Design In-Depth

Anne Winter
It only takes a few seconds for a web surfer to decide whether or not a site is worth clicking through; adult websites need to look as hot and fresh as the adult stars they highlight. There's more to a successful adult site than perky breasts and a round rear end — and that's why the industry has top-notch web designers to take care of the rest. We asked five of the top adult-website designers what turns users on, and what colors, fonts and software help flip the switch.

What's Your Favorite Font?

Martti, Wolume Designs: I don't have any favorite styles; I use what suits my designs best and what clients have; simple Arial and Verdana and lately I've used retro-style fonts.

Tman, Insane Adult Creations: Futura, because it's the most professional and clear-type font that can be used in almost any design. There really is no size that this font will look bad in unless it's under six pixels.

Daniel Ross, Blue Fly Adult: Well, it depends on the type of site to be designed. For corporate sites we stick to rectangular 12-14 pixel fonts to showcase menu items and site features, etc. For teen sites it's better to use italic fonts; for fetish sites we use grunge fonts and so on.

Kel Legault, Twisted By Designs: I think anyone will tell you, my favorite font is Verdana 12-point. I also like Impact, but with reason. I like to use fonts that are immediately recognizable to the viewer — there's too much clutter on the web, and it's best to have the viewer immediately see where they should be clicking. Some people laugh and say I use it too much, but it's easy to read and lets you get wilder with the design while still retaining some sense.

Peter Felix, Webinc: My most favorite and frequently used font is Helvetica. It's clean, classy, flexible and looks good in any size, shape and color. Another favorite is Myriad Pro, which is quite like Helvetica, universal and easy to read.

What colors work best?

Martti: I like pastel and soft tones the best.

Tman: We do not have a favorite color combination that we use because each site is different, but there is one that is almost always easy to use for most things: blue and white. These two colors are naturally easy on the eyes and will hardly ever clash with your design concepts.

Daniel: It depends on the niche and the type of a site. We usually use light, fresh, pink, yellow, green colors for teen/amateur sites; hues of blue and gray for gay sites; dark, black, red colors for fetish sites; green, orange for Latin sites. Corporate and affiliate sites are usually designed in business colors: light gray, green, white, light blue.

Kel: I like working dark, in any combination. I like heavily contrasting designs, deep blacks and colors that pop. Nothing makes a sexy girl pop off the page more than a crisp dark background.

Peter: It really depends on the site niche and changes from case to case. Overall, I prefer color combinations with high contrast. I like bright colors that shine with energy, but I admit that there are some wonderful combinations with dark colors as well, such as dark gray with neon green or pink.

What design flaws scare users away?

Martti: There is no such thing — every color, every font has its own place and time. Every surfer has his own taste. The thing you like, others don't.

Tman: There's no particular color that won't work on a design, but in terms of color combination, we would say brown and green is a no-no. In terms of fonts, just stay away from illegible ones. I also avoid bad color combinations and over-the-top animations because they take the surfer's attention away from the site content, and if they get a bad first impression, they close the window, and the sale is lost.

Daniel: Once again, the most important thing for design is to adhere to the niche spirit and site's idea itself. For example, gothic fonts won't do for teen site designs; they would work better for a fetish site. Red and black colors won't do for twink sites because that will not correspond with the general idea of the niche and content. Also, one should escape colors that don't match, as well as illegible fonts and crowded graphics. It's important to attentively explore the target audience of the site and its aim. For example, Flash intros for affiliate sites are great, bearing the necessary information in a small space, but a Flash header for a TGP site is rarely met and no one adds Flash to galleries because there's no need for this. Also, one should consider the peculiarities of the browsers, different screen resolutions of visitors, etc. Erroneous cutting can cause the breach of the site to pieces, which will scare away surfers. We usually cut the templates in such a way that they look exactly the same in all the popular browsers.

Kel: I avoid any hard-to-read or overly cluttered fonts, and as for colors, I avoid reds and sometimes greens. I just find green to be an ugly color, unless it's in nature, and red screams danger or warning to me. I only use it for extreme sites and bold themes.

Peter: I don't like the overload of dark, dull and cold colors. I don't like messy, art-deco fonts that are hard to read and hard to combine with other fonts — any features that turn surfers into sufferers. These include pop-ups and exit consoles, slow sites, sites with psychedelic animations and chaotic sites with inconsistent navigation. In some cases, music and Flash sites that lack usability can get pretty scary too.

What design features are most appealing?

Martti: Simple and erotic.

Tman: Usually when a surfer visits the site, the first thing he or she will notice is any moving animation that captures the eye. So naturally any movies playing or subtle .gif or Flash animations will capture a user's attention, but in saying that, a very well-placed, excellent picture also will do the same thing.

Daniel: All well-chosen combinations of fonts and colors, for example red/blue, gray/white/orange/blue, yellow/brown, blue/white, pink/light orange. In general, the design should be done in two or three basic colors and two to four fonts. Any disharmony of fonts and colors will be noticeable and annoying.

Kel: I'm in love the new Web 2.0 movement. Sites are becoming cleaner and easier to navigate. I like a lot of white space and a well-organized site. No one can argue with that. Nothing beats a nice, clean layout with everything right where you'd expect it to be.

Peter: Content is king, so large, crisp, clear and targeted images always win. Another important thing is clear navigation and a pleasing design.

What's the best adult site you've seen?

Martti: Adultdesign.com does pretty good ones, and of course my sites.

Tman: 2Advanced.com does incredible Flash sites for some of the biggest promotional companies going around.

Daniel: There are tons of perfectly designed sites, and it's hard to name just one best. But the first site that comes to my mind is FetishWealth.com. This work is impressive, with interesting design and great Flash work.

Kel: This is always changing, so there's really no answer. Sites that blew me away a few months ago I can easily replicate as my skill is constantly evolving. Right now my favorite site is Yahoo — which most people will laugh at — but it's so slick and functional, and it's just right for me today. Tomorrow, though, who knows?

Peter: It's pretty hard to tell. I've seen so many sites and there's not really a single case I could mention. Overall, I love many Web 2.0 sites that are clean and user-friendly, so I hope these will become more of a trend in the adult industry soon.

What software tools, other than Photoshop, do you use?

Martti: Beside Photoshop I use Dreamweaver for HTML/CSS, Acdsee for picture browsing, Internet Explorer for web browsing, MacroMedia Flash and some little graphic utilities and savers. Not many actually, but I can get my job done.

Tman: Macromedia/Adobe Flash for all Flash presentations and movies. Macromedia/Adobe Dreamweaver for HTML coding. Macromedia/Adobe Illustrator for all vector images and printable material. Electric Rain's Swift for any Flash components that require three-dimensional objects. 3-D Studio MAX for complicated 3-D scenes and image.

Daniel: Adobe Illustrator for cartoon design, Macromedia Flash for Flash works and Macromedia Dreamweaver for HTML slicing.

Kel: I use too much software. Photoshop, Blender3D, Flash, Adobe Illustrator, even such relics as Ulead GIF Animator and Paint — yes, I said Paint — and a whole slew of other programs to take my designs to the web. Dreamweaver, Coda, Notepad, the list goes on and on. They all have different roles for each different design, but without my full suite, I'd be lost. My most important programs are Photoshop and Dreamweaver, of course. That's where all the magic happens.

Peter: We use exclusively Photoshop and ImageReady for design and Dreamweaver for production and creation of static websites. In some special cases we use Adobe Illustrator, but it's very rare. We don't really use any plug-ins and rely solely on the skills of our designers.