Chapter 2: What Makes a Good Design?

There are hundreds of millions of websites out there, and obviously they’re not all well designed. Even some of the more popular sites on the Internet have designs that one wouldn’t necessarily consider “good.”

So what makes a design “good” or “bad”? Are there hard-and-fast rules that a designer should follow when designing, or is it more open to interpretation?

The answer is yes. There are rules for good design that designers should at least consider, but good design is also open to interpretation. Sometimes going against the rules can result in a site that’s better than anything that could have been achieved abiding by all the “rules.” But before you start breaking rules, you first need to know what they are.

Visual Balance

Visual balance generally refers to whether a design is symmetrical or asymmetrical (and whether that asymmetry is jarring or works within the design). Some designs are based entirely around a perfectly symmetrical layout. Symmetrical designs are generally more straightforward to create than asymmetrical designs.


Figure 2-1: A symmetrical design.

Source: © Forefathers Group

In an asymmetrical design, balance is still important. One side of the design can’t overwhelm the other side. But, as a general rule, asymmetrical designs are more visually interesting than symmetrical designs as they’re less ...

Get The Smashing Idea Book: From Inspiration to Application now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.