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Graphic design criteria
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A website is the company’s cyber face, and therefore, it must represent the firm from a graphic and content point of view, since these have an impact on a great number of people. Graphic design, in this sense, is crucial to the success of a website, since it is the visual presentation of it, it is the aspect that from the beginning determines or not whether the users will feel attracted to it and surf it; it is the semiotic tool that makes surfing easy and it is the company’s identity. It is highly important to have the experience and knowledge of professional designers, who are capable of offering a clear visually attractive and esthetically harmonious website, which represents the company’s personality and makes surfing easy, and has pages that make a coherent whole.

In order for you to understand the importance of hiring a professional team, we will provide you with the main criteria that experts bear in mind when creating a website. It is worth mentioning that designers ?the ones in charge of creating the site? have not only graphic design knowledge but also the necessary training in technologies and programming in order to achieve a maximum esthetic impact and also an easy surfing.

1. Separate the content from its presentation.

Nowadays Web designers separate the content from the visual aspect when programming a website. The site’s presentation is done in style sheets, as we will explain in the section dedicated to Web programming.

2. Consider the company’s features and define its target group.

First, the professional designer will investigate the company in order to know its features to create its Web design. By interviewing the personnel, and bearing in mind the existent organizing graphic pieces and an analysis of the offered products and services, the designer learns about the main principles of a company. Thus, he can graphically express the company’s basic message on the website.

In this previous investigation to the creation of the website, a research of the target group is carried out. It is essential that the design is aimed at a specific group to call the users’ attention, be it real clients or potential ones. Colors, lines, shapes, images, typefaces and other graphic elements must conform both to the company and to the public.

3. Use a Template system.

One of the main aspects of website’s design is to achieve a unified style among the different parts of it. All the pages of a site must have the same graphic line in order to make the site meaningful, attractive, and easy to surf, and it can be identified with a topic and represent the company. That is the reason why designers use a template system.

This means that a general design or mould is created to use it in all the pages of the website, exclusively designed according to the features of each company. In a template, a general layout (basic column distribution), a navigation bar, a chromatic range, a corporate logo, links, backgrounds, headers and footers , visual effects, typefaces for texts and titles, types of thumbnails and symbols, and all the graphic elements that will be used on the pages are included.

Once you have the templates (original general design) for the website, the designers give a special touch to each page, according to its specific function, and they try to make each page an attractive and distinguishable space. Therefore, thanks to the template system, a website can have a well-defined style, in turn having striking pages. The template system, by unifying the graphics of a site, allows the easy surfing, the company’s image to stick to users’ minds and the easier way to update visual effects. Design coherence and consistency are essential to provide a really professional image.

4. Define the pages’ layout.

By page layout we mean the general way in which text and visual elements are distributed. It is a main aspect of Web design, since it has an effect on the site’s surfing, on its communicative capacity and on the corporate image. If the layout is chaotic, illegible and illogical, some users will feel confused and will immediately leave the site.

For the content organization, Web designers use HTML tables. Usually they create a tripartite layout: a superior one for the header, a middle one for contents and an inferior one for footer text. When a website is organized in tables, its loading time diminishes, which is actually of great importance for users.

A header attracts user’s attention and immediately provides fundamental information ?company’s name, logo (located in the left upper corner) and types of offered products and services (a slogan can be included). The content must be separated into paragraphs, with thumbnails to stand out the information; titles and subtitles are put clearly in order of importance; columns and sections are highlighted by charts and colors (created from tables). On the other hand, on the footer text, the name of the company and legal information must be included. Besides, as regards layout, it is important to locate the various links in different parts of every page: up, left or right and down, since they are an important aspect when surfing.

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5. Define backgrounds.

Inside a website, backgrounds are really important, since they make the text legible and create the general harmony of the site. A professional designer chooses backgrounds and the right colors, capable of representing the company’s style and make communication easier. There are two background options: colorful backgrounds or backgrounds with images. The difference between them is the loading speed. Colorful backgrounds are easily loaded as opposed to those with images and therefore it is one of their main advantages. We must bear in mind that, on a website, loading time is a key element for a site to be a success or a failure, since depending on this the users will remain on or leave the site.

Another advantage is that colorful backgrounds make reading easier. Even though backgrounds with images are very attractive, they must be carefully chosen, because otherwise they can cause confusion, saturation and illegibility. If you choose a background with images it is important it follows a definite pattern in all the pages and, furthermore, legibility is a must. On the other hand, no matter what background you choose, it is important to keep coherence among the backgrounds of the different pages of a site. Only this way can you create an identifiable and easy-to-surf website.

6. Establish background’s colors.

As regards background’s colors, the first thing to bear in mind is the contrast between the text and the background, since it makes reading easier. A website and its pages have a great amount of text and, therefore, it is important to make reading soothing for users. The golden rule is to choose a dark color for the background and a light color for the text, or vice versa. For instance, we recommend that you use a combination of dark blue and light gray, or white and blue, instead of black and white, since in this case contrast is too strong and it can strain the eyes. Another thing to consider is that background colors must be harmonious with those of the typeface of the whole site, in order to show a professional and serious image.

The colors of the background must conform to the esthetics of each company and to its public profile. Thus, the designer chooses the chromatic palette for a website, bearing in mind the psychology of colors, i.e., the effects these have on people and the meanings they convey in the different branches of activity. Chromatic mixings generate an immediate impression on recipients and, therefore, it is important to make a careful selection. Colors are a key semiotic element to reinforce the company’s message. On the other hand, it is important to respect each company’s chromatic identity and keep throughout the website.

Peaceful colors are dark blue, green, gray and purple, and striking colors are red, yellow, orange and fuchsia. Designers tend to choose shocking colors for companies aimed at a young and informal public, in combination with no vibrant colors ?such as a red and gray background. For companies that aim at a more formal public with high economic and social levels, colors used generally are dark blue, gray, silver, white, purple and burgundy. The designer can recommend the best colors according to each company.

7. Select typeface.

To make the user stay on a given website, it is important to present an interesting and clear content, as well as a legible one. Therefore, besides organizing the text into paragraphs, with thumbnails, titles and subtitles, with left or justified alignment, in columns and special frames, it is important to choose the right typographies. Let’s remember that reading a screen is much more tiring than reading written material; and, therefore, it is important to make the reading as soothing as possible. This is due to the fact that letters have a lower definition because they are made up of pixels, since screen brightness strains the eyes.

Simplicity is the key to success in Web design, since the Internet is a media of great visual pollution. In this sense, it is important to choose the same typeface for texts on all the pages of a website and another one for titles and hyperlinks. It is not advisable to use different kinds of typographies, since this creates confusion in readers. On the other hand, among the various typefaces, we have those with serif and those without serif. The former are those with little edges at the end of the letter and they give text a more traditional style. The latter are those which lack these edges and give the text a more modern look.

It is convenient to choose common typographies, thus users will have no problems to properly download and visualize the site. Next we will recommend some typefonts for the texts on a website. The most used typographies with serif are: Times, Times New Roman and Garamond. Without serif are: Arial, Helvetica and Verdana. You can use Georgia for titles, since it has a good definition at large size. The size of the typeface is also important, since it must be the proper one in relation to the amount of text and legibility. A very small size will be practically illegible on screen and a very large size for a main text makes continuous reading difficult and it gives an unattractive appearance. On the other hand, variations in the typefaces can be done, using style changes ?italics and boldface?, or changing the colors and sizes.

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