Must-Have Website Design Basics

Looking for a new website? Take a look at these principle web design basics every website should have. Tried and tested UI/UX design elements you should have.

Allan Dumayas

Allan Dumayas — 18 minute read.

With most people shifting to online mediums for communication, designing a suitable website is a necessity.

Years ago, people used flyers to convey important information. Now, everything is available at the click of a button. However, as the internet is a melting pot of both relevant data and fake facts, the need for credible sources has gone up.

Website Design Basics

Understandably, you must provide reliable information to the readers to take the website higher up the search rankings. But having quality articles is just one-half of the story; it’s crucial to use modern web design principles to make the post stand out.

So, to help you, we have compiled a guide comprising all the essential principles in web design. To read this article, you don’t need an in-depth understanding of the web development process. If you are ready, let’s get into learning web design basics!

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Basic Website Design Elements

It would help if you kept in mind many aspects while designing a website. However, we have shortlisted the essential points below for your benefit.

Design Engaging Website Infographic

1. Platform

One of the first things that web designers need to decide is their choice of platform for the user interface. Depending on the web page’s purpose, there are numerous options available.

Some platforms are suitable for a business enterprise, while others improve user interaction due to their informal nature. For example, online sites like Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, or Weebly are ideal for first-time web designers.

These pages are perfect for understanding the basic web design elements and how to implement them; in other words, they are great for people who are designing from scratch.

While these sites may not be the most professional, they deliver better usability and are perfect for catering to small businesses. This is because they are simple drag-and-drop websites.

Understandably, they are easy to use, and a designer can choose the desired theme without any hassle. They also have certain downsides but more on that later; for now, let’s look at another example by reviewing the popular WordPress site under the following subheading.

2. Web Design Tools — WordPress

Although WordPress looks easy, it is used by some top brands globally, thanks to its wide range of tools.

Customers who visit the website will find that it offers over 50,000 plugins for an enhanced user experience. Most plugins are free of cost, allowing site visitors to try them out before purchasing.

Naturally, it’s useful for site design, allowing a designer to make the web pages stand out. Also, there are separate plugins for different professions, ensuring website designers can create key elements like a menu or content catalogue for visual hierarchy.

3. Navigation Menu

The primary purpose of the menu is to make the site easy to navigate for users

One way to ensure that web visitors find what they are looking for is to keep the site design simple. So, it would be best to limit the number of options for easy and good navigation, confusing consumers, thereby leaving them frustrated.

As a rule, web designers should restrict the search options from the drop-down menu. In addition, designing a small menu option does not take up much space.

Having a large navigation menu may not prove detrimental if used effectively. You need to change your approach depending on the business and its requirements.

For example, if a marketing company wants to showcase numerous products, a website design expert can include all possible menu options. But there should not be unnecessary information as that might negatively impact your SEO strategy.

The primary purpose is that consumers should find what they are looking for. Hence, website designers should think from a user’s point of view to determine the relevance of different site tools.

If it is not relevant, it should not be on the web page.

4. White Space

Now, if you find it challenging to include all the relevant options in the navigation bar, it is possible to change the layout of the footer. This will help you make the web page stand out once you start designing.

White Space Website Works

In addition, it ensures that the website has enough white space to make it more user-friendly. A web designer often tries to pack in too much information rather than spacing it out for visual hierarchy.

In other words, having white space allows the most important elements to stand out, which contributes to effective web design. For instance, any good web page will divide the content into paragraphs, making it easier to read.

Even search engines will find it convenient to rank the website and navigate the information. The uncluttered appearance leaves a mark on users and helps reach out to the target audience.

In other words, a combination of content and white space is one of the most efficient SEO strategies to take your website to the top.

5. Images

Taking the discussion forward from white space, we must tell you about another vital web design element: images. If the website has sufficient white space, you can arrange images to break up the content, which will make the article visually appealing.

Not to mention that images are a fantastic way to communicate the relevance of the content, thereby giving it the edge over other pages with a similar target audience. You must use a suitable image that will add value to the article while visible on numerous screen sizes. Take time to optimise image sizes and 

Now, let’s look at two types of images and their impact on web design — header images and sliders.

A. Header Image

A header image is like a megaphone, announcing to visitors what the site is all about. It’s the first thing that users will see when they log into the website, and it sets the tone for the on-site experience.

Now, using header images can be tricky because of their size. They must be visually appealing to the audience on any screen, but the large size could also distract from the website’s primary purpose.

You must ensure that the header image doesn’t draw attention away from a great article. So, a high-quality web designer will look to attract visitors without giving away too much information. This will create intrigue, thereby forcing them to keep scrolling.

In other words, it’s like the trailer for a film — revealing just enough to keep users interested and wanting to know more. However, the header image must blend with the website, so it would be best to use the same shades throughout to create a better on-site balance.

B. Sliders

One of the basic principles of website design is to avoid too much movement because it could ruin the user experience. Hence, it’s challenging to use sliders despite their simplicity, especially if you want to include content over specific images.

In such instances, timing holds the key as it helps ensure that visitors have enough time to read the text before the next image appears. Additionally, a mobile-friendly website is crucial, and mobile users may not have the best experience viewing sliders as the layout and the visual medium change. 

So, there’s no denying that using sliders is tricky. That’s why most websites have one main image rather than rolling images.

But there are certain things that you can do to avoid errors. For example, you need to consider whether the images are suitable for marketing and help convey the website’s message.

Similarly, it would be best to use high-definition images to deliver a professional look. Also, try to limit the number of irrelevant images on the site as the primary purpose of visitors is to read valuable content.

6. Colours

No website is complete until the necessary colour palette is created.

Remember how we spoke about white space? Another secret is that as white space refers to the website’s background, you may add colours.

However, it’s challenging to strike the right balance because too much space will lead people to think there’s not enough information. So, rather than trying to be fancy, it would help if you used a maximum of two or three colours. This will allow users to focus more on the content than on the colour scheme.

Speaking of colours, the company logo may have several eye-catching shades, so it’s essential not to use all of them on the website. Instead, you should choose a suitable background to ensure that the company logo stands out.

Moreover, to enhance user experience, you need to ensure that all the buttons are visible. We suggest using a colour not present on the site, such as highlighting the buttons in red, which will encourage users to explore a particular option.

Also, it would be best to avoid shades like cyan and green as they might make the text invisible and the website harder to navigate. The trick is to contrast the different features, thereby allowing a search engine to rank a website higher.

For instance, light-coloured texts should accompany a dark button for better usability. However, if the client requests the design expert to use a shade that may be hard to read, they can use it sparsely to accentuate various effective website elements.

Website Design Statistic Graphic

7. Visual Hierarchy

We have spoken briefly about visual hierarchy, so let’s discuss it in detail. As the name suggests, this web design technique necessitates posting important content on top as part of your SEO strategy.

This will grab people’s attention and increase online traffic. But content comprises images, fonts, and other features that website designers must arrange in order of preference.

For example, the main heading should feature a more significant and bold font to highlight the page’s importance. Similarly, use fonts of different sizes to provide snippets of the content, making the site easily navigable and aesthetically pleasing.

This is especially true for websites with a lot of content that need to design a practical layout for improved usability. If you want something to be eye-catching, it would be best to use a large font with vibrant colours while having sufficient white space.

The main aim is to ensure that consumers don’t miss the primary point of the website or blog post. In addition, the headings need to be catchy and relevant, thereby encouraging visitors to read the article.

8. Commercial Purposes

Business websites don’t hold much value for people other than customers who want to avail of the company’s service. Let’s face it; not many people would like to spend their day scanning search engine results for the best e-commerce platform.

Hence, it is essential to use suitable web designs, allowing customers to locate different elements faster. For example, people want to know the prices of products and services on a commercial website, highlighting under a large font.

Consequently, consumers will easily find what they are looking for, making it worth their time and effort.

9. Mobile View

While web designing, it would be best to incorporate features that will make the page accessible on all digital devices. Instead of focusing solely on how the website looks on a laptop, you need to ensure that mobile users can also enjoy the same benefits.

Key Ecommerce Statistics

In our experience, we have often seen how a quality website loses its value when viewed on a smartphone. This means it’s essential to sit down with the designer and research elements that will look good on all mediums before you start designing.

Also, you may have to adjust and rearrange certain features, making them user-friendly. That said, it’s not essential to incorporate all on-site attributes as the website should appear uncluttered when viewed on a smaller device.

A crucial web design aspect for smartphones is having larger call-to-action buttons for enhanced user experience because it’s difficult to press smaller buttons on a small screen.

On top of that, it would help if you checked the mobile layout against the desktop version. You need to know how the website will look on multiple platforms to attract more visitors.

Try to ensure that there are no issues with the links, that all the features align correctly and design a separate menu for smaller devices.

10. Fonts

Although it may not seem obvious, choosing a quality font for the website is as essential as featuring a great article. For the content to strike a chord with the audience, it must be readable.

While there are numerous font types, we have highlighted the two most popular options among them:

A. Serif Fonts

A serif font has a stroke or slight extension at the end of each letter, giving them a classy appearance. Understandably, you can use them for writing the headings in a newspaper. However, you will need to use bigger font size, ensuring that the text is easy to read.

B. Sans Serif Fonts

On the other hand, sans serif fonts don’t have a stroke and are relatively simple. That’s why you can use them to write the body of the article.

Serif Font Sans Serif Font

Choosing An Appropriate Font

Now that you know about the significant fonts, we will discuss how you can choose the right design for your website.

You must note that fonts add flair to the page and make the website alive. However, that doesn’t mean you should use several fonts, as it will have the opposite effect.

Any good designer uses two to three fonts; otherwise, online sites will be challenging to read. The primary purpose is to experiment with different designs and then pick the most appropriate font to tie all the website features together.

For instance, it would be best to have a groovy font for a website that sells kids’ toys. Meanwhile, an insurance company would want its page to convey professionalism to attract customers.

Hence, we suggest spending adequate time on typography to choose a unique style that will make the website stand out.

11. F-Pattern

A fantastic yet straightforward SEO strategy that most people ignore is the use of the f-pattern. This technique helps arrange content on the page in an F-shape, thereby increasing the visitors’ chances of finding relevant content.

This SEO strategy situates the key information on the left side of the page because the human eye reads from left to right. Similarly, you can have the menu option on the left because people usually look for on-site functions.

As a result, to highlight a great article on the page, you can use this technique to complement the quality write-up.

Heat Map Showing Pattern

12. Call-To-Action

If we have to pinpoint one site feature that needs to be bold and eye-catching, it would be the call-to-action button. You can find this button on social media pages or e-commerce websites, making it essential to good web design.

It needs to stand out because business websites must encourage visitors to avail themselves of its services. Be it calling customer care or ordering products, every attribute on the website must ensure that it can fulfil consumers’ demands.

13. Using Grids

When it comes to web design, you need to know all the primary techniques, and one such efficient strategy is the use of grids. Grid-based web designs help organise the website better, giving it a structured appearance.

You can also change the size and arrangement of the grids depending on how you want the website to look. For instance, it is possible to have different image sizes without drawing attention from the articles.

In other words, it offers a blueprint of how the page will look on various screen sizes. You can also experiment with the text boxes to deliver a more balanced look or create a unique design structure to leave a mark on visitors.

Now, designers can change the size of columns based on the importance of the articles. You can break the grids further, but it would be best to get professional help to know when anything on the page looks out of place.

Additional Tips

We have covered most web design principles, but we would like to provide additional tips before designing.

A. Have A Contact Form

All professional websites have a contact page to interact with customers and adapt their SEO strategy based on user experience. Even if you’re not part of an eCommerce website, learning how to design a form will help customers reach out in times of need.

Contact Form

Whether booking flight tickets or making a purchase, a form makes it easier for people to let you know their requirements. However, designing it is a little tricky, and there are specific guidelines you need to follow.

For starters, use simple colours (not more than two) for a refined look; it doesn’t need to be catchy, but the form must be noticeable. Also, it would be best to limit the number of options as hardly anyone would like the hassle of filling up a long line of informationEnsure you use complementary colours throughout the website. 

You need to think about the data that will be most relevant to rank the website higher. Ask for that in the contact form while marking additional fields with an asterisk to denote optionally.

B. Time Is Money

How often have you heard the phrase — time is money? It’s safe to say that this is a favourite of clients, especially when designers fall behind the deadline.

We understand that launching a website takes time, and there are last-minute issues to iron out, but clients lose money every minute and remain non-functional. Hence, designers need to manage time well without compromising efficiency for both parties and visitors.

C. Test The Site

You need to test all the features to ensure that the website runs smoothly. Given the deadline, it’s a little challenging, but a preliminary check is vital to prevent the page from collapsing.

You can also inform the client if you’re running late and work out the next course of action. Launching a low-quality website will require you to take it down once again to correct the errors.

D. Research User Behaviour

You must note that the job doesn’t end once the website is live; it is just the beginning. Once the page starts bringing in traffic, it’s vital to monitor the information, study user feedback, and understand what articles are doing well.

If a particular article fails to pique readers’ interest, it would be best to eliminate it. Instead, you can view similar websites to include valuable information that consumers will find helpful. That said, be careful that you don’t plagiarise.

E. Make it Easy to Scan

People don’t have the time to ponder and decide, which is especially true for business websites. And it would be naive to expect that a customer will read all the information.

Instead, what they are looking for is some sign that will direct them to the relevant article. You must ensure that all the information is easy to skim read so that buyers can decide what they want within a couple of minutes.

This will also help build a target audience pool who might recommend the website to other people, increasing online traffic. Long story short, try to make it easy for people to find answers; don’t leave them frustrated by packing the pages with irrelevant information.

F. Effective Writing

You need to realise that writing for a website is different from a newspaper or any other medium. Here, the information is broken down into numerous shorter paragraphs to look great visually.

The sentences are precise and straightforward, ensuring that readers can understand them easily. There is no need for expressive language; rather, the website’s message must be easily understandable to the consumer.

Another underrated technique is using everyday terminology that people will understand instead of evocative sentences.

G. Simplicity

Simplicity is the key. That’s it.

See how easy that was to understand? We conveyed everything with two short sentences rather than a monologue on how confusing web designs can harm the user experience.

This shows that you should not leave room for ambiguity that might allow customers to misinterpret the information. No one likes to be confused, least people who spend valuable time on the website in exchange for relevant facts.

Dos Dont Web Design

Knowing The Basics of Web Design

That’s all there is to know about web designing and how to manage the different site features.

We suggest that you remain patient and keep in touch with the client to develop an effective design strategy. Also, remember that the speed of your website is important, and whenever in doubt, you can refer to our guide to create a unique website that will stand out on various platforms. Once you understand the basics, you can build a more responsive layout with interactive elements to boost user engagement. 

If you wish to speak to someone regarding the design process, reach out to our web design team. We are highly experienced in custom designing websites compatible across multiple devices and will be happy to assist you.

Most of all, enjoy designing and don’t be afraid to experiment. Until next time!

Allan Dumayas

Allan Dumayas

Allan is the head of SEO strategy and implementation at sitecentre®, in charge of planning and allocating on-page, off-page and technical changes. Allan has more than ten years in the search engine optimisation industry in addition to online marketing and system optimisations.

Find them on their website: sitecentre® and LinkedIn.

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