What romance novels can teach us about web design


Two subjects that seem to be completely unrelated to each other. One is modern, trendy, popular and in a constant spotlight, looking for renewal. The other one is more looked at with some form of discomfort or even with scorn and is called unrealistic. Initially different things that actually have a lot in common. 

In this world there are two types of romance novels. The ones you want to hide and the ones you want to show. Fairly simple. Novels that fall into the first category, are the ones with a half-naked man on cover. Where a ‘fair maiden’ is draped into his arms and they look at each other longingly. These are the ones people usually look at with a lot of discomfort because they are so over the top.  The covers work greatly for that exact purpose because they are selling a fantasy the target audience wants. Also, these covers requite a ton of work to make, so really only respect on my side.   

But before this article becomes a love note to the most interesting covers the romance genre has created, let us focus back on web design and to the second category of romance novels. These are the ones that are interesting for designers. Because these book covers are illustrated.  

If you do a quick search on Goodreads, a popular website for book readers, or on Bookstagram, an Instagram place of book nerds, you will notice just that. The more recently published romance books have an illustrated cover that draws the attention. A monochromic background with a large title and some small pictograms hinting at the plot of the story, as seen in the photo. Others have illustrations that take over the entire cover and thereby become the background. The key point stays the same, illustrations and simplicity. Less is more. With books, that could be a way of saying that the inside speaks for itself but that might be looking into it too much.

More or less

People like structure, cleanness and cohesiveness. Which, in real life, translate to more and more people choosing a minimalistic lifestyle and to the fact that Marie Kondo is a household name. In design this translate to using colours from the same ‘family’ or using only pastels or by using a handful of colours for every design. With as keyword, again: simple.  

The trend that goes along with it is known as ‘colour blocking’ and ‘colour exploration’. Slowly, you see these web designs popping up. More and more brands are trying it out. Like the book covers, colour blocking works with the less is more principle and with a notable background colour. Big squares and rectangles divide the website like a book cover. The purpose of using colour blocking is make the subject in the photo stand out by drawing attention to it by using a crazy background. This design therefor works perfectly for web shops. You do not need words to draw the attention of the customer, the web design does that for you.  
Colour exploration takes it a bit further. There are no colourful blocks, nicely separated. Instead, the entire background has crazy colours mixed together. This might be overwhelming to try but done right, this design could really make an impression on the visitors.

The meaning of it all

Words only go so far; examples go a lot further. Design is something that you need to see.

Next level fairs

Starting out strong, with the website of Next level fairs. On this website, both colour blocking and colour exploration is used. As you can see, there are four squares, the colour blocking part. All different colours, that are still complementary to each other. But because all the squares are stacked on top of each other, we could also say it is colour exploration. As you have probably noticed for yourself, your eyes were drawn to the white letters. That shows that even though there is a lot happening, your eyes will still be drawn to the thing that is important as long as you use the right colours.

Once upon a time in Hollywood

This is a perfect colour blocking example. Black and white is always great to use as a contrast. By using the simple squares, it really pops out. Your attention should be with the DVD’s and it is because of the contrast.


Bose is a web shop that uses colour in an interesting way. Instead of using actual squares, they use rectangles that fill the entire screen. This makes it visually attractive and as you can see, the products really stand out. The design the pretty simple but it does the trick.

Colour blocking and colour exploration is definitely not for everyone. It is a website design that requires bravery but do it right, and the website will become unique. In the end, that is everyone’s goal. And the bookshop might even be the best place to start searching for some inspiration. 

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