When it comes to designing compelling homepages that help set websites apart, we can always use a little outside-the-box thinking. In today’s article, we’re going to look at some of the design principles web designers can take from the classic print postcard.
5 Homepage Design Lessons Taken From Postcards
The postcard might seem like an unlikely source of inspiration. It’s a simple 4×6-inch section of paper that features a design on one side and simple content and postage on the backside. But for being so small in size, it sure does have some advanced design principles embedded inside.
Let’s study a few of them as they relate to website homepage design.
Versatile, Yet Focused
As Printing Center USA explains, “Custom postcards are great for thank you cards, bookmarks, holiday cards, reply cards, invitations, and gift certificates. Postcards are effective in stirring up interest, generating a reminder to your customers, and directing attention to your businesses specific needs.”
It’s the versatility of postcards that accounts for much of its appeal. In this same manner, homepages are highly versatile. They serve as the “base” for the entire website and encourage visitors to find their way. Yet, at the same time, they also have to be focused. Spend some time studying different postcards so that you can get some inspiration for what this looks like.
You’ve probably received a bad postcard in the mail before. Typically, the biggest problem with them is that inexperienced designers try to cram a bunch of information into a small space, which results in information overload and serious distractions. The best postcards, on the other hand, are extremely simple and straight to the point.
A website homepage should be the same way. You obviously want to show off your design chops, but more is rarely better. It takes much more skill to design a simple homepage that’s clean and distraction-free.
High-quality imagery makes or breaks a postcard. When designing a postcard, one of the most important steps in the entire process is checking the image files to ensure there’s no pixelation or distortion when it’s actually printed.
The same should go for homepage design. While you have a bit more leeway than with postcards – (it’s easier to swap out an image on a website after the fact) – it’s still a good idea to get this right the first time around.
Many websites suffer from a case of TMI: too much information. This causes visitors to tune out and click away. Well-designed postcards, on the other hand, have a serious appreciation for the value of words – only using as many as it takes to get the job done.
The typical postcard only has room to accommodate 100 to 150 words. Most successful postcards use far fewer words. So while your homepage may have space for thousands of words, consider whether you really need to provide this much information. Tight, concise copy is much preferred.
Most modern homepages feature a big visual header with a single headline, tagline, or call-to-action. Unfortunately, very few are effective. This often a direct result of the flippancy with which web designers and copywriters approach this aspect of the design.
It’s smart to think of a website headline like a headline that would be found on a postcard or newspaper article. Once it’s printed, there’s no turning back. This instills a greater sense of urgency and attention to detail.
Think Outside the Box
If you’re only looking at other web designers for inspiration, you’re limiting yourself to a very select set of designs. The real key to expanding your creativity and opening your mind up to new ideas and conceptions is to think outside the box and look for inspiration in unlikely places.
In addition to postcards, you may also want to study things like architecture, interior design, landscaping, paintings and drawings, product and packaging design, retail store layouts, and anything else that has an artistic or design element to it.
As you remove your blinders and let your mind run free, your creative juices will begin to flow like never before. Some of the inspiration you have won’t be easily conveyable to web design, but there will be certain elements that are. Run with these and see what you can come up with.