Aesthetics in Web Design Should Not Be An Afterthought

A Blog by Linda Darlene

“Aesthetics need to be a primary goal of a designer, not an afterthought once the fundamental elements are in place.”

Maybe I should coin a new word!  Aesthetic-pedia! Well, I think it’s a new word. It would mean ‘learning about aesthetics.”  You see, some folks need to learn about the effect of aesthetics on one’s brain. They don’t get it!  I came to this conclusion one day after realizing that I become utterly frustrated whenever I hear or read other designers saying that aesthetics don’t matter. For example, I recently saw on my Facebook news feed the following quote: 😟

“SIGH….my coach says I just have to get the thing online and stop spending so much time in design.”

I’m not quite sure of the mindset of those who believe this. If you have a choice between a beautiful website or a just okay site, which would you choose?

Setting aside the obvious that functionality is a pretty essential ingredient in designing a website that effectively markets a business, it goes without saying that a site needs to be attractive to gain the attention of an organic searcher. I guess the disagreement comes with the question of how ‘pretty’ is pretty.

Think of it this way! Designers need to design websites that are tasteful and well-ordered, and that leaves a user feeling ‘mentally and emotionally nourished.’ The Greek philosopher Plato felt that beauty elicits the feeling of pleasure in the observer. And Aristotle, his student, thought that it is the function of art [website design] to create this experience of pleasure.

website user

Likewise, it is the designer’s job to elicit a response in the visitor akin to pleasure, such that the visitor stays and explores the site. Aren’t there sometimes sites that you want to gaze at for a bit, merely because they appeal to you aesthetically? I will contend that websites such as those do not attract because they are easy to navigate, but rather because they evoke a satisfying feeling, are nurturing, and are in some way captivating. I’d rather land on a simple, beauteous site than one that has so many bells and whistles that my head spins and I want to get away from the stress of it.

“Good design never changes. Don’t waste time on ornamentation… Design with simple beauty and your product will be timeless.” – By Isaac Campbell

I’m a web designer, but I’m not so techie that I feel I have to include every new web development trick and tool that comes around. My feeling is that a web designer’s job is to highlight the product or the service of the client, not to play around and highlight how savvy and up-to-date the designer is.

Do we really need a bunch of popups jumping out at us all the time? Do we need videos that freak us out and can’t readily be stopped because of autoplay? Do we really need parallax images that distract on every page? Why is every website supposed to have a hero image that stretches the full width of a page?

Please tell me why!

I heard a speaker say to an audience recently that that was the standard — stretched hero images. Whose standard? Not mine. None of the above necessarily enhance the functionality of a site, so unless they add to the aesthetics — don’t use them just because it’s the trend.

web design

I’m not pro aesthetics and con technology. I’m not! However, I feel there should be ‘reasons’ for the use of the latest ‘crazes’ in web design.

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” —Scott Adams

The word aesthetic (aisthētikos) in Greek means sense perception, or how we “perceive” beauty. In other words, how we perceive the visual attractiveness of a site matters. Aesthetics need to be a primary goal of a designer, not an afterthought once the fundamental elements are in place.

Aesthetics reflect more than just design and taste; they reflect a mood, a feel of comfortability. Since most organic visitors to a site will decide within 2-5 seconds whether or not to explore further, it’s a good idea to give them aesthetic, artistic reasons to think that the site might be worth a more extended visit. Aesthetics are so important because it can make the difference between someone ‘bouncing’ from a website or sticking around to take more of a look.

Now we come to the question of beauty for beauty’s sake or art for art’s sake, meaning the primary and only aim of a work of art is the self-expression of the individual artist who creates it. That’s not what I’m addressing. I’m referring to the design decisions when crafting a site that places importance on beauty and tastefulness to provide visual pleasure for a user. Beauty in web design refers to such qualities as color and shaping that combine in such a way that the designer rouses one’s pleasure sensors.

Here are some aesthetic considerations for web design:

    1. the carefully chosen use of colors that highlight and complement branding
    2. the wise use of attention-getters so that the eye naturally lands comfortably from spot to spot
    3. the repetition of shapes (rectangular, rounded, square, etc.) to unify and harmonize the design
    4. the best use of fonts and line spacing not only for ease of reading but to make the site more attractive
    5. the proper amount of white space so that distracting visuals do not bombard the eye
    6. the use of texture, if applicable, to give a sense of depth to a site
    7. the use of alignment to create a sense of balance in weight, attention or attraction
    8. the use of simplicity that shows only website essentials to achieve structure and order
    9. the consideration of proportions to emphasize importance (i.e., the use of  the Golden Ratio comes to mind.)

These are just some of the aesthetic decisions that a designer needs to factor in when designing. Do you think that these considerations seem to be pretty standard, and what a designer would quite naturally do? I contend that these are ‘normal’ aesthetic factors for those designers who sincerely wish to design for balance, harmony, and tastefulness.


For me, color is never an afterthought, for example. If anything, I center almost every decision around the color(s) that I want to use for a site. I want to have a proportionate blend of colorful elements precisely to attract attention. Also, on every website I design, I want to include what I call a component of ‘delight.’ By this, I mean, a feature that is different, attracts the user visually and evokes a sense of visual pleasure.

I get that not everyone wants a colorful, visually evoking site. But some do! That’s why I’m in the aesthetic web design industry. I want everything I do to be visually pleasant, balanced, tasteful, stylish, and beautiful. That’s what I do, and I have a passion for doing it, for creating beauty.

So who says, “Don’t spend so much time on aesthetics?” Definitely, not I.

Further Resources for Study
VIDEO – What is Aesthetics: Philosophy of Art 
VIDEO – Why Beautiful Things Make us Happy – Beauty Explained 


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Chinese for Aesthetic

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