A webpage usually has some sort of order the designer tries to guide the user through. There are plenty of ways and elements involved in getting the user to read through the content, but I’ll focus on some pretty simple and standard ways to create contrast in order to push the message of the site and hopefully accomplish the company’s goals.
Contrast through Color
Color is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about contrast. Especially important with typography, color contrast creates a visual distinction between elements and dictates what is “important” to read and what is “more important” to read.
Contrast through Size
Large fonts, images and elements are quickly noticed by users. While over sized elements are a more recent development in the web community, it operates on the basic principles of contrast: big things stand out when placed next to small things.
Text doesn’t get more readable than this. There’s a reason newspapers use large, black, serif fonts.
Contrast through Depth
Depending on the style of a site, there can be many visual planes, but typically there’s a background, foreground and something beyond that for elements with drop shadows, indentations, grunge elements and more. These virtual layers are great because the designer can push elements closer to the user.
Campaign Monitor creates shadows and lighting to push their screenshot forward and present their product in a professional and elegant way.
There are many other ways to use these techniques, as well as other ways to create contrast in your pages. However, these techniques only work in moderation since they’re only effective through visual differentiation. If there’s nothing but 72pt gray text on a white background, nothing stands out and it becomes hard to read. Elements only look dark when they’re next to something light… elements only look big when they’re next to something small.