As a web designer, this is similar to saying "Rothko paintings are just squares on canvas, I can do that." or "Rappers just have computers make the music; I could do that."
The truth is, you can't. At least, not with a lot of practice.
For evidence of this truth, look around at some of the DIY built websites. The fact that you can intrinsically tell which ones I'm talking about already means there is a gap between professional designers and non professionals, but even still, you don't have to look far to find some neon colors, all caps text, and an over abundance of center aligned paragraphs.
Even still, using a DIY site or CMS can be beneficial for individuals or businesses that update their content frequently; it is best for the developer and business if they do not have to constantly bug a designer to add text or change photos.
This post serves as a "crash course to web design" for anyone using these services, or any WYSIWYG editor.
Information ArchitectureInformation architecture is the skill of organizing information so it is easy to find for your end users.
- Navigation should be coherent and efficient. Keep main links to a minimum, and be aware of broad vs. narrow navigation patterns.
- Conduct adequate user research to know what are the most frequently requested content items; make them as easy as possible to access.
- Be organized with your information. Is the information on each page relevant to each other? Can it be split or combined to make more sense?
- Keep your goals in mind. What is the sites purpose? How can information be presented to more effectively accomplish its goals?
- Information Architecture for the World Wide Web - This is pretty much the industry standard for information architecture.
- Information Architecture 101: Techniques and Best Practices - A quick primer for some information architecture concepts.
Color TheoryColor theory is the selection of colors that is pleasing to the eye and psychologically appealing.
- Stick to a limited color palette, of 3 to 4 colors. Use an online tool to help you pick your colors.
- Use good contrast between backgrounds and text. This has improved dramatically in recent years, but still causes problems. Black on white is still the best. This is bad.
- Avoid ultra bright extremes, and opposite colors on the color wheel.
- Remember your warm and cool colors and their effects on psychology and even physiology.
- Principles of Color - a great little color theory book by Faber Birren.
- Impact of Color on Marketing - an article about the effects of color on people.
Content DesignContent design is designing your content to be readable on the web.
- Use bullets; users typically scan web pages and rarely read them top to bottom.
- Stick to left alignment. Left-to-right language users can read more efficiently when the left margin is aligned; that way our eyes know where to return after a line.
- Make links meaningful, and keep content relevant. This will help improve your listing on search engines.
- Use minimal bold our underlined text. The less it is used, the better effect it will have.
- Designing Web Usability - The standard for web usability, by Jakob Nielsen.
- Brevity is key for the web; use only the most important information.
- Take a minimalist approach to web design.
- Keep your site updated. Out of date websites scare potential customers.
- Remember to keep your website accessible to all users of different abilities.
- Stay educated. Remember sites you like, and study them. Read blogs and follow web designers on Twitter. There is tons of information out there.