Adopting The Art of Feng Shui in Web Design
Feng Shui, pronounced fung-SHWAY, is an ancient Chinese practice of aesthetically placing things in a specific way in order to allow positive Qi to flow through the environment. Qi, also referred to as chi or ch’i and pronounced in English as CHEE, is the Chinese word for that active principle within all living things. The literal translation of Qi is air or breath. has been hailed " Feng Shui has been hailed as the Environmental Science of the 21st Century.
Feng Shui was historically used to orient buildings during construction, especially those of great importance such as temples or tombs. A building’s purpose could be determined by how it was placed according to the bodies of water or the stars. Practitioners use what they believe to be the laws of Heaven and Earth. Feng Shui’s literal translation of “wind-water” refers to Guo Pu’s passage from the "Zangshu (Book of Burial)": “Qi rides the wind and scatters, but is contained when encountering water.”
Feng shui has actual “laws” that govern such things as placement and colour when arranging items. Because these “laws” are subjective and not objective, many people believe it to be a fad or a gimmick that holds no basis in real, scientific practice. However, there were reasons the Chinese came to perform these exercises in design.
Image credit: Ba-Gua
Placement of buildings in relation to the sun allowed for the building to get warmer or stay cool, depending on need. There are many practical reasons for Feng Shui, in spite of its reputation as a superstitious methodology.
Modern Feng Shui
Feng shui today is different from the Feng Shui of centuries ago. It has different methods of rationale that are related to modern day life. With the Western movement of Feng Shui, many things have been lost in translation, allowing for inconsistencies and mistaken Feng Shui placement.
One of the items that seems to have been forgotten is that the zodiac can affect Feng Shui. Because your zodiac sign relates to the type of energy you have, it is important to remember what type of energy will be living in the space when planning how to Feng Shui your apartment.
Who Practices Feng Shui?
Countries that use Feng Shui include: China, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United States. While the old ways of practicing Feng Shui are observed in the Oriental countries, in the United States it has become an aspect of decorating the house.
The basic principles change to suit the mood or need, which negates the energy flow. It has become a big business with people hiring themselves out as Feng Shui masters without knowing the complete art of Feng Shui.
How Does Feng Shui Fit in with Web Design?
Essentially, modern Feng Shui involves arranging items for maximum Qi flow. This includes size, shape, colour, and functionality. What does this mean in terms of web design? Think of it as improving user experience. It’s no surprise that a computer monitor’s screen is referred to as a desktop, since it holds folders, files and links that a person may need while working on the computer.
Each web site is like a new desktop: it has items that the website owner wants visitors to use. So, arranging these items aesthetically and with a sense of purpose is the first step in using Feng Shui for the webpage.
Think of the website in terms of an office suite. Most suites have an entry area where people get their first impressions. This is the landing page of your website. It does not need to have everything that you want the visitors to see, but it should have the essential items that will keep the visitor engaged and wanting to see more of the website. A good arrangement of links and information will create movement for Qi to flow through the website.
Each page on your website is like a cubicle in an office suite. They should be arranged for maximum efficiency, but also so that people can find their way. Providing links that will take them wherever they want to go, including back to pages viewed before, allows the Qi to flow through the website. Dead-end webpages that cause the visitor to hit the back button causes the Qi to become stagnant and can cause the visitor to leave the website without finding everything they need.
Too many items on the desktop can slow a person down when they work, especially if they are looking for an important document. So, why would it be any different on a webpage?
We all love images that really draw attention, but too many can create confusion and reduce Qi. The same logic applies with long lists of links. Simplify as much as possible to maximize the flow of Qi.
The way a website is arranged goes a long way toward whether visitors enjoy moving through the site or whether they will leave as soon as they can. Logical placement of links and other graphics will allow the visitor to navigate through the website without becoming frustrated trying to search for what they want. For instance, contact information can usually be found in one of two places on a website: either on the top or bottom of the landing page or on its own page easily found through a link to that page.
For the company’s logo, think of the pages as being letters written on a company letterhead. Most companies put their logo at the top of the letterhead so that is the first thing the person sees when they open the correspondence. The same is true for website placement. Some companies prefer to put the logo at the bottom of the page, and if it flows with the rest of the page, then it is good Feng Shui. Remember, though, that wherever you place the logo, it should be in the same place on every page to allow for the consistency necessary to keep the Qi flowing.
Sidebars, search boxes, and menus are tricky items to place. Depending on what type and shape the links take depends on where it should be placed on the page. Search boxes and menus should be placed where they are easily seen, typically in the upper right hand corner of a screen where it is out of the way. Sidebars can be useful for clarifying information, but too many sidebars can disrupt the flow of Qi.
Colours can set a tone for a business. If you provide a daycare service, having dark drab walls does not advertise an inviting environment for children. However, bright colours would not be appropriate for a funeral home. This same principle would hold for a website. It should be cautioned, though, that too many muted colours could cause boredom in the visitors, while too many bold colours can overwhelm the visitors.
Choose the Feng Shui colours that will compliment the product or service on the website, as well as compliment each other. Colours in Feng Shui are based on the five elements recognized by Chinese culture: Earth, Fire, Metal, Water, and Wood.
- Earth – If your goal is to provide a look of stability or to nourish visitors either in mind or body, then light yellow, beige, and/or various earthy colours should be used.
- Fire – If you want to convey high energy and passion, then use red, orange, purple, pink, or a strong yellow.
- Metal – If you provide a service that is best known to be clear and precise in its practice, then choosing grey or white for the website is ideal. However, too much white space does not give good Qi. Remember, Feng Shui is a delicate balance.
- Water – Water is life, and colours like blue and black provide a sense of calmness, purity, and abundance.
- Wood – Green and brown give the sense of health and vitality that living trees embody.
Feng shui uses the shapes according to the Chinese elements, also, so it is important to pay attention to them. Earth is represented in square, fire is the triangle, metal is identified as round, water with waves, and wood is the rectangle.
However, it is not necessary to include every shape on a webpage to achieve harmony and balance. Mixing too many different shapes can also throw off the Qi.
We all have those images that we love and think represent us and our ideas. Some have many images that fit that description. However, putting too many similar images on a webpage can overwhelm the space and stop the flow of Qi.
It is better to choose one or two that not only represent fully the website and its message, but also fit with the colours and shapes on the website. It is also important that the images placed on the website are clear and defined. A blurry image can stop the flow of Qi.
Feng shui is based on nature and naturally occurring things. In nature, straight lines are rare. However, we have learned to live our lives along straight lines, and adding movement to the website in other ways allows us to encourage the flow of energy.
Where straight lines become a Qi problem on websites is when there are scroll bars. These straight lines can break the flow of Qi on a webpage. Keeping the text on the website simple will eliminate this worry.
Stagnation produces bad Qi, but stillness is an important element to have in Feng Shui. A constant, still object such as a company logo or a home button in the same place on each page allows the Qi to flow and the visitor to know that he is still on the same website. It also lets the visitor focus on the other information on the webpage, rather than letting their eyes wander to new things that may take them elsewhere.
Stillness also comes when there are loading issues with graphics or pictures or even the website itself. Sometimes, the graphics disappear due to these issues. This delay disrupts the Qi of the webpage. The whole point of Feng Shui is to keep the Qi moving, and loading delays stop Qi from moving.
Items that use the elements, such as plants or waterfalls, are essential items in real-world Feng Shui designs. They encourage the flow of Qi within an area. In web design, this can be achieved by using curves, fluid lines, and images of natural elements like flowers or trees that have been cut from their box and have their own shape.
Placement of items also adds to the fluidity of the page. This all promotes positive Qi. However, there is a difference between fluid movement and distracted animation. Setting an animation on a looping cycle can distract and annoy the visitor, causing them to lose the message the website is trying to deliver.
Essentially, the website should be usable. People understand how the back button works, and they would rather use the back button than have new windows open. With new windows, Qi is broken from that website and a whole new Qi flow is started. It makes for a very choppy website experience. Moving to new pages within the website allows the Qi to stay within the website, even when the visitor is navigating back to the previous page via their back button.
While some type fonts are lovely on their face, not all fonts are appropriate to use on the Internet. The size of the font is also important, because you don’t want people leaving your site because they couldn’t read the content as easily as they should.
Picking a font that is common for every person’s computer is important because if they don’t have the font you choose for your website, then they will not see the website as you intended, and the flow of Qi will stop due to the inconsistent format of the website.
Content is important for a website, whether you take Feng Shui into consideration or not. The content should make a point, and not have so much "fluff" that the reader will get bored quickly. Most people reading content on the Internet initially scan the material to see if they are interested in reading the whole site.
Headers and sub-headers identify what the subject of the section is, while short paragraphs allow them to scan the document or article quickly to get the information they need.
Showcase of Website Designs with Effective Feng Shui
These websites may not intentionally have incorporated the art of Feng Shui into their website design but most of them have certain elements which has done well with regard of Feng Shui.
Adopting Feng Shui in Your Website Design?
Feng Shui is a balance of colour, shape, light, space, placement and movement to let the Qi flow unencumbered through an area.
How can you make Feng Shui work for your website? How would you use the elements on your website? Is there a website that you like that you’ve noticed follows the principles of Feng Shui?