As our HND Computing and Systems Development* students know, trends in web design come and go. What remains constant is the need to be flexible in the approach to design and focused on how the design will help the company achieve its goals. Today we look at how open composition is making its mark on the industry.

Closed composition has been the most popular style choice in web design for quite some time. Traditionally, websites kept all the elements within definitive boundaries, helping to traffic audiences’ attention to the key areas. It gave a sense of stability and structure to sites, essentially telling the audience: ‘everything you need to know is here within these fixed spaces.’ Click on any site right now and most probably you’ll see closed composition everywhere. The clean look helps convey messages simply, but does the modern eye want to break free from the boundaries?

Open composition, on the other hand, gives the impression of the image or site continuing beyond the limits of the monitor. There’s an inherent dynamism to open composition, and by removing restraints and frames, visitors start to engage with the site and its images in a more imaginative way.

Combining elements of both open and closed composition could be the key to highlighting a message while still retaining an innovative look. One relevant example that has recently gained traction is the incorporation of a column or grid pattern into the website background. It adds a definitive structure and allows for framing, yet continues off screen, giving the impression of a never-ending boardwalk.

For some sites, however, only closed composition will do. Imagine a newspaper, for example, without those clear and deliberate boxes framing the text: it could become confusing for readers, unable to spot where to click for more information. Think next to a furniture retailer – images existing in isolation will not help purchasers engage with the retailer’s products. Instead, the structure of the pages could make use of open composition to help customers picture the product in their space.

Remember: A good designer can create examples of both (and more), but a great designer chooses which is most appropriate. For a successful web design project, both function and creativity must be combined towards the end goal.

*BTEC HND Computing and Systems Development

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