“Your website looks like CRAP!”
Contrast + Repetition + Alignment + Proximity = CRAP
Good design is good design and the basic principles hold true regardless if it’s a brochure, an ad, or a website. But thinking in terms of cyberspace, consider these to be the 4 basic principles of web design.
Elements that aren’t the same should be very different so they stand out, making them “slightly different” confuses the user. Strong contrast between page elements allows the user to scan from one element to another instead of creating a sea of similarity.
Like a brochure, repeat visual elements of the design throughout the page. You can repeat colors, shapes, textures, spatial relationships, sizes, etc. This develops organization and strengthens unity.
Nothing should be placed on the page arbitrarily. Every element should have some visual connection or alignment with another element on the page. This creates a clean look that is easy to navigate.
Rule of thumb: elements relating to each other should be grouped in close proximity to each other. By doing so, you can make several items appear as a single coherent group of related information.