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Best Practices for Using Page Layout Design Software

written by: cscribe2180•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 1/29/2010

A good print page layout expertly balances beauty and function while delivering information to its readers quickly and easily. But where do you begin? Here's how to organize a printed page to get your point across while enticing your audience to read more.

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    Creating the Best Page Layout

    After the initial writing is done, the creation of a page layout for your document is the next, and perhaps the most important, step. A good page layout means the difference between attracting many readers or none at all.

    For most desktop-published documents, a number of best practices apply for creating a well-organized page layout that catches readers' eyes and easily guides them through information. These best practices apply in two categories: page components and page organization.

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    Components of a Page Layout

    Typically, most print page layouts contain three different components: titles, art, and body copy.

    Titles summarize the message of your document and convey important information quickly. They serve as concise introductions to the information covered in the body copy. Subtitles, usually found underneath a title or within the body copy, allow you to expand on information in titles a bit further as well as break up your body copy into easily digestible sections.

    Art, such as photographs, charts or other graphics, serve as visual interpretations and aids to the information presented in your titles and body copy. They also draw the reader's eye through the contents on the page.

    Body copy provides the "meat" of your page layout. Body copy is usually printed in a font size of 10 to 12 point size in an easy-to-read sans serif or other clean-lined font, such as Arial or Times New Roman.

    The types of fonts you choose, their sizes, as well as the type of art you choose to include in your document will help provide readers with an immediate "mood" for the piece and create a visually pleasing invitation to start reading!

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    Organization of the Page & Printing

    For most desktop publishers with limited page layout experience, it's best to follow the "rule of thirds." Either mentally or using your desktop publishing software, divide your page into thirds both vertically and horizontally. This will help you determine where to place your most important information. Typically, important information should be placed in the upper or lower third of the page, or at any of the four points where your thirds intersect.

    Arrange your information - starting with the most important - by following a "Z" or "backwards 'S'" format. This follows the readers' general inclination to read from left to right and then zig-zag from the right end of one line to the left end of the next line.

    When creating titles and body copy, it's best to use variations of only one or two fonts - three at the most. Using the same fonts in the same color (usually black) with varying weights of boldness and size create continuity in the layout.

    Alignment is another key to good layout organization. Make sure the alignment of your text is consistent throughout by creating margins and following alignment guides offered by your desktop publishing software.

    While graphics, photos and other art add good visual appeal, only use them if they are important to the piece. Gratuitous graphics only create unnecessary clutter on the page and may creating printing issues for the reader.

    Sometimes, the best graphic is no graphic at all. Make sure your document has a good balance between information, graphics and white space to ensure the document isn't too busy-looking so that users can easily print your project.