Web Design 101: The Importance of Balance in Design

Geri Mileva on Content Marketing

Balanced DesignBalance can be found in several aspects of our lives. It’s that sense of harmony we are drawn towards because our brains are wired to seek order and wholeness in our surroundings.

But beyond nature and inner awareness, balance is also a key component in the world of design.

Defining Balance in Design

How do you know if a painting, building, or photograph is aesthetically pleasing? The answer depends on whether or not it projects balance.

The concept of balance in design is defined as the equal distribution of elements like texture, color, and space without one area overshadowing another. In web design, the same principles apply. An inviting and compelling website relies heavily on the intelligent application of balance.

Physical Balance VS. Visual Balance

Physical balance is easy to detect. An unbalanced object tends to fall over. While physical balance relies on the force that gravity exerts on an object, visual balance can be perceived with your sense of sight alone. Visual balance depends on two factors: visual weight and visual direction.

Visual weight

Visual weight is the perceived weight of a visual element. The more an element attracts the eye, the greater its visual weight.

Visual direction

Visual direction is the perceived direction of a visual force—the direction that we think an element should follow if it were moving.

On a website with a balanced design, every area holds a certain degree of interest, keeping the viewer engaged with all the information displayed.

Types of Balance

There are many different ways to achieve balance in your web design. Let’s take a close look at each one:

Symmetrical Balance

Symmetrical balance is achieved by arranging elements evenly and in the same manner on both sides of an axis. This even placement of elements in web design is often regarded as formal and elegant. Symmetrical balance can be further classified into three:

1. Reflection Symmetry

This type of symmetry is best understood through a mirror image. If a line were drawn at the center—whether vertically, horizontally, or diagonally—elements on one side would look the same as those on the other side.

2. Rotational Symmetry

Rotational symmetry can be observed when an object appears to be rotating in a certain direction around a focal point. It is used to illustrate motion, speed, or dynamic action.

Because surrounding elements are radiating from their common center, the center becomes the main source of attraction.

3. Translational Symmetry

This type of symmetry is achieved when visual elements are placed repeatedly in different locations on the page. As long as the general orientation remains the same, the repetition can follow any direction or distance. This kind of pattern can be found in websites using tiled backgrounds.

Asymmetrical Balance

This type of balance results from an unequal distribution of visual weight on each side of a composition while maintaining harmony in the overall design. For example, a single large image on one side of a web page could be balanced by multiple smaller images on the opposite side.

Asymmetry produces a more dynamic relationship among elements, giving a website a more casual and interesting appeal. Although harder to pull off, asymmetrical balance gives you more freedom in expressing your ideas through lively and unpredictable patterns.

Discordant or Off-Balance

Like rotational symmetry, designs with an off-balance composition evoke motion or speed. Websites demonstrating this type of balance are often designed with the purpose of disrupting the viewers’ attention, making them think deeply about the message being conveyed.  

Horizontal Balance

This is commonly used in designing website layouts. Given that most cultures read from left to right, your audience would also have a natural tendency to perceive visual information in the same way. If you aim to attract a conservative audience, then this type of balance is perfect for your website as it appears simple and restrained.

Vertical Balance

Vertical balance can be observed on websites where the top and bottom components are very similar.  It’s ideal for typography-based designs or websites with an image slider located in the header.

Properties of Balance

The concept of balance can be further elaborated through its five major properties:

Color

The color of an object is what makes it appear light or heavy. Darker colors are often visually heavier than low-intensity ones because they demand more attention from the viewer. You might want to avoid using too many colors on one page to make your website pleasing to the eye.

Shape

The shape of an element can alter the balance of your entire design. A shape with uneven edges is visually more interesting and heavier than a shape with clean straight lines. To maintain a balanced design, objects with complex shapes should be juxtaposed against those with simpler shapes.

Size

The size of the elements in your design will determine what type of balance is best for it. Because a large and empty object holds a lighter visual weight, you can balance it with a smaller and denser object. If you’re going for a symmetrical balance, see to it that all the elements are of relatively the same size.

Position

The position of an element refers to its distance from the center axis of a page. This will determine the object’s visual weight. Objects placed closer to the center weigh heavier than those placed further away. This can help you choose which elements to emphasize on your web pages.

Value

We’ve pointed out that darker-colored objects hold more weight than lighter-colored ones. In relation to this, the higher the value contrast between an object and its background, the heavier the object’s weight will be. The lower the contrast, the lighter the object becomes.

The Importance of Balance in Design

A balanced design shows stability and structure. Without balance in your website design, viewers wouldn’t know where to look and therefore would be unable to understand what you’re trying to communicate. Every step of your creative process should consider the different components involved in maintaining visual balance to ensure a memorable user experience.

How to Achieve Balance in Your Web Design

The first step is to create a layout. This includes your content, images, and navigation areas. Remember that balance is all about moderation, nothing too large or too small, too scattered or too compressed.

Be keen in adjusting the properties of each element. Don’t be afraid to make a lot of changes as you continually discover what works best for your website. Always see to it that your web design is aligned with the message you want to get across.

What Else Makes a Good Web Design?

Apart from balance, a good web design makes use of the following:

White Space

This is a minimalist trend you can adopt to break on-page space and create a balance between cluttered sections and lighter elements.

Images

Images should be used strategically. Too many images can take a longer time to load, which can drive your audience away. Always make sure that every image displayed is crisp, clear, and high-quality.

Usability

This refers to the ease with which users can navigate your website. A well-designed website allows the user to immediately understand what the website is about and know where to go with minimal clicking.

Call to Action

Every website has a purpose. The call to action is the part of your web content that compels the user to perform a desired action, whether it’s buying your product or subscribing to a newsletter. It should be visible and clearly expressed to ensure its effectiveness.

Search Feature

This is particularly useful for websites that contain a lot of pages. A search feature helps users find what they’re looking for more easily.

Summary

Incorporating balance into your website is not as simple as it sounds. There are plenty of factors that can influence the effectiveness of your design, and it’s important to analyze each one before arranging all the visual elements you have. This way, you can come up with the best possible look for your site and give every user the information they need and the experience they deserve. 

 

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