Rhythm as a Basic Principle of Design for Websites

Make your design sing

Centered arrows converging on a single arrow

Westend61/Getty Images

As a principle of design, rhythm is also known as repetition. Rhythm lends an overall consistency and order that help make the information on your site understandable, visually appealing, and likely to produce the action or impression you're after.

Our senses—and therefore, the brain—respond to rhythm positively. When the brain recognizes the pattern in the rhythm, it relaxes and comprehends the rest of the design. Using repetition in your design, you can purposefully draw the site visitor's eye to important elements.

The Use of Rhythm in Design

You can apply rhythm to nearly any element of your design. Web designers and developers commonly apply rhythm in ways visitors can see, and even in some they can't.

In the Navigation Menu

One of the best ways to use repetition and rhythm in web design is in the site's navigation menu. A consistent, easy-to-follow pattern—in color, layout, etc.—gives users an intuitive roadmap to everything you want to share on your site.

Lifewire's navigation menu

In Content Layout

Rhythm also factors into the layout of content. For example, you might have blog articles, press releases, and events each follow their own certain layout pattern. In this way, visitors can tell at a glance which kind of content they're viewing simply by how that content lays out on a page. Furthermore, when users are familiar with a pattern, they're more receptive to the content.

In Colors

Consistency in the colors you use lends clarity. For example, you might use certain colors for the different products and/or services you offer. This helps visitors understand where they fit in the site, like a visual, color-coded outline.

A common practice is making all links a consistent color. Visitors can see immediately and easily which phrases link elsewhere to provide additional information.

In Images

You can even use rhythm in the images you use on a site to maximize visual appeal, flow, and cohesiveness. You might not use identical images, of course, but you can place some that are similar in subject, shape, content, etc.

In Typography

Typography is yet another area in which rhythm and web design go hand in hand. Limiting the number of fonts used on a site creates repetition and pattern. For example, you might use the same font throughout but in different weights and sizes—perhaps large and bold for main heads, large but no bold for subheads, plain for text, and so on. This helps organize your content, thus ensuring readability and visual organization.

In Coding

Rhythm works even behind the scenes for designers and developers, who lay out their code in specific formats that use color, font, and layout to promote quick, visual understanding and organization.

CSS stylesheet example
Jon Morin