Using Centered Alignments In Web Design

Posted on May 9, 2012 by

Unlike left and justified alignments, centered alignments are used less frequently in Web design. Nevertheless, web designers should know that this is a very easy area to go wrong, especially if you don’t know how to use them properly. A good Web designer should know when to use them and when to avoid them. In a Web design class, you might hear frequently that centered alignments are weak. This might seem like a blanket statement that might cause some web designers to protest. For many of us, we tend to feel instinctively that everything should be centered. We believe that Web design is all about balance and centered elements in a website are a symbol of balance. In fact, many amateurs that dipped their toes into Web design often ran straight toward centered alignment. Unfortunately, centered alignment is frequently a cause for problem in a Web layout and learning how to identify and fix possible problems is an important part of your Web design skill.

After reading the above paragraph, your initial assumption might be, “centered alignment is bad, while; left and justified alignments are good”. However, the reality is a bit more complicated. In fact, there’s nothing inherently bad about centered elements in Web design. You just need to know how to yield them properly if you are going to use it with any amount of success.

So when you should not use centered alignment? The answer is straightforward: When there are plenty of contents in your website. A huge, centered block of text, can be downright ugly. Reading experience can be erratic and difficult, due to the lack of hard edges. Making your whole page centered is also a bad idea. Web designers should know about the difference between centered alignment and centered container. For example, a left aligned block of content placed inside a container (such as a box or frame) can be centered safely.

You shouldn’t think that the decision to choose a type of alignment is only a matter of aesthetic. You can create eye catching websites using any kind of alignment. The type of alignment you choose should improve readability significantly and isn’t at odd with your goals. The trick is to strike a balance between aesthetic and the usability of your website. One starting point where you can start considering about implementing a fully centered layout, is when there’s very little content on the page. It makes perfect sense as pages with a lot of content don’t hold up well with centered alignments. In fact, centered alignment can be required in pages with little contents, as they would look a bit empty with left alignment implemented.

Avoiding centered alignment for anything but the simplest webpages may sound a bit restrictive, but the key is to choose an alignment that can put your content in the forefront. An instructor in the design class may advise you to choose only an alignment when designing a website and stick to it. But as you gather more experience, you will find that mixing alignment is a good way to add refreshing variety to you design. For example, a website layout may use left or justified alignments; however there are specific portions that should use centered alignments. Headlines are the most natural place to use centered alignment. Centered, large headlines would do well in webpages with justified layouts.

To sum up, web designers should consider centered alignments as a weak factor in web design. “Weak” implies that centered alignments are easy to abuse and can easily be taken too far. We normally use centered alignment for certain web elements, such as headlines, but there are a few considerations to remember when you want to implement centered alignments for the whole web page. For example, web pages with a few items and very simple design are possible candidates for centered layout. However, once you start adding lots of images and big chunks of text, the layout can start looking messy.

Unfortunately, centered alignments can cause website visitors to lose point of references when reading long blocks of text; consequently, you should use a left or a justified alignment to create hard edges. If you are working with content-rich webpages from the outset, then you could experiment by adding centered elements other than the headlines, such as sub-headlines. When you’re in a jam, a quick trick is to wrap center-aligned portion of text in a box that can flow well with the rest of the webpage.

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