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10 Design Principles Every Business Owner Should Know

Published September 16, 2016 by PLATFORM
Professional designers follow well-established design rules. All of us seem to understand that “pretty” websites and mobile applications are what businesses should strive for, however good design is much more complicated and includes all of the activities that ensure that your products and services match the needs, expectations, capabilities and desires of the users. This is why we prepared a few design tips for you so that you know what to look for as you take your websites or mobile app to the next level.

We believe that these are especially helpful for business owners to better understand what they should be looking for in their design, however they can also serve as a great reminder for designers.

Tips for creating order

The following are a few tips that can help create order and simplicity using various design elements. In general terms, people are wired to seek order and that is why clean design is so important for your success.


1. Alignment

Alignment is the simplest and quickest way to turn a busy design into an organized one.

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Design requires order to be effective. When the principles of alignment aren’t used properly, it makes design look disorganized and visually illogical. If every element on your page was five pixels removed from the next without paying attention to its overall alignment, the experience would quickly descend into chaos.


2. Symmetry

Proportion or symmetry is the basis of beauty.

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Symmetry can occur in any orientation as long as the image is the same on either side of the central axis. Symmetrical features are seen as more attractive. Look at consumer products and graphic design to see how many use symmetry. It's the dominant organizational concept.


3. Balance

When elements are out of proportion they tend to look awkward or unbalanced.

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When a design is unbalanced, the individual elements dominate the whole and the composition becomes less than the sum of its parts. In some projects, unbalanced might be right for the message you’re trying to communicate, but generally you want balanced compositions.


4. Grouping

When parts are grouped together they are perceived as a single unit.

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Minimize cognitive load by grouping together elements that have the same communication goal. For instance, by separating the product description from the price details, your user can go from reading about the product to purchasing the product. It’s easier to focus on one task at a time.


5. Encapsulation

Encapsulation provides instant separation of a group of elements from their surrounding compatriots.

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When it comes to screen elements, encapsulation creates an immediate sense of importance. You know that this area was wrapped up for a reason and you should heed its visual welcome to participate. A perfect example of this is a product page in e-commerce.


Tips for highlighting importance

While the majority of your design should strive to create order out of chaos, there are times when you need to highlight something as a more important feature. Following are some tips that can help highlight an element.


6. White space

White space is to be regarded as an active element, not a passive background.

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Use white space to draw attention to an element. By surrounding an element with white space, you are singling the element out. The natural reaction is, - “Why is that thing the only thing in that part of the screen? It must be important!”


7. Anomaly

I am aware that I am rare.

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Anomaly that is intentionally and effectively incorporated into a design has a definite purpose, and is used only when necessary. Capture the viewer's attention or relieve monotony by making an element incongruent with the rest of the screen.


8. Asymmetry

Because it’s more interesting, asymmetry can be used to draw attention.

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Asymmetry creates more complex relationships between elements, and so it tends to be more interesting than symmetry. You can work with symmetry and asymmetry in your composition to make elements get more attention.


9. Dominance

When everything is louder, nothing is heard.

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Create a visual hierarchy using dominance by placing emphasis on one element within a group of elements through visual cues, such as size. But note, you can’t emphasize everything. When you try to do that, all of your design elements compete for attention and nothing stands out.


10. Scale

A single object has no scale until it’s seen in comparison with something else.

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Scale is one way we can show contrast between different elements as well as showing relationships between elements. Two elements of the same size are seen as being equal in some way. Two elements with a clear variation in size are seen as different.


Business owners often wonder whether it is worth their money to hire design professionals. The answer is yes. Especially once your business sees some early success and you are ready to take it to the next level, you should invest in your web design to offer optimized experience for your growing user base. The money you invest in a high quality design has a great ROI and some of the benefits include faster time to market and faster customer acquisition, higher customer retention and also improved margins and stronger customer relationships.


If you enjoyed reading about these 10 elements for better design, look for other design and business tips in our other posts.


Anna McNab is a product strategist at PLATFORM and an associate professor at Niagara University

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