The appropriate use of backgrounds in website design can quite literally make or break the success of a siteâ€™s overall design. The background serves as a canvas for the more detailed ideas and images that make up the site.
A painter begins with an off-white piece of muslin stretched on a frame. They then choose how to utilize the white space, making conscious choices about the balance between the negative and positive space. Interior designers work with three dimensions the same way. So why does so much web design seem to ignore the basic tenets of good design? This may be due to the fact that a web designer has an almost infinite range of design options. If necessity is the mother of invention, then rampant abundance can occasionally lead to laziness. The end result is web design that leaves much to be desired.
A successful background is one that both sets the overall tone, or feeling, of a website, while simultaneously remaining secondary to the text, images, and other content that comprise the siteâ€™s pages. Backgrounds can be made up of a solid color or multiple colors, patterns, a single photo, more than one photo, painted images, drawn images, the list of potential backgrounds is endless. New techniques for creating custom backgrounds appear every day, as well. In the last two years, for example, more and more band websites began to appear with photographs that had been altered using Adobe Illustratorâ€™s â€œLive Traceâ€ effect.
The black and white outline image created by the effect was used, quite literally, everywhere. Initially striking, it began to lose its impact simply because it was overused. Which brings us to yet another issue with website design; itâ€™s continual evolution. What was popular circa-1995, when we were sitting on our sofas absorbed in our Myspace sites, causes cringing and grimaces in 2011. Our collective understanding of what is possible in the world of web design has expanded exponentially. Unfortunately, our collective understanding of what constitutes good design in general has not followed suit.
While beauty is somewhat in the eye of the beholder, it is fairly easy to tell when a websiteâ€™s design is functioning appropriately and when it is not. Backgrounds that fight with, or overrun, the content of a site are a clear example of poor design. On the other hand, backgrounds that use textures or patterns appropriately, can increase the beauty of a sight, by adding a dose of subtle visual interest.
Using a solid color background is always a safe option, but if the rest of the siteâ€™s design does not make optimal use of the interplay between negative and positive space, then the design can end up feeling too spare, too cluttered, or at worst, flat out boring. Below are 15 images of websites whose background use is successful. Whether the designers used solid colors, patterns, photos, drawings, or some other type of art, each of the backgrounds used draws the eye in, but never dominates.
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