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.
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. If you are ready, let’s get started.
Basic Website Design Elements
There are many aspects that you need to keep in mind while designing a website. However, we have shortlisted the essential points below for your benefit.
One of the first things that web designers need to decide is their choice of platform. Depending on the purpose of the web page, there are numerous options available out there.
Now, 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.
All these pages are perfect for understanding the basic website 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 next subheading.
2. Web Design Tools - WordPress
Although WordPress looks easy, it is used by some of the top brands in the world, 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 making the purchase.
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 elements like a menu or content catalogue for visual hierarchy.
3. Navigation Menu
The basic purpose of the menu is to make the site easy to navigate for users.
One way to ensure that 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, which could confuse consumers, thereby leaving them frustrated.
As a rule, web designers should try to restrict the search options from the drop-down menu. In addition, designing a small menu option does not take up much space.
That said, having a large navigation menu may not prove detrimental if used effectively. Meaning, 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 be able to find what they are looking for. Hence, website designers should try to 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, in case 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.
In addition, it ensures that the website has enough white space to make it more user-friendly. More often than not, a web designer tries to pack in too much information rather than spacing it out for visual hierarchy.
In other words, having white space allows the 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. Not to mention, the uncluttered appearance leaves a mark on users and helps reach out to the target audience.
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. That said, you must use a suitable image that will add value to the article while being visible on numerous screen sizes.
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 main purpose of the website.
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.
One of the basic principles of website design is to avoid too much movement because it could ruin the user experience. Hence, despite their simplicity, it’s challenging to use sliders, especially if you want to include content over certain 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, 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 think about whether the images are good for marketing and help convey the message of the website.
Similarly, it would be best to use high-definition images as they 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 worthwhile content.
No website is complete until the necessary colours are added.
Remember how we spoke about white space? Another secret is that as white space refers to the background of the website, you may add colours.
However, it’s challenging to strike the right balance because too much space will lead people to think that there’s not enough information. So, rather than trying to be fancy, it would help if you use a maximum of two or three colours. This will allow a user to focus more on the content rather than on the colour scheme.
Speaking of colours, the company logo may have several eye-catching shades, so it’s important 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 make sure that all the buttons are visible. We suggest using a colour that is not present on the site, such as highlighting the buttons in red 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 particular shade that may be hard to read, they can use it sparsely to accentuate various website elements.
7. Visual Hierarchy
We have spoken briefly about visual hierarchy, so now let’s discuss it in detail. As the name suggests, this web design technique necessitates that you post 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 bigger and bold font to highlight the importance of the page. Similarly, use fonts of different sizes to provide snippets of the content, making the site easily navigable.
This is especially true for websites with a lot of content that need to design an effective layout for improved usability. Meaning, 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. 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, on a commercial website, people want to know the prices of products and services, which you can highlight 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 l0oks on a laptop, you need to ensure that mobile users can also enjoy the same benefits.
In our experience, we have often seen how a quality website loses its value when viewed on a smartphone. Meaning, 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. Simply 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, all the features align properly and design a separate menu for smaller devices.
Although it may not seem obvious, choosing a quality font for the website is as important as featuring a great article. In fact, for the content to strike a chord with the audience, it must be readable.
While there are innumerable 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 a 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 fairly simple. That’s why you can use them to write the body of the article.
Choosing An Appropriate Font
Now that you know about the major 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 come alive. However, that doesn’t mean you should use several fonts as it will have the opposite effect.
Any good designer uses a maximum of 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 relevant 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.
A simple yet fantastic SEO strategy that most people ignore is the use of the f-pattern. Simply, put 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 important 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 that’s where people usually look for the 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.
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 an important aspect of 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 major techniques, and one such efficient strategy is the use of grids. Grid-based web designs help organise the website better, thereby 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. In fact, 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.
We have covered most website design principles, but we would like to provide a few additional tips before you start 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.
Be it 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 certain 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 information.
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 that they are optional.
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 that it remains non-functional. Hence, designers need to manage time well without compromising on efficiency for the benefit of both parties and visitors.
C. Test The Site
You need to test all the features to make sure that the website is running smoothly. It’s a little challenging given the deadline, but a preliminary check is important 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. This is because launching a low-quality website will require you to take it down once again to correct the errors.
D. Research User Behavior
You must note that the job doesn’t end once the website is live; in fact, 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 certain article fails to pique readers’ interest, it would be best to get rid of it. Instead, you can view similar websites to include information that consumers will find useful. That said, be careful that you don’t plagiarise.
E. Make it Scannable
People don’t have the time to ponder and make a decision, 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 skimmable 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, thereby 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 that of a newspaper or any other medium. Here, the information is broken down into numerous shorter paragraphs so that it looks great visually.
The sentences are simple and precise, ensuring that readers can understand them easily. Meaning, there is no need for effusive language; rather, the message of the website must be easily understandable for the consumer.
Another underrated technique is using everyday lingo that people will understand instead of evocative sentences.
Simplicity is the key. That’s it.
See how easy that was to understand? Rather than writing a monologue on how confusing web designs can harm the user experience, we conveyed everything with two short sentences.
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 of people who spend valuable time on the website in exchange for relevant facts.
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 would suggest that you remain patient and keep in touch with the client to develop an effective design strategy. Also, remember 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.
Most of all, enjoy designing and don’t be afraid to experiment. Until next time!
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 10 years in the Search Engine Optimisation industry in addition to online marketing and system optimisations.