In graphic design, page layout refers to the process of placing and arranging text, images, and graphics on a software page to produce documents such as newsletters, brochures, and books or to attract readership to a website. The goal is to produce eye-catching pages that will grab the attention of the reader. Often this involves using a set of design rules and specific colors — the specific style of a publication or website — to adhere to a visual brand.
Page Layout Software
Page layout takes all elements of the page in mind: the page margins, the blocks of text, the positioning of images and art, and often templates to reinforce the identity of a publication or website. All of these aspects of a page design can be modified in page layouts applications such as Adobe InDesign and QuarkXpress for printed publications. For websites, Adobe Dreamweaver and Muse give the designer the same abilities.
Within page layout software, designers control font choice, size and color, word and character spacing, placement of all graphic elements, and colors used in the file.
Before the arrival of desktop publishing software in the mid-1980s, page layout was often achieved by waxing and pasting blocks of typed or typeset text and images cut from clip art books onto sheets of paper that were later photographed to make printing plates.
Adobe PageMaker was the first-page layout program that made it easy to arrange text and graphics onscreen — no more scissors or messy wax. Adobe eventually ceased development of PageMaker and moved its customers to InDesign, which is still popular with high-end designers and with commercial printing companies, along with QuarkXpress. Software programs such as the PagePlus series from Serif and Microsoft Publisher are also popular page layout programs. Other more basic programs that you have probably used that have page layout capabilities include Microsoft Word and Apple Pages.
Elements of Page Design
Depending on the project, page design encompasses the use of headlines, an introduction often included in larger type, the body copy, pull quotes, subheads, images, and image captions, and panels or a boxed copy. The arrangement on the page depends on the alignment of design elements to present an attractive and professional appearance to the reader. The graphic designer uses a keen eye to select fonts, sizes, and colors that harmonize with the rest of the page. Balance, unity, and scale are all considerations of a well-designed page or website.
Designers should always keep the reader or viewer in mind. A stunningly beautiful or complex page that is difficult for the reader to view or navigate misses the points of good design: clarity and accessibility. In the case of websites, viewers are impatient. The site has only seconds to attract or repel a viewer, and a web page with navigation that is obscure is a design failure.