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Clean up your act: how to make your web pages look sleek & stylish

Attractive webpages are a bit like well-dressed women. They look clean, chic and polished.  Their clothing is functional and clean, but never dull. They pay attention to detail, follow rules of proportion and line, stick to a theme and don’t go overboard. Similarly, a good webpage is more Coco Chanel than Madonna circa 1989. Here are some tips to give your page a little more 'effortless chic'.

Yes, you too could look this terrible if you jump in feet first and don't adhere to your styling rules...

Yes, you too could look this terrible if you jump in feet first and don't adhere to your styling rules...

Think about spacing and kerning

If the letters on your website page are too squashed together, or the lines sit  on top of each other,  the text will be difficult to read. Make sure the kerning is nicely spaced, and the lines have enough gaps between them. Check that each paragraph starts underneath any sub-header and not on the same line.

Give things a little space.

Don’t be too stark

Sometimes the page just looks a bit cheap and nasty, and this can be because the font is too dark, or just plain black. You’d think this would make things look nice and crisp and clear, but sometimes the starkness of black on white can be a little off-putting and abrasive. Just tone it down a little. Soften it by going for a more muted grey. Be careful though and don’t go too light otherwise your readability will suffer.

Use an attractive font that’s readable online

There are lots of really cool fonts to use out there, and we’re nowhere near as limited as we used to be. If you can, work with a graphic designer to help choose an appropriate font for your site. If you can’t do this, use something sensible and clean. Forget anything curly and complicated, and whatever you do, don’t even think about using Comic Sans. That puppy certainly won’t be appearing in Vogue any time soon.

Bad, isn't it?  OK, this has very little to do with fonts, but I couldn't resist another example of 'what not to do' in the style stakes...

Bad, isn't it?  OK, this has very little to do with fonts, but I couldn't resist another example of 'what not to do' in the style stakes...

Stay clear of italics when writing for the web

Italics are just plain hard to read online. Also, they can look very messy on the page. It’s best to leave them out if you can, or use them for emphasis only occasionally. See what I mean?

Beware of the ALL-CAPS

All capitals can be used occasionally, but only for short chunks of text. They can look powerful and stylish, but don’t use more than just a couple of words. Use any more and once again, it will be difficult to read. And, in case you haven’t heard, ALL CAPS appear a bit rude - LIKE YOU’RE SHOUTING AT PEOPLE! Not so chic…

Don't YELL at people! It's not nice.

Don't YELL at people! It's not nice.

Exclamation marks: be discerning and show decorum

We all love to share a joke. And sometimes what we say might even be funny, or even astounding. Occasionally things may come as a bit of a surprise. But if you use exclamation marks too frequently, it’ll look like you are laughing at your own jokes.

Not stylish.

Wow! Bingo! Who would have thought?! We did it again! Then we came back, and I fell over one more time! Far out! I’m just so hilarious!

And you know what is even more tediously clutsy and amateurish? The multi-exclamation mark!!!!! So, so amazing!!!!!!! Like, really funny!!!! Get it?!! Hahaha!!!!!!!!! Like Jennifer Lawrence falling over at the Oscars!!!! Again!!!!!

Yep. Hilarious.(Kidding) Best you don’t go there.

Well whackidy dack!  J'Law has fallen again!! Yup!  Again!!! Wahahah!!!!  TIP: Try not to over-exclaim. It's clutsy. And not so funny. A bit like falling over too many times. Poor J'Law... Once was enough.

Well whackidy dack!  J'Law has fallen again!! Yup!  Again!!! Wahahah!!!!  TIP: Try not to over-exclaim. It's clutsy. And not so funny. A bit like falling over too many times. Poor J'Law... Once was enough.

Break it up

Large chunks of text are difficult to read on the internet. And they’re boring.

Most people “skim” rather than read online, so make your copy easy to scan. Put text in short, attractive paragraphs, and use subheadings - preferably in key-phrase rich words to help with your SEO.

Use pictures and diagrams on your website pages

Readers like images, as they make the page more interesting and more descriptive – so go ahead and use them. Google understands this, too, and  marks pages favourably if there are images. Somake sure you have at least one, but preferably two images, on every web page.

Make it look pretty. A little bling never hurt nobody.

Keep the font size readable

Okay, we're talking about making your page look stylish, but if the font is too small it’s just too hard to read. Warning: if you’re working with a good graphic designer, you’re likely to be at loggerheads about this, as all graphic designers seem to just love teeny tiny text. It’s a thing. A fair bit of arm twisting may be necessary. Possibly even a punch-up if your designer is a die-hard.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

But you both must learn to compromise. And the best way to do this is to use the magic words that designers love to hear. Tell them that if they make your font a tiny bit bigger, you’ll give them some more white space. Yes, white space. Write it down. It’s like designer catnip. They go crazy for it.

Getting back to the issue of font size, I admit I love the look of small fonts too; they always look so stylish (as do paler, softer greyed-out fonts) but the fact of the matter is, like wearing shoes that are two sizes too small, if you just can’t read it, it’s a waste of time!

Keep it consistent

Choose one font for your body copy. Have another one for your headers. Leave it there. A webpage should not be a designer clearance sale.

Keep it clean. Keep it sleek. There’s no need for over-complication. Commit to your choice and stay with it.

Making your website look good is all about keeping it clean and uncomplicated. And like a well-dressed woman, it shouldn’t be over-accessorised. Style and sophistication has confidence, not confusion and clutter. It doesn’t need to try too hard.