The use of the grid layout in print publications goes back hundreds of years. Newspaper and magazine publishers have had great success using it to highlight certain copy, images, and other elements that need attention. While it is clear to see that very few websites leverage this concept, that is starting to change. Slowly but surely, more web designers are adopting the grid approach.
Grid-based layouts can enhance both the appearance and usability of a website. Here are five specific benefits of incorporating this concept in your web design strategy.
1. Simplified Web Design
There are quite a few beautifully designed sites not based on the grid concept, but they tend be more difficult to put together. With a grid layout, the architecture of the site is defined before any actual content is inserted. This gives the web designer a chance to determine what they want to do in terms of site width, width of content area, amount of content, and other aspects. In an ideal grid strategy, everything from file dimensions to the number of columns and horizontal elements is planned in advance.
With the architecture in place, the web designer can simply insert content where it needs to go. Not only does this approach make a site easier to create, but easier to update as well.
2. Visually Appealing Site Design
The most obvious benefit of using grid-based designs is one that can typically be seen on first glance. Traditionally, this whole concept has been based on the belief that people would much rather see content arranged in columns. Movies and television programs fit for widescreen formatting, photographs, and newsletter are examples of creations that make optimal use of columns to convince the consumer to pay attention to the content at hand.
Columns are very important in grid-based web design as well. They give designers the ability to present massive amounts of content in a way that highlights everything that needs to stand out, while keeping things organized and attractive to the eye.
3. User-friendly Navigation
One of the biggest benefits of grid-based web design can be seen in its power to direct the user to specific content you want them to interact with. For example, it can make it so elements such as your site title, logo, and even your brand image itself stand out. Grid layouts favor the above the fold mentality, meaning you make sure your most important content can be seen without scrolling. Combined with the vertical and horizontal axes that come into play, keeping your content above the fold allows the grid to deliver the user-friendly experience visitors demand.
4. Ad Accommodation
Many sites incorporate third-party advertisements to generate the money needed for hosting and other purposes. While advertising is no doubt a viable option for generating extra income, it can also be problematic from an SEO standpoint. Google is showing favoritism to sites that offer valuable content to visitors over those it believes exist solely for the purpose of generating ad revenue. In short, if your site is highlighting sponsored content more than it is organic content, you could be in trouble.
The grid-based system offers a solution to this problem. When planning in advance, web designers can lay out an architecture that perfectly accommodates the sections and boxes ads will be displayed in. More importantly, this approach can support ads in a way that gives them the necessary visibility without overshadowing natural content.
5. Truly Responsive Web Design
Last but not least, grid designs can work wonders for sites that are meant to be viewed on a wide variety of devices. A grid can help produce a site that looks and functions as good on a tablet or smartphone as it does on a desktop or laptop computer. The system these layouts use allows a single set of programming code to be used across a multitude of devices, which makes it an ideal tool for developers as well. Using a single set of code not only makes the site easier to build for designers, but also easier to manage for webmasters.
Keeping Grid Concerns in Mind
Grid-based designs have a lot to offer, but web designers and website owners should be reminded that they are not all upside. There are also some disadvantages to keep in mind, so both the pros and cons should be taken into consideration before deciding to implement such a design. Should you choose to incorporate a grid when it is not needed, you will only be introducing a situation that could stifle your creativity and make the design process more complex.
Aidan Hijleh is a freelance copywriter and serves as the Non-Profit Partnership Liaison for Benchmark Email. Aidan advocates free email marketing services to assist with the flourishing of grassroots organizations.