Web design is a massive and complex field – and there are thousands of principles of good web design. If you want a comprehensive overview of modern best practices, The Principles of Beautiful Web Design is a good place to start – and there are hundreds of other great books about design and web design that you can read to further your knowledge.
But if you don’t have time to read a book about the topic, there are a few principles of effective web design that stand head-and-shoulders above the rest.
Implementing these principles properly results in an aesthetically-pleasing, user-friendly website – and ignoring them can seriously compromise your visual design, lead to poor user experience, and result in a less effective website. Let’s discuss the most important principles of good web design now.
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Always Design With A Purpose In Mind
First and foremost, always consider the purpose of a particular website – and individual web page – when coming up with the design. The entire reason that the website exists is to provide certain functionality for a user.
For example, when you’re building a website for a restaurant, you want to prominently feature things like the menu, contact information, online ordering, phone numbers, and other information – because the purpose of the website is to allow website visitors to learn more about the restaurant, place an order, and get the food they want.
Keeping the purpose of the website in mind helps guide you as you create the design, build different elements on the page, create call to actions (CTAs), and highlight important information.
Guide Users With Visual Hierarchy
Visual hierarchy is one of the keys to a high-quality, well-designed website. In a nutshell, this principle states that more important elements on a website should be larger and more visually distinct from less important elements.
Basically, you use principles of visual design to make frequently-clicked, important elements – such as an “Add To Cart” button on an eCommerce webpage – more distinct than other elements that may not be as important.
By using different images, colours, sizes of web elements, and design elements, a great designer can lay out a web page intuitively and ensure that a website visitor can understand the most important information at a glance.
Follow Occam’s Razor – Simplify, Simplify, And Simplify Some More
When in doubt, simplify. Occam’s Razor is a principle that states that “the simplest explanation is most likely the right one.” This is similar to the well-known KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle, which is widely used in many design fields.
A good user experience is a simple user experience. The too many elements on the page, too much information, and a design that’s too “busy” is likely to increase the chances of a user getting “lost” and failing to understand how to use the website properly.
So keep it simple. Think like a website visitor – and remove any elements that are not necessary on the page. Performing A/B testing and usability testing while developing a website can help with this process.
Focus On Page Performance & Optimize The Site For Faster Loading Times
A fast page load time is essential for a good website. You can have the best, most beautifully-designed website in the world – but if users won’t stick around because it takes too long to load, the website is useless.
Load time is one of the biggest factors related to bounce rates – the percentage of visitors who click a page and then navigate away without clicking another page.
The longer it takes to load your page, the higher the bounce rate. A web page that loads in 2 seconds has a 7.3% bounce rate – but bump that up to 7 seconds, and the bounce rate jumps to 32.3%.
Make sure you optimize image sizes, on-page elements, and your design to minimize load time and maximize website performance.
Use White Space To Keep Designs Uncluttered
White space, also called “negative space” is any space on a website that’s not occupied by an image, design element, text, or anything else. It’s called “white space” because it’s left blank and is unused.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s not important. White space is critical for a good web page layout. It helps visually break up different “chunks” of web elements, images, and information, and reduces cognitive load for visitors.
Imagine if you clicked on a webpage and it was crammed full of dozens of images, buttons, and text blocks – you wouldn’t know where to start! But by dividing up different sections, simplifying the design, and using white space to separate different design elements, you can get much better results.
Create Intuitive Navigation Menus
Navigation menus can make or break the user experience for your website. Intuitive menus let users quickly visit different pages without losing their place. Make sure you create intuitive navigation menus by:
● Using descriptive navigation labels
● Avoiding drop down menus, when possible
● Limiting the number of displayed menu items, and prioritizing the most important pages
● Using “breadcrumbs” to keep users informed of their location and assist them when navigating back to previous pages
● Implementing mobile-friendly features like fixed menus and “hamburger buttons” for expanding menu options
Keep Your Design Consistent
Consistency in typography, colours, design, and layout are important when building any website. You don’t want a user to feel like they’re using two (or more) different websites – but if they click a web page and it doesn’t match the previous page, that’s exactly what will happen.
Always keep your designs consistent to avoid user confusion, and create a more professional, visually-appealing website.
Follow Modern Design Conventions & Best Practices – Don’t “Break The Mold”
Where would you click to access “My Account” on a website? You’d click on a button or link on the upper-right corner of a webpage.
How about to navigate back to the homepage? You’d click on the upper-left – either on the logo of the website, or on a “Home” button.
What if you want to filter your results after a search? You’d tick some boxes on the left side of the webpage, next to a list of your initial search results.
These are all examples of common web page design conventions. There’s no specific reason that these designs are used by the vast majority of websites. Over time, they’ve simply been adopted as the standards that users expect.
But just because these conventions are arbitrary doesn’t mean they’re meaningless. You need to follow typical web design conventions wherever possible – because that ensures that users will know how to use your website!
Because they already have a lot of experience using other websites, website visitors intuitively understand modern web design conventions. This helps them navigate through unfamiliar websites quickly. If you break these conventions, all you’re doing is increasing the difficulty of using your website – which you want to avoid at all costs.
Follow These Principles To Enhance Your Website Designs
If you follow these 8 simple design principles, you can build better websites that are aesthetically-pleasing, easy to navigate, and encourage users to convert through strong CTAs.
Need help with web design in Australia? Australian Internet Advertising is here to help. Our team of developers can help with your project – whether you’re redesigning your existing website or looking to build a brand new website for your business. Contact us online to learn more about our skills and expertise, and to discuss your project in further detail.