The Golden Ratio and Your Website

Sometimes the problem isn’t what you think it is.

I was reminded of this yesterday in a couple of conversations with the owners of websites I’m working on. One is a local business person.

“I don’t like words,” she said grimly.

I ran quickly through the advantages of having words on a website. Then we talked about how the words on the page she was looking at would look different once they were actually on her website. Yesterday’s post showed examples of how different the same number of words looks with different designs.

The second conversation was with a music production company in a big city. “It looks all cramped!” he complained about the minimalist text I’d written for his homepage. He has his own designer, so I couldn’t just assure him that I knew our wonderful designer would make it look great. We had to get down to cases.

We had to talk about the Golden Ratio.

The golden ratio is an interesting number with lots of interesting math in it. If you’d rather not think about math, just look at the figure below. Imagine it’s your website’s home page. See where there’s a line running from the top to the bottom? If you have two divisions — like a main division and a sidebar — then that’s about how your eye would like them to be. As you can see, there are lots of other possible divisions — since it’s a ratio and not a size of box, you can use it to create all kinds of different layouts.


Your brain, for some reason, doesn’t like other proportions as well. When you put the text in, the lines of text will seem too long. The paragraphs will seem too short. The whole thing will just be subtly unsettling.

The problem is not the words.

Scroll down to yesterday’s post and see all the golden ratios on the websites. Then look at your website. See it?

If not, then your page probably isn’t something people want to look at very much.







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