Good graphics should be clean, clear and provide something useful to the site.They set the mood and tone of your site as do the general colors involved in your site. They will create a sense of your site as well as show if you really know what you’re doing or are just hacking along.
Creating a clean graphic is necessary. A “clean” graphic is one that doesn’t suffer from unnecessary blurriness, fuzzy or, almost worse, jaggy edges. The limitations of the medium almost dictate that somewhere there’s going to be a nasty appearance on some curved edges. Anti-aliasing is a must on graphics destined for the web. I have been guilty of suffering from “bigmonitoritis” in some of my designs. When you’re looking at a graphic on a 21″ monitor at 1600×1200 resolution, your graphic almost always looks better than on a 17″ at 1024×768. I discovered that while looking over some of my graphics on client machines. “Hey, that shouldn’t look like that!”
The graphic should clearly convey something of use. A bunch of overlay mode images on top of another usually don’t convey too much. The web is normally viewed quickly without a lot of “I wonder what the artist meant?” thought going on. If you’re selling chicken, images of fried chicken, chicken roaming the range, chicken farms or something like that helps to convey the ideas from the text. They clearly convey and add to the meaning of the site. However, if you have images of a Monster truck with rainbow stripes on it, you’re probably missing the boat on helping your readers understand anything about the site. Granted that’s a way out there example, but one of the issues that is always faced by designers is creating useful graphics that add to the site and don’t muddy the waters.
What is useful to my site? Any images that help express what your visitors should be thinking or feeling when they visit your site. If you’re doing a site for, let’s say a children’s tutoring service, it probably won’t be helpful to have an all black background that is reminiscent of Black Sabbath with stark hard images. You would wish to make your visitor (who’s ostensibly looking for a tutor for little Johnny or Janie) feel warm and comfortable with the thought of allowing this company either come into their home or allowing their child visit that business. With a “Black Sabbath” rock feeling, Mom isn’t sure that the tutor won’t be coming out in a ripped T-shirt with piercings everywhere.
So what would I use on a Tutoring service site? Soft images of happy children, classrooms, teachers, maybe some closeup shots of a book and writing tablets, etc. Use a soft focus on the images. You want to emote a warm comfy feeling – again, not a rock star atmosphere. Use soft blending; you are creating a comfortable place for the visitor. You are not out to wow them with cutting edge graphic effects for the most part.
How about the choices that I made on my Unlimited Dreams site? Well, there my goal is a rich, but artsy feel. I went with the black as that seems to go better with the motorcycles themselves. It lends an air of mystery and unknown to the site. Think about all the sites you have visited. White backgrounds are usually a brighter and cleaner feel whereas dark backgrounds are a little more mysterious and, well, dark. I added what I feel is a richness to the black with the silver and gold around the site. It doesn’t hurt that the basis for the top graphic actually was a chrome pipe from one of the content shots. Yeah, it could use some spiffing up, but I haven’t had time lately to do any real heavy changes. I don’t want to get too artsy with the site as it needs to be pretty functional for non-net pros as well as appeal visually to seasoned webbers.