can be made to pleasantly surprise the visitors. However, you should be careful not to add confusion; instead try to offer infusing interest.

3. Simplify everything:

Simplify everything
Simplify everything

There is one word that should be said to web designers who tend to consistently produce dull designs, that is “simplify”. Too often web designers think a good way to improve a design is to add more. More images, more colors, more text, more icons. Sometimes a new element can genuinely help but many web designers try way too hard. If you cram too much into something, it tends to lose effectiveness. Visitors will actually find that the fewer elements they see in a web page the less work they have to do to read it. Your design should be effective and gorgeous. Its main goal is to communicate your ideas loud and clear.

Some designers are not that bad but they often create super-busy layout. Their websites have no emphasis and cluttered. Remember, you get nothing if all elements on your design scream out simultaneously for attention.

To solve this problem, you should re-examine your web design and list elements based on their order of importance. For the time being, ignore flashy, non-essential elements, instead find those that really add usefulness and meaning to your design. Strip out design elements that are placed at the bottom of the list and see if you can strip more.

The resulting design should be cleaner and if you think that you have gone overboard, you can re-introduce some of them one by one. However, if you are not careful, it is easy to end up where you first started.

4. Repeat something:

Repeat something
Repeat something

For many web designers, repetition is a tricky concept that’s difficult to grasp properly. It may seem quite easy, use the same few colors and fonts throughout to produce a consistent look. However, a proper repetition is much more than this. A good way to learn about repetition is to learn from others’ works. Just like other web design methods, you shouldn’t go overboard with repetition and the idea of adding twenty icons in a single page is simply a lousy thing to do.

To add repetitions properly examine your design and make a list of elements ordered by attractiveness and uniqueness. It can be just about anything, from a color to a shape. Now consider, if it is possible to repeat them in a clever way. For example, you can take a bright color, such as red and use it in a few areas to draw attention. Take an image and place it in a few places on your page. Use a few words taken from your headline and repeat them in other places. These ideas should get your mind started in the right way.

5. Use lines:

Use lines
Use lines

Often a dull design is filled with too many white spaces and adding some lines can go a long way. However, on other designs, there is too little space and you need to keep everything crammed closely while ensuring that the design is still visually intact. Many design issues can be solved by the simplest element: a line. It may sound too good to be true, but it can add interest to your content and organize the design effectively. Just like other tips mentioned in this article, you can easily take it too far. Always wield lines with proper planning and they should improve your designs, instead of adding more clutters. Check popular websites to know how to spice up your design with a couple of strokes.

6. Make it more dynamic:

Make it more dynamic
Make it more dynamic

A web design shouldn’t only about how it looks. It’s also about how it interacts with users. A static, plain design can feel dull, even if it’s visually attractive. Fortunately, it is among the simplest problems to solve in web design. If you don’t want to add Flash-based interface or a complex web application, you can add subtle animations, unique hover effects, slide-shows and image sliders. Simple hover effects can significantly improve the dynamic of your design, for example when you mouse over, make the mid-section of an elements (such as, buttons) to raise up while its sides stick out further, which can give a wonderful 3D effect.

So, does your design seem dead? Web design is far too versatile a medium to not fully utilize available tools. jQuery and dynamic CSS can add some life to an otherwise boring design. Remember, you don’t have to go crazy, just leverage all available resources in away people find engaging.

7. Add enough characters:

Add enough characters
Add enough characters

Fantastic bits of design can make users smile every time. Data is lifeless and boring, so you should present them properly, although it can be a challenge. Web designers are always demanded to make a website feels more friendly and what nicer way is there to achieve it than to add some characters to your design. To make your design feel more welcoming, it is a good idea to add human elements and if you’re a skilled illustrator, then you are in luck. Whip up a friendly character or a mascot. Even if you are a lousy artist, you can still implement this technique easily.

Make a list of elements in your design that you believe to be too technical and boring. Will non-techies identify them in a meaningful way? Often it helps to add some humanity into your graphics. Use smiling faces and other pleasant graphics to eliminate intimidating aspects of your design.

8. Add some textures:

Add some textures
Add some textures

Good designers always begin their designs in a really basic way and avoid getting caught up on too many details during the initial design stages. Instead they focus on contents and organize them in a usable manner. They nail down proper color scheme and use solid colors until the design looks great without adding superfluous textures or gradients. Then, if they think that something is lacking, they introduce eye-catching textures to make the design look livelier.

If you haven’t incorporated any texture, consider whether you can incorporate it while maintaining the integrity of the layout. Textures should reinforce an already solid design and don’t use them as a band-aid to lackluster design. But if you already use plenty of texture, you may need to strip all of them and get a feel how the design looks with just basic colors. Then reintroduce some textures gradually, while being more selective about what you should reapply.

9. Just take it easy:

Just take it easy
Just take it easy

Some designers get stuck in a mental rut after awhile and no matter how much they try to climb out of the situation, they just keep rehashing the same concepts and repeating the same mistakes. If the eight methods above don’t really help you, try to step away for a while. Go for a walk and simply take a break. If you want to stay productive, you can work on an unrelated project for some time. Spending one whole day focusing on something different can give you a fresh perspective, when you come back to identify troublesome areas. Unfortunately, many designers work on projects that have limited lead time and skipping a day can incur the wrath of disappointed clients.  In many circumstances, web designers can only afford a few short breaks. In reality, breaks should be incorporated in the entire productivity system, especially in an activity that involves plenty of creative thoughts. The Podomoro system has been implemented successfully by many designers and it’s consisted of periods of continuous works followed by short breaks. Since creativity often come in quick bursts and trying too hard for the whole day can further ruin your already dull design.

10. Don’t be afraid to start over:

Don’t be afraid to start over
Don’t be afraid to start over

After spending days or weeks pursuing an idea, it may sound ridiculous to go back to the drawing board. Just like other creative professionals, web designers are attached emotionally with their creations. It’s an entirely natural reaction, but they should be aware that starting over can help them to move on and improve upon their initial thoughts. Many designers spend hours tweaking a dull design, but when they start from scratch, they can come up with something better in 90 minutes. Mature designers know when they are on the wrong path, which allows them quickly press forward to a different direction. Don’t be afraid, just open a blank worksheet and start anew. You should also look around at online design galleries to get better inspirations and if possible start over with something entirely new.

The tricky part is knowing when to start over. But at least, it is reassuring that your laptop can hold more than a few PSD files and by starting over; you won’t throw away your earlier ideas. You can save and file away your design, so reverting to your original works is very easy. Sometimes web designers go through many iterations only to realize that their original idea is indeed the best. Some go to another direction and stumble upon old files and quickly see how their problems can be successfully solved. Whatever you do, you shouldn’t be attached to an idea so much that it is difficult to start over and scrap a dull design. But on the other hand, you shouldn’t be too unattached that you unknowingly discard an entirely promising concept. Never throw away ideas that haven’t reached their full potential. Even if your design is terrible, place it in a special folder, so you can come back for a review.

It is important to realize that even if creative works are abstract and unpredictable process, you should apply correct steps towards achieving a solution. If implemented properly, the above tips can help you to get your creative mind back in gear.

About Raja Chandran

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2 comments

  1. These are really great, concrete points and funny visuals. However what would have made this article even better, would have been visuals of actual websites which showcase your suggestions. E.g. A good use of repetition, a good use of lines, etc. But I’m still bookmarking this article for my next web design project. Thanks!

  1. Pingback: Ten Effective Ways to Improve a Dull Web Design | DesignRogue

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