Explore 5 principles that will guarantee effective communication for your next digital design project.
Page layouts of a digital document displayed across three tablet devices

Whether you’re designing an e-book or an interactive brochure, following these digital design principles will make for a better experience for your users.

Form factor and context

When starting a digital design project, it’s essential to understand where people will view it and the constraints that come with different devices.

  • Do design for the intended screen size, or “form factor.” The New Document dialog in InDesign has Web and Mobile presets, and lets you search Adobe Stock templates to use as a starting point.
  • Do plan how to optimize interactions for the intended device.
  • Don’t think in terms of print. Digital design uses pixels, not picas or inches, to measure dimensions, and RGB (Red, Green, and Blue), not CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black), for color.
Side-by-side examples of good and bad layout for a given screen size

Content hierarchy 

Decide which elements are most important to create a streamlined and effective design.

  • Do create a focal point. On an event flyer, for example, you want to draw people’s attention to essential information like date, location, and time.
  • Do repeat key design elements to create a visual language. You can store and share assets you reuse with Creative Cloud Libraries.
  • Do use InDesign features like Adobe Fonts, font size, and color to visually convey the relative importance of different components in your design. 
  • Do save formatting for elements like heading and body type as paragraph styles. This helps with consistency and makes visual pairing easier.
Side-by-side examples of good and bad content hierarchy in layout design

Ensure readability

Making text easy to read at a glance is key to grabbing users’ attention.

  • Do limit the total number of fonts you use in a design and select fonts that pair well together.
  • Do use kerning, tracking, and alignment to make your text more readable.
  • Do ensure there is enough contrast between the text and the background.
  • Don’t make your text too big or too small for the medium.
  • Don’t forget to spell-check your text, and proofread it to catch errors that spell-check misses.
Side-by-side examples of good and bad layout readability

Add interactivity

Interactive features like links and video capture users’ attention and make your designs more engaging.

  • Do use interactive elements judiciously. Don’t go overboard for the sake of making an impression.
  • Do consider the medium. Not all interactions work in all formats and on all devices.
  • Do use interactivity consistently. For example, make sure navigation is consistent between pages and documents.
  • Don’t forget to test!
  • Don’t obscure the content hierarchy with too much interactivity.

Ensure usability

Like readability, usability is about ensuring the user can understand and navigate your design effortlessly.

  • Do think about how your design choices impact the user’s experience.
  • Do prioritize usability by identifying potential sources of confusion, frustration, or exclusion. For instance, are your buttons too small to tap easily?
  • Do repeat interactive elements to create a visual language and a feeling of familiarity. You can store and share the assets you reuse with Creative Cloud Libraries.
  • Don’t make the file size too large. This can prevent users with less reliable internet access or file-size limits from accessing it.
Side-by-side examples of good and bad layout usability

These do’s and don’ts are a solid foundation for all your digital design projects. Follow them to make sure your work pops, has impact, and is accessible. And build on them with your own experiences.

01/20/2021
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