Website headers are so important that many free website platforms actually create one for you to make the job simple and easy. As your site's masthead, your header should not only embody the site's overall goal and feel but also create a gateway into other pages.
If headers are so simple, why are there so many ugly ones out there? Many brands and companies confuse headers with advertisements -- which can result in a confused, unprofessional looking mess. Instead of inviting people in, your header is telling them to stay out.
Professional Means Simple
A cluttered header with too many moving parts will feel like a teenager's MySpace account. Headers should be simple. The simpler they are, the easier they are to digest. The simpler they are, the more impact they have.
Think of it like meeting someone at a party. The easiest conversationalists simply introduce themselves and then let you ask questions. The ones you avoid are those who corner you by the canapé tray and then proceed to tell you entire life stories. Headers should be smooth, stylized and easy to see.
Look at your header. Are there too many images? Is your logo squeezed into the corner like it is running for dear life from all the other images squeezed in next to it? Pare your header down into one, maybe two images. If you insist on more, make sure that images flow into one another and that they represent your website.
Your web design company should be able to help you make a design decision here. Some brands prefer to work with a stylized company name and logo. Others go for a powerful image. The key here really is just simplicity. Do not attack your visitor with your header. Let them be drawn in.
Professional Means Good Art
Invest in a great graphic designer, either one who works in-house for your chosen web design company or one who can collaborate with them. A professional header means you use good art --made by someone who understands space, graphics, color and your company mission. Someone who can translate what your brand is into a simple design that evokes the right sort of feeling.
Check out your current header and the art. Are you using some soulless stock photo that everyone has seen around the net? Does your logo look blurry, vague or is it too small to see? Does it feel like an afterthought? Is it just plain ugly?
Good art can also incorporate not just your logo, but excellent typography. Sometimes all you need is a powerful font and a great color scheme. In the end, it really depends on what your company's image is and what you want to convey to your target market.
But it is expensive -- you say. I am trying to save some money here. Think of this way. A good header will last you years and it is an investment that will keep giving. Do not skimp on good art, especially if you are just starting. A good graphic designer can also do more than give you a great, professional header. Think stationary. Think business cards. Think big.
A professional header does not just have to be a banner at the top of your page, a static piece of art that looks and feels great. You can create a header that is as useful as it is beautiful to serve as your navigation menu. Integrating your header into your website creates a beautiful sense of cohesion and gives your customers something to love and think about. A good example of an interactive header is Google's logo, which they use as a way to celebrate events. Hits include the Guitar, the Star Trek logo and more.
Interactive logos can insert a sense of fun into your website but still retain your professional image. They can also help your visitors get a sense of your company's personality. The caveat here is to make sure the interactive portion of your header works like a charm.
In conclusion, a professional header is a result of time, thought and a great dash of good art. Pare it down, make it interactive and make it look beautiful. These are the cornerstones of a beautifully designed, professional website header.