What is, actually, a web design? It is a concept of planning, creating, and maintaining websites. The very process that involves creativity while designing and constructing a website, and updating it regularly to incorporate changes, is also referred to as web design. Besides the creation and updating, this versatile concept also involves taking care of the user interface, the architecture of information presentation, the layout, the colors, content, navigation ergonomics, as well as the designs of various icons. Some other areas of web design include search engine optimization, user experience design, standardized codes, graphic design, as well as interface design.
A design job is suitable for anyone who has the right knowledge of the various relevant disciplines, but is usually best handled by professional web designers. The term ‘web design’ may also point to the visual aspect of a website, but in truth it also overlaps with web development in a broader sense. The process includes not only front-end designing but also writing the markup language.
Web design has basic principles. This article focuses on the most important of them. Check out the list below, it won’t take much time, but will refresh the useful info in your memory.
1.Don’t listen to the users
They don’t know what kind of experience they actually want. Watch closely what they do instead. The secret of creating an efficient product UX (User Experience) and UI (User Interface) is closely observing the users as they attempt to perform a task with a certain interface. As Jakob Nielsen points out, the whole process boils down to three simple steps:
Observe what users actually do. Do not believe what they say they do. Definitely don’t believe what people predict they may do in the future.
Each page of your website needs to have a clear objective, and to fulfill a specific need for your website users in the most effective way possible.
People are surfing the web to get information quickly, so it is important to communicate clearly, and make your content easy to read and digest. Here are some effective tactics to include in your web design: organizing information using headlines and sub headlines, using bullet points instead of long windy sentences, and cutting the woffle.
4. Visual hierarchy
Squeaky wheels get the grease and prominent visuals get the attention. Visual hierarchy is one of the most important principles behind good web design. It’s the order in which the human eye perceives what it sees. Without knowing anything about these circles, you were easily able to rank them. That’s visual hierarchy. Certain parts of your website are more important than others, and you want those to get more attention than the less important parts. Start with the business objective. You should rank elements on your website based on your business objective. If you don’t have a specific goal, you can’t know what to prioritize. The biggest eye catcher is the hero image, followed by the headline and call to action button. Fourth place goes to a paragraph of text under the headline, fifth is the free shipping banner and the top navigation is last. This is visual hierarchy well done.
In general, Sans Serif fonts such as Arial and Verdana are easier to read online (Sans Serif fonts look modern, they have no decorative finishes). The ideal font size for reading easily online is 16px and stick to a maximum of 3 typefaces in a maximum of 3 point sizes to keep your design on point.
A picture can speak a thousand words, and choosing the right images for your website can help to connect with your target audience. If you don’t have high quality professional photos at hand, consider purchasing stock photos to improve the look of your website. Also consider using infographics, videos and graphics as these can be much more effective at communicating.
A well thought out color palette can go a long way towards enhancing the user experience. Complementary colors create balance and harmony. Using contrasting colors for the text and background will make reading easier on the eye.
It is now a common practice to access websites from multiple devices with multiple screen sizes, so it is important to consider if your website is responsive. If your website is not responsive, you can either rebuild it in a responsive layout so that it will adjust to different screen widths or build a dedicated mobile site (a separate website optimized specifically for mobile users).
9. Grid based layouts
Placing content randomly on your web page can end up with a haphazard appearance that is messy. Grid based layouts arrange content into sections, columns and boxes. Those line up and feel balanced, which leads to a better looking website design.
Navigation is about how easy it is for people to take action and move around your website. Some tactics for effective navigation include a logical page hierarchy, using bread crumbs, designing clickable buttons, and following the ‘three click rule’ which means users will be able to find the information they seek in no more than three clicks.
11. Social media channelization
Being present on social media can direct a lot of audiences to your website and it is indispensable for new businesses. People are benefiting hugely from social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr. However, key to success on these platforms is the distribution of content according to the social network’s theme; repeating the same content on different platforms in the same sort of way is not going to help your promotion. You should make it easy for people to connect with you on your social networks. It should be easy for someone to share your website or articles with their own network. This will increase your traffic.
12. Call to action
When you are done choosing the right color scheme, stand out images and social media distribution, it’s the time for the ‘all important’ call to action service. Never forget to place noticeable call to action buttons on your web page. They are the gateways to the online marketing of your website and they encourage customers to come and visit your website time and again.
13. “F” pattern design
Eye tracking studies have identified that people scan computer screens in an “F” pattern. Most of what people see is in the top and left of the screen and the right side of the screen is rarely seen. Rather than trying to force the viewer’s visual flow, effectively designed websites will work with a reader’s natural behavior and display information in order of importance (left to right, and top to bottom)
14. Load time
15. Divine proportions
Golden ratio is a magical number 1.618 that makes all things proportional to it, aesthetically pleasing (or so it is believed). Then there is also the Fibonacci sequence where each term is defined as the sum of the two previous terms: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 and so on. The interesting thing is that we have two seemingly unrelated topics producing the exact same number.
16. Hick’s law
Hick’s law states that “The time it takes to make a decision increases as the number of alternatives increases”. You’ve experienced this countless times at restaurants. Menus with huge options make it difficult to choose your dinner. If it offered just 2 options, making a decision would take much less time. This is similar to Paradox of Choice – the more choice you give to people; the easier it is to choose nothing.
17. Fitt’s law
According to this law, the time needed to move to a target is dependent upon the size of the target as well as the distance to the target. This means that the larger the object or target and the closer it is in the distance, the easier it would be to move to it or reach it. This law can effectively be incorporated in web design and is something that can enhance your web design by leaps and bounds. However, this does not mean “the bigger, the better” but means that the usability factor of a target runs as a curve and not as a straight line. When you apply this law to your web design, then users may be more motivated and encouraged to press the button that you want them to press. If you want your website visitors to take actions like order a product, read about a service or click on something, then you must make sure that they can reach the ‘click here’ more easily and quickly. Thus, it is a good idea to consider this law and use it well.
18. Rule of thirds
It’s a good idea to use images in your design. A visual communicates your ideas much faster than any text. The best images follow the rule of thirds: an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.
19. Regular testing
Test Early and Test Often or ‘TETO’ is another web design principle that all designers and website owners must consider. Conducting tests every now and then provides important results and insights into many kinds of problems and complications related to a website layout or aspects of design. What happens is that websites often experience certain issues and by not testing them often, they may create problems that could be driving visitors away. Websites constantly need upgrades so as to maintain the visitor levels and customer interest.
20. White space and simple design
A simple design is an effective design. Complexity is just not something that a visitor wants to see on your web page, and one of the most important aspects of a simple design is white space. White space is something that web designers must not be afraid of. White space not only helps to take the cognitive load off the website but also makes it easier for users to perceive the information provided on the website. White space helps to divide the web page into several distinct parts or areas which makes it simpler to process information. It is always better to have a white space solution to the problem of complex hierarchical structures. If you go over the top with too many pop-ups, flashy gimmicks and eye straining features, you will have an unhappy visitor.
Another highly important principle that must not be ignored when designing a web page or website, is its accessibility. When a visitor enters the website, he/she must be able to access each bit of information in the easiest possible manner. This means that the text must be legible, the colors must not be harsh on the eyes and the background must not overpower the content, etc.
22. Highly intuitive structure
The first law or principle of usability of a website says that a web page must have a highly intuitive structure and should be simple to understand so that users would not have to think which way to go. It must be self-explanatory in an obvious kind of way. Don’t let any question marks or queries arise and ensure that navigation is both intuitive and simple. This helps to increase the usability of the website and also makes it much more engaging. The structure must be free from lots of cognitive load so that visitors don’t have to wonder how to move from point A to point B.
Your website should be converting visitors. Maybe that’s to buy something, or to share something. Either way it should do something.
24. Provide value
The content on your website should be authoritative. Fluff is a waste of time.
25. Email marketing
Your website should gently lead your visitor to sign up for your email updates.
People should be anxiously waiting for new content from your website. Build a dedicated following by providing high quality content.
If a website is difficult to use, you will have a tough time maintaining a healthy following. People don’t want to be frustrated by a website.
This might sound similar to usability but for most designers this represents the ability to do what they, the website owners, need to do. Simple example: if you have a website that is all about images but you don’t have the ability to create photo galleries, then it is not providing the level of functionality you require.
As a rule content ought never to touch different components. Pictures, for instance, ought not to be touching content, borders or tables. Cushioning is the space between components and content. The straightforward tenet here is that you ought, dependably, to have space there. There are special cases obviously, specifically if the content is some kind of heading. But when in doubt, putting space between content, and whatever remains of the layout, makes it more intelligible and professional looking.
30. Line spacing
When you lay out content, the space between the lines specifically influences how decipherable it appears. Too little space makes it easy for your eye to gloss over the content starting with one line then on to the next; an excessive amount of space implies that when you complete one line of content and go to the following, your eye can lose focus. So you have to strike a happy medium. You can control line divisions in CSS with the ‘line-tallness’ selector. The default quality is normally too small for adequate separation. Line Spacing is in fact called “leading”, which is derived from the procedure that printers used to use to create discrete lines of content in the old days — by putting bars of lead between the lines.
31. Priority (guiding the eye)
A great web outline, maybe more so than any other sort of configuration, is about data. One of the greatest devices in your inventory enabling you to do this, is “priority”. While exploring a decent outline, the client ought to be driven around the screen by the planner. We call this priority, and it’s about how much visual weight diverse parts of your outline have. A basic illustration of priority is that in many destinations, the principal thing you see is the logo. This is frequently on the grounds that it’s substantial and positioned at what has appeared in studies to be the primary spot where individuals look first (the upper left). This is something to be thankful for since you most likely need a client to realize promptly what site they are reviewing. Be that as it may, priority ought to go much further. You ought to coordinate the client’s eyes through progressive steps. For instance, you may need your client to go from logo/brand to an essential establishing headline, via a punchy picture (to give the site identity), then to the fundamental body content, with route and a sidebar taking an optional position in the succession. What your client ought to be observing is dependent upon you, the Web planner, to make sense of.
32. Design it for scanning, not reading
If you want to design an effective website, always consider these three facts about how people use a website:
We don’t read pages. We scan them. We don’t make optimal choices. We satisfy. We don’t figure out how things work. We muddle through.
33. Don’t burden your creativity
It’s always better when following conventions. Conventions are your friends enabling your users not to think while using your website. Don’t make your users think. Make your website self-evident or at least self-explanatory. When you’re creating a site, your job is to get rid of the question marks.
So, these were some of the main principles of good web design. Do you use all of them in your everyday web design routine? Maybe our list lacks some essential points? Please feel free to make your additions at the comment section.
Helga Moreno is a learning junkie, requiring a new dose of fresh information every day. She is always keeping her notepad at hand in order not to miss a single thrilling event happening in cyberspace. She diligently puts down all her thought in order to share the most interesting of them with web community in general and TemplateMonster’s readers in particular. For more inspirational posts check her G+ and Twitter accounts.