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There’s an old saying: ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’, but this hardly applies to the science of designing web graphics. Everybody judges web sites by their ‘cover’ or home page, have no doubt. Is your site giving out a professional, visual aura, or is it telling visitors that you built it yourself, because of bad design?

Ask yourself: Of the many thousands of web pages trying to sell you something, which are the ones that keep your interest? Which ones have convinced you to depart with your hard-earned cash?

If you are honest, you will say the ones with the most attractive and professional graphics – the pretty pictures. Human nature determines that what catches your eye, and is pleasing to view, keeps your attention. Subconsciously or not, you make a judgment within seconds, on how professional is the website you are viewing. If the appearance of a site is amateurish, the owner can kiss goodbye to any potential buyers bothering to purchase.

Visual appeal is critical. Sure, current thinking is that you should focus more on the content, than on the pretty ‘bells and whistles’ for your website, but you must have professional-looking graphics. Like branding a business, your web site graphics, headers, footers, buttons etc. should all be in the same theme, the same color scheme and consistent design.

If you want proof of the importance of this consistency, check out the ‘livery’ (a fancy word for the logos, design, colors and branding) of corporate giants like Microsoft and Nike. Most people in the western world know the Nike ‘tick’ logo instantly, almost as well as they know the slogan ‘Just Do it’. And the Microsoft logo and color set must be the most familiar visual environment on the planet. Want to bet that Bill Gates’ people spent many millions on developing this set. In today’s digital publishing world, you can’t see the ‘bits’ and bytes’ so digital products must be represented by pretty ‘boxes’ and with carefully matched color schemes for their sales sites. That’s why web designers produce those very familiar eBook covers and Program boxes, with the shadows and reflection effects.

Why do you think that hard copy book publishers make sure their covers are in well matched colors, and have good pictures and dramatic fonts?

Why do you think that so much work goes in to covers for videos and DVDs in your local video hire store? In the visual flak of such a store, there are hundreds of covers competing for attention, visually asking you to hire them. Check out your newsagent and see what effort magazine publishers put into the design of their front covers.

One the web, there are many millions of sites clamoring for attention.

And, despite the vast number of programs now available, like Adobe PhotoShop, good design is hardly a DIY skill. It requires creativity, expertise and, most importantly, time. This is why web designers, and their close cousins, banner, header and footer designers, can charge up to $100 for one good web page header, and more for a complete set. You’ll notice that there are many schools and colleges offering courses and degrees in design, so it’s not something that you will be able to pick up without study. So there’s the dilemma. You need good design, you’ll probably have to pay for it, but doing so will likely pay dividends.

About The Author
Ross Storey is a completely bald (it’s fashionable), 52-year-old public relations and marketing consultant who has been involved in web marketing and design for more than a decade.