In working on a redesigned website for my university program I feel like I've got a pretty solid foundation. The purpose of the website is to be both informational but, also, to be "fun" and "inviting." So, we have used some Google Web Fonts for typography and we've done some work with headings, line hight, and line length. Now, we would like to add some visual elements to make the pages more attractive but that don't detract from the content. What are some effective methods for adding visual interest? One suggestion was a "water mark" type image but I have issues with that because it could cause problems with older browsers.
Colors and inviting photos would enhance the appeal of the site. In general, you should avoid doing anything too wacky, unless you have a strong reason to do so. Keep it simple, and make it visually interesting with a clear design. Trying to add too many "fun" elements can make a design look very crowded, which will actually drive users away if it's not usable.
Also I cringe a little at the thought of using Google Web Fonts for "fun typography" - hopefully you found a font that is a little more decorative but still very legible. Usually people go overboard trying to make their sites look "cool" and "not boring" with some "fun" fonts, but they tend to look out of place on a professional site and impair readability (think Jokerman, Curlz MT).
It is a bit of a broad question but just for kicks I took this page and highlighted some of the things I saw that make it visually interesting. What I noted is certainly not comprehensive but are things that jumped out to me and might be useful for you to think about implementing in your own design.
When it comes down to adding more visual interest, I rather look at what I already have and refine the interface elements or the user experience. Additions to your design will send you in circles. Research the competition, choose a strong color palette, see how far you can take the standard web fonts and creating your own interface elements will give your site more visual interest. Images also work well, but make your decision with a clear direction - if you don't find what you are looking for, don't just slap a random in there and call it a day because it will create a juxtaposition from the rest of your work.
There is no beaten path for the best way, but there are and you can create best practices. Here are some great resources that I use everyday.
http://www.delicious.com/simien - my public bookmark list
http://www.typechart.com/ - Challenge yourself with using web font standards
- Sorry, but I can only use a few links so I'll write out the rest.
fontsquirrel.com - @font-face web fonts ( could use for Headliners )
awwwards.com - Get excited.
verifyapp.com - put your design to the test.
methodandcraft.com - See what others are doing and how they do it. Design inspires design.