In This Article
What is a good web design? Head over to any of the top websites on the world wide web and take a really good look at them. Ask yourself: “What is it that these websites have in common?” But before doing so, check out our blog post first so you know what to look out for when getting a quality design.
A well-designed website doesn’t just happen by accident – it takes careful planning and execution. Following web design best practices will ensure your site is aesthetically pleasing, easy to use, and accomplishes your goals. Whether you want to drive more sales, get more newsletter signups, improve your credibility, or spread awareness about your cause, adhering to these tried and true website design principles is the key to success.
So grab a cup of coffee or tea and get ready to absorb this comprehensive guide on creating websites that wow and convert visitors!
Web Design Fundamental Principles
The fundamental principles section covers core concepts like defining your website goals, simplicity in design, establishing visual hierarchy, optimizing for user experience, accessibility, building trust, consistency across pages, and making content scannable. Mastering the fundamentals gives you a solid foundation for good web design.
Purpose and Goals
Before jumping into the visual design, start by getting crystal clear on the purpose and goals of your website. Ask yourself:
- Who is my target audience?
- What do I want visitors to do on my site? Sign up? Make a purchase? Learn something?
Once you identify your goals, you can design specifically to steer visitors towards those actions. For example, an ecommerce site that uses something like WooCommerce would optimize for purchases with clear calls-to-action and seamless checkout flows. A non-profit may focus more on education and donations.
Clarifying your purpose from the start ensures you design intentionally, not just making aesthetic choices willy nilly. When your website goals inform every design decision, you’ll boost conversions and ROI.
Some of the very best websites feature simple, minimalist designs. Why is simplicity so powerful? Too many competing elements on a webpage overwhelm users and make it hard to focus. A clean, sparse layout directs attention to the most important information. As said before, go to any of the top websites. They’re all simple and easy to read through, and probably mostly imagery.
Follow the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid, we didn’t make this up….the Navy did) principle by paring down your pages to only the most essential elements:
- Limit color palette
- Use plenty of whitespace
- Display text and imagery prominently
- Remove unnecessary navigation links, buttons, widgets
Resist the urge to cram every bell and whistle onto your site. Simplicity goes a long way in creating beautiful, user-friendly sites.
You can establish hierarchy through several methods. Using larger elements will grab the user’s attention. Bright colors stand out and attract the eye. Photos and illustrations also draw attention. Contrast between elements like dark on light helps certain items stand out. Negative space creates focus by providing blank areas for the eye to rest. Typography choices like bold, large text will be prominent on the page.
Arranging your page strategically to create a clear visual hierarchy keeps visitors focused on your key messages and calls-to-action.
User Experience and Usability
Optimizing User Experience (UX) and usability involves some key strategies. Using simple, consistent navigation aids users. Formatting content in a clear way is helpful. Buttons should be large and easy to click. Minimizing steps for key actions improves conversion. Checking mobile responsiveness ensures it works across devices.
- Format content clearly
- Make buttons big and clickable
- Minimize steps to purchase or signup
- Check mobile responsiveness
If visitors struggle to use your site, they’ll quickly click away in frustration. Crafting an excellent user experience should be top priority.
Accessibility means designing your website to be usable for all people, including those with impairments like low vision or hearing loss.
Tips for accessible web design:
- Allow font size changes
- Add ALT text to images
- Ensure color contrast is high
- Make links and buttons keyboard navigable
- Write image descriptions for screen readers
- Caption videos
Building in accessibility opens your site to more visitors and improves SEO. It’s both the right thing to do and good business.
Credibility and Trust
Establishing credibility and trust should be every website’s goal. Visitors are more likely to convert on sites they find authoritative and secure.
Boost credibility with:
- A professional design
- Easy navigation
- Transparent policies and contact info
- High-quality content
- Links to reputable sources
- Testimonials and reviews
- Strong branding
Give off the vibe that visitors are in competent hands. You’ll earn their business and loyalty.
Consistency across your website promotes familiarity and strengthens branding. Elements that should remain consistent include:
- Color scheme
- Tone and messaging
Creating a consistent experience gives your site polish and helps visitors intuitively find their way around.
Scannability and Readability
Web design should account for how people actually read online – by skimming and scanning, not thoroughly reading.
To improve scannability and readability:
- Break content into short paragraphs
- Use bullet points and numbered lists
- Highlight key sections in bold
- Include ample paragraph spacing
- Set font size to 16px or larger
- Limit line length to 70-90 characters
Optimizing your page copy for online reading habits results in higher engagement and conversion rates.
Website Layout Principles
The layout principles portion explores common patterns like grid-based layouts, effective use of whitespace, F-shaped and Z-shaped content patterns, alignment, proximity, contrast, and repetition. Leveraging layout principles creates organized, aesthetically pleasing websites.
Using a grid to structure your website content helps organize information cleanly and logically. Grids bring order to layouts through their rows, columns, and spacing.
- Creates visual consistency
- Easy to align and space items
- Adapts easily across devices
- Looks modern and structured
Grid layouts lend websites a polished, professional look. They form the foundation of beautiful web design.
Whitespace, also called negative space, is the empty area between elements like text and images. It gives the eyes a rest from densely packed designs.
Effective use of whitespace:
- Directs focus to most important info
- Improves readability
- Communicates elegance and luxury
- Balances busy pages
- Gives designs room to breathe
See, emptiness can be powerful! Whitespace reduces clutter and creates visual harmony.
Eye tracking studies reveal visitors scan webpages in an F-shaped pattern: first horizontally across the top, then down the left side vertically.
Leverage the F-pattern by positioning important elements along the F-path:
- Place headlines, calls-to-action at top
- Use sidebar for key navigation
- Embed value props throughout left column
Follow the natural way users consume content – your conversion rates will thank you.
On minimalist pages with very little content, visitors tend to scan in a Z-shape instead: their eyes sweep across the top, then diagonally down and across again.
Use the Z-pattern to your advantage:
- Highlight critical info at top
- Lead the eye down and across with visual cues
- Place primary CTA where eyes naturally land after zigzag
Both the F-pattern and Z-pattern influence effective web design. Know your content and choose whichever complements your page.
Alignment and Proximity
Alignment is the way page elements line up horizontally or vertically. Proximity refers to how close elements are grouped together.
- Creates relationships between related items
- Looks orderly and polished
- Improves scanability
- Easy to implement using CSS
Don’t underestimate the power of alignment and proximity – they bring visual coherence to layouts.
Contrast adds visual interest through combinations of opposite elements – light vs dark, small vs large, complex vs simple.
Types of contrast:
- Color contrast
- Size contrast
- Bold vs thin fonts
- Imagery contrast
- Whitespace vs content
Subtle yet impactful, contrast helps certain elements stand out while adding style.
Repeating design elements help visitors identify patterns and navigational cues throughout a site. Types of repetition include:
- Text styles
- Layout grids
Repeating design motifs make diverse pages feel cohesive. Used sparingly, repetition brings websites together.
Guidelines For Site Navigation
This section examines the navigation principles of intuitive menus and calls-to-action. Well-designed navigation ensures visitors can easily find information and are guided to take action.
Helping visitors easily find information is critical for any website.
Navigation refers to the set of links and menus that guide visitors around your site. The placement and labeling of navigation elements influences how easily people can find what they need.
Characteristics of intuitive navigation:
- Located in consistent spot on every page
- Uses clear, descriptive link labels
- Only includes necessary links
- Has hover and active states for feedback
- Works on mobile devices
When navigation just makes sense, visitors reach their desired content quickly and painlessly.
Calls-to-action (CTAs) prompt visitors to take action, like signup for a free trial or make a purchase.
- Use action-oriented language: “Sign Up Now”
- Implement contrasting colors for focus
- Are prominently placed in the visual hierarchy
- Lead to simple, minimal forms
- Use active, urgent wording
Well-designed CTAs convince visitors it’s in their best interest to click, click, click!
Landing Page and Blog Content
even the prettiest templates need great content to bring them to life.
Compelling and Useful Content
At its core, content should inform, entertain, help or inspire your audience. Crafting content specifically for your niche pays dividends.
Tips for engaging content:
- Conduct keyword research to identify topics
- Produce practical, valuable advice
- Tell stories and anecdotes
- Write in second-person point of view
- Infuse with humor and personality
When content resonates with readers, they’ll come back again and again. Quality over quantity.
Imagery like photos, illustrations, videos and graphics bring vibrance to websites. Ensuring images are striking and professional conveys legitimacy.
Tips for selecting images:
- Pick relevant, high-quality images
- Show real people using your product
- Size and compress files for quick loading
- Write descriptive alt text
- Include captions for context
- Use graphics to explain concepts
Pictures speak louder than words. Enhance pages with polished visual content.
Style of Your Website
Visual styling brings your brand personality to life. These principles guide aesthetic choices.
Picking a cohesive color palette is foundational to web design. Limit your palette to 2-4 complementary colors.
- Sets mood and tone
- Improves brand recognition
- Establishes visual hierarchy
- Looks professional and polished
Vibrant yet controlled color use creates engaging brand experiences.
Typography refers to the fonts used on your site. Good typography improves readability while conveying brand style.
- Limit to 2-3 fonts
- Use font pairings like serif + sans-serif
- Make body text large enough to read easily
- Headlines should contrast body text
Finding font combinations that work together in harmony takes experimentation – but is worth it!
Icons are little symbols that represent something in your interface. When used well, icons enhance navigation and save space.
Icon best practices:
- Keep simple and recognizable
- Place next to related content
- Use to guide attention
- Help break up heavy text
- Should have hover states
Icons add visual interest while condensing navigation and instructions.
We covered optimizing images in the content section, but imagery also contributes greatly to visual design. Photos, graphics and illustration bring sites to life through:
- Demonstrating products
- Showcasing team members
- Explaining complex topics
- Setting the scene with environments
- Infusing color and texture
Picking the right hero images and supporting visuals gives visitors something eye-catching to look at.
Making your site fast and mobile-friendly is table stakes these days. Don’t sabotage your hard work with a poorly optimized site.
Site Speed and Load Time
47% of visitors expect sites to load in 2 seconds or less. The longer your site takes to load, the more visitors you’ll lose.
Boost your site speed:
- Compress images
- Minify CSS, JS and HTML
- Optimize videos
- Remove unnecessary plugins
- Enable browser caching
- Use a content delivery network (CDN)
Investing in performance pays off exponentially in the form of lower bounce rates.
Mobile-Friendly Responsive Design
Over 60% of website traffic comes from mobile devices. Designing responsively for mobile, tablet and desktop is crucial.
Mobile optimization tips:
- Use relative sizing units like REM
- Design with a ‘mobile-first’ approach
- Test on actual devices
- Check touch target spacing
- Avoid heavy mobile images
With responsive design, your site adapts seamlessly across screens to deliver an optimal viewing experience.
Testing and Analysis
The design process doesn’t end at launch – optimization should continue through testing and analytics.
Testing with Real Users
Usability testing reveals how actual visitors navigate and perceive your site. Test early and often!
Types of usability testing:
- Moderated (in person)
- Unmoderated (remote)
- A/B testing
- User interviews
Addressing issues from usability testing drastically improves user experience.
Analytics and Metrics
Web analytics provide quantitative data on visitor behavior. Analyzing metrics uncovers opportunities for improvement.
Key metrics to track:
- Bounce rate
- Pages per session
- Conversion rate
- Traffic sources
- Site speed
Let data guide your design choices – you’ll create more effective sites.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO improves your rankings in search engines through tactics like metadata, keywords, backlinks, and semantic markup.
Basic SEO checklist:
- Write meta descriptions
- Include target keywords
- Use HTML header tags
- Optimize page speed
- Format code cleanly
- Publish mobile-friendly pages
Higher rankings equal increased relevant organic traffic – optimize for SEO success!
And there you have it – a comprehensive walkthrough of good web design principles! From visual hierarchy to simplicity to grid theory, we covered tactics and strategies to create stunning, conversion-focused websites.
While adhering to best practices ensures high quality sites, don’t be afraid to break the rules too! The most innovative designs often bend the standards. Take these principles as guiding lights rather than hard rules.
The web is constantly evolving. As you experiment and test new approaches, you’ll develop your own set of site-building wisdom to share. But for now, apply these essential good web design principles as you craft beautiful online experiences.