Although in the past, most web designers were happy to rely on patterns, nowadays it appears that textures are just about everywhere. This is because they are capable of adding a level of depth and realism rarely found in patterns. Should you be interested in utilizing the latest textures in your sites however, it’s important to be aware that they do come complete with a few potential pitfalls. Here are a few tips for avoiding such pitfalls and generally getting the most out of using textures on your sites.
Legibility Cannot be Sacrificed
If you’ve experimented with textures at all in the past, you are likely to be aware of just how easy it is to go overboard. And one of the clearest signs that you have gone overboard with your use of texture is if it has become significantly more difficult for text to be read. It does not matter how crisp a particular piece of texture is, if it is leading to users having to strain their eyes just to read what is written on the site, you have gone too far. Like it or not, when people arrive at a site, they are more interested in reading what is written there than admiring your web design skills.
Textures Should Not Be Distracting
Another sign that you have gone seriously overboard is if the textures that you’ve used are distracting. Although you might consider it reasonable for users eyes to be drawn to the background when they first arrive on a site, it’s not reasonable if their eyes are continually drawn back there as they read through a page. The purpose of texture is to compliment a website, it is not supposed to define it. Therefore regardless of how much you like a particular texture, if it’s overly distracting it’s got to go.
Choose Logical Textures
If you spend enough time adding textures to websites, you are eventually going to end up having a few personal favorites. Many web designers become obsessed with wooden patterns whereas others find that the random nature of pebbles can help add a touch of class to just about any design. Unfortunately however, you must not confuse the visitors. If you are designing a website that sells cars, wooden patterns are a poor choice, and pebbles are downright illogical.
Don’t Sacrifice the Overall Look
By the time you start looking for textures, you should have already decided how your site is going to look overall. You should use that intended look to guide you when you are choosing the textures to use. You should never change the overall look of a site just so that you can use a particular texture.
Each Texture Should be Justified
Most web designers are well aware of the trouble that can be caused when you start adding elements for no logical reason. The same logic applies to textures. If you do not have a specific purpose for adding a certain texture, if it does not fulfill a particular role, your site is likely to be better off without it.
If you’re not that experienced with using textures in your sites, your best bet is to simply experiment. Although there is certainly a lot of advice online, like most aspects of web design, it’s practice and experimentation that really leads to expertise. Try out new textures regularly and add them to elements that you have never used texture on before.
Save Time With a Personal Collection
When trying to choose the texture for a specific element, it’s very easy to get into the trap of spending hours looking through the millions of options available online. Unfortunately, doing so is not only rather monotonous, it’s also unlikely to be the most productive part of your day. You should therefore cut down your options by building up a collection of great textures on your computer, that you can then pick and choose from at will. When you come across something you love online, simply save it to your computer together with an informative label.
Finally, one of the most frustrating aspects of textures is the effect that many of them can have on loading times. It leads to a constant balancing act between designing professional looking sites and designing those that don’t take forever to load. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting about loading times when choosing textures. It’s also important to be aware of the different tricks that can help you to get around the problem such as repeat textures and carefully considered compression rates.
Guest Author Patrick runs a fast growing Melbourne based web company YarraWeb. Patrick is a web designer (who would have guessed 😉 ) and enjoys sharing his knowledge in blog posts like this.