Your website is the main face of your business or brand.
There’s a good chance that more people will see your site than your storefront or logo, and maybe even more than your actual face.
As a web design agency we are commonly asked what are the most important principles that website and business owners should focus on most, so we’ve put together a summary of what we think are the 10 most important web design principles that you can use to make the face of your business as attractive, welcoming, and high converting as possible.
Are you trying to share practical info? Are you selling something? Do you just want to entertain your visitors?
Every great website has a purpose. If you start by clearly defining your site’s purpose in your own mind, it will be easier to structure it in a way that clearly communicates your intention.
Here are a few common purposes that many websites have:
- To generate leads for your business
- To generate sales for your business
- To share your expertise
- To build your reputation
- To create a community
- To entertain visitors
- Customer service
When you know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish with your site, you can keep it in the back of your mind as you review the rest of these principles.
Information is the one thing that brings all the wonderful and weird sites on the web together. Behind all the dashing design, the web is really a web of information. Whether you’re buying, selling, entertaining or convincing, what you’re ultimately doing is communicating.
Visitors come to your site to receive and give information.
The more efficient your site is at encouraging this flow of information, the more people are likely to keep coming back for more.
That’s why it’s important to keep your information organized. Use bold headlines and descriptive sub-headlines to make it easy for your visitors to find what they’re looking for.
Sprinkle bullet points and numbered lists to break up endless text. Get straight to the point instead of beating around the bush, or your visitors may beat it.
Cluttered websites take longer to load and make it harder to find things. You probably don’t need a zillion share buttons for obscure social media sites or flashy content modules with all your best deals covering every inch of the screen.
Unless the design is the point, keep it in the background. Design for design’s sake can distract your visitors and take the focus off what you’re trying to communicate.
The internet is an attention economy. When people give you theirs, keep it focused on just a few important things.
Consistency is what will make people feel at home on your website. Try to use the same elements of design across all the pages on your site.
Pick one or two fonts, and stick to them. Use the same style of buttons in the same general areas so people can navigate intuitively instead of consciously looking for things. Keep your text size the same across titles, sub-headings and regular paragraphs.
No one likes being confused. The more consistent your site’s design is, the less confusing and the more comforting it will be. If you can give your visitors a cozy feeling of familiarity on every page, they’ll feel like they belong, and they’ll be more amenable to read what you’re writing or buy what you’re selling.
Find a color palette that matches the mood of your site. Somber topics deserve somber tones, and fun colors should be used strictly for fun sites.
Use bright colors sparingly to avoid bedazzling your users too much.
You don’t need to use all the colors. Pick a palette that contains at most three or four complementary tones, and splash them around generously.
When you stray from your palette, do it meaningfully and rarely. For instance, red is the universal color of notifications.
Whatever palette you settle on, leave plenty of white space. Blank, white spaces keep the clutter down and pull your visitors’ focus toward the few important things.
However flashy or focused your design may be, text is still king of the web. Words are still the best way to communicate most information to most people.
Your text is also the main thing bots from Google and other search engines use to rank your site and help people find you.
This means you need to have two separate layers of readability. For people, readability means using appealing fonts and tasteful combinations of typography.
For bots, it means using descriptive metadata and sprinkling, but not overstuffing, your text with relevant keywords.
Research tracking the eye movements of internet users has revealed that most people scan websites in a F-shaped pattern. We tend to start at the upper left corner of our screens and scan left to right then top to bottom.
Put your most important, attractive information in the first horizontal line of the letter F. The next most relevant supplementary information goes on the second horizontal line, and so on.
This mimics the natural pattern our eyes use when reading in English and most other Western languages. It helps your users get a sense of orientation and feel comfortable more quickly when visiting your site.
Of course, when designing a site in a language that is oriented differently, try to mimic that language’s natural pattern.
There’s just something about grid-based layouts that feels cleaner and more organized than other shapes. Designing your site around a grid will give it structure and keep it organized in a way that your visitors will have no trouble interpreting.
Fibonacci spirals are beautiful and concentric circles make sense, but when it comes to balance and order, you just can’t beat columns and rows.
You don’t have to stick to a rigid table format, but having sections that generally stay in line with each other attracts human eyes and gives us the feeling that all is right with the world.
You’re probably not the only site of its kind online. When users have a choice between two sites containing similar info, they’ll usually pick the more user-friendly one. Make sure that’s you.
User-friendliness is a bit hard to nail down, but it basically just means that navigating around your site should be logical. Your buttons should look like buttons and be clearly labeled.
Try to organize your pages so that any information a visitor could ever possibly want to access is no more than three clicks away.
Always include a way to return to the home page from wherever you might be.
Test your site on as many browsers, devices and screen sizes as possible to make sure it looks awesome everywhere.
On your PC, try resizing your browsers to full screen then half and quarter screen to see how your elements reorient.
Make sure your sidebars don’t disappear and your images don’t distort on smaller tablets and smartphones. See if you can still use your site without a mouse and keyboard on one hand and without a touch screen on the other.
Ask your friends with the latest iPhones and the weirdest Huawei models to load your site and see what happens.
A great website needs to look good, feel good and work well. These tips will help you design a site that successfully walks the tightrope between beautiful and functional.
Minimalist designs tend to work best for drawing people in and bringing them back. Don’t be afraid to throw out your babies if they distract from your goals.