Guide: Communicating Visual Concepts for Web Design

Written by: Levy Online on

A client using the word "pop" referring to web design.
“Pop.” A too broad web design term.

Web design has its own language, and people that need web design have their own language, and sometimes these two languages are incompatible. Here’s a quick guide to visual concepts, as they relate to web design:


Your web designer says “This image is too low resolution” or “do you have a high-res version of this logo?”
The photo is too small. It’s like taking a wallet-sized photo of your kids and physically stretching it out to fill a billboard. The result would be blurry and unappealing.
To see what your designer sees, try to zoom in on your photograph or logo. If it’s a photo of someone, can you see individual eyelashes, or are they too blurry? If it’s a logo, do the edges of the words look sharp and clean, or are they too blurry?
It’s easy to make a big (high resolution) picture smaller, but it’s impossible to make a small (low resolution) picture bigger. Always give your designer the biggest picture you can.

Focal Point:

Your web designer says “This design is too busy. We need a focal point.”
You can decide what a visitor to your site sees first, second, and third. And you should. You want your customers to see that you have a money-back guarantee, and a sale on blue items, and are open on Saturday, and wrote a new blog, and offer free shipping. But you don’t want them to see all this information at once. The customer should first see the information that they care about the most, and lastly see a way to take action and buy your product. To do this, you use the focal points.


You say, “Make this pop more.”
There’s something lacking with the focal point, contrast, color vibrance, image choice, image position, font, font size, or any other design element that keeps you from being excited about the design.
The problem with “pop” is that it means so many different things, it ultimately means nothing. It’s easy to fix a problem with the contrast, it’s hard to pin down a problem regarding “pop.”
Some points to remember:
Two things cannot “pop” at the same time with the same strength. You need to choose which thing will be most important.
You can make something “pop” so much that it’s difficult to look anwhere else on the page without your eye being drawn back to that one element. You almost never want to do this. A webpage should be a path for your visitor, not a roadblock.

Serif and Sans Serif

You say: “Can we make the font more friendly” or “This font is not professional enough!”
You might be talking about serif which are the little decorative strokes found on individual letters. Look at the tops and bottoms of the letters in this sentence. Do they grow thicker, or feature little swirls or swooshes? That’s serif.
Serif is usually warmer and more human, sans-serif more professional and businesslike.

Warm and Cool Colors

Your web designer says: “Let’s try this with cooler colors” or “This might convert better with a warmer palette.”
Generally speaking, warm colors are those that make you think of heat and warmth. Red, orange, and yellow are warm. Cool colors are those that make you think of chillier temperatures, like purple, blue, and green.
Warm colors are friendly and fun, blue colors are soothing and serious.

Lorem Ipsum

You say: “Why is my test site all in Latin? I speak Latin and this is very offensive!”
Your graphic designer is not usually the person writing the words for your site. But they need some words there, so they and you can see how the finished site will look. Because Latin is a dead language, but looks just like English writing from a distance, big selections of Latin text is used to fill out the site. It will/should all be replaced by the time your site is actually published to the web, and in the meantime you get to preview all the design elements, including fonts and letter spacing.
The phrase “Lorem ipsum” is a short way to describe all this text to a designer.
And in case you’re curious, lorem ipsum is mostly Latin gibberish, so even if you do speak Latin and are easily offended, you’re going to have a hard time reading it.

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