A golden rectangle, based on mathematical proportions called the golden ratio or golden mean is approximately the proportion of a credit card, TV or laptop screen, and these same proportions are reflected in classical architectural design of Greek temples, columns, in fine art, and in nature such as Nautilus seashells.
One of the ways to create designs that use this proportions or have key elements in the golden proportions, is to copy an image of a temple, a Nautilus seashell (cut open to show the interior) or a simple object like a credit card into a Photoshop layer, set the transparency to 50% - 70% and lay out your site design over the underlying image. Of course another way is to do the math and lay out designs based on those proportions.
I have used the "copy an ancient Greek temple and paste it on its own Photoshop layer" technique myself in designing user interfaces for Microsoft and other technical companies to be more pleasant.
Really good web design facilitates site use, by directing user’s eyes to where they (and you) want and need them to look in order to flow onto their next decision.
Used well, an underlying design plan which includes proportions provides visual cues to end users and aids intuitive understanding both in navigation and context. By context this means look and feel as it is applied to end user's needs and the company or organizations' site / app design. In this way it helps the design speak to users! By speak this means direct on a two dimensional page using design itself to focus user’s eyes on decision making areas or strengthening information points.
On the ecommerce Crate and Barrel site, http://www.crateandbarrel.com, for example, the design team is obviously using the exact proportions of the golden ratio to make an inspirational website that just makes visual magic even more exciting, harmonious, and pleasing. It's low key, clean and has that special something. When such proportions are not there, end users may not find the site as useful and helpful; such sites do not look beautiful, they don't flow, don't look unified, and sometimes are not coherent either.
The most well designed sites use CSS to control and display text, using fonts, background colors, and placement AND the golden ratio. It's not just color, not just images; it's the whole information architecture package as well.
Experienced, trained or intuitive artists use golden proportions to augment their designs, until they became completely natural design feature. Using the golden mean as a style and design tool - skilled artists also know how and when to break the "golden" rule.
I am not advocating a too cold matchie - matchie kind of design which looks like it was generated by a computer with no human qualities - but when demonstrating these proportions to a Microsoft ecommerce product manager, he was amazed where he could find that golden number in application design and on the Web. He was especially surprised to see where the corners of the proportions came together in key places to emphasize the important decisions, and how designers address the human eye and love for certain proportions -- humanistic design. It's not cold; it's vibrant from within, in part because of the intention of the designer sings through an inspired design.
Yes let's call it beautiful! What do you think?
Fibonacci Numbers and The Golden Section in Art, Architecture and Music
Proportions of the Golden Rectangle
The Golden Rectangle and the Golden Ratio
Phi: That Golden Number
Read more about it: