The success of your website depends on how closely you adhere to web design standards. It makes a difference between visitors quitting virtually as soon as they land on your homepage and those who browse your services and goods before making a purchase.
In no way is design an exact science. To construct a professional website, there are several essential ideas and general guidelines that can assist in improving your projects in terms of both usability and aesthetics.
In this article, we'll explore the web design principles, guidelines, and practices for user-centered website design and development.
Professionals from fields as diverse as psychology and behavioral science, physics, ergonomics, and more have contributed to the development of design principles. These guidelines, which are generally flexible laws, help designers create successfully finished goods. They have an impact on the characteristics that are organized and the elements that are picked or skipped.
Design principles make it simple to produce a User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) that is both aesthetically beautiful and effective. Conversions are increased by correctly implementing them. For instance, Pipedrive saw a 300 percent boost in signups after adopting a crucial best practice: simplicity.
Utilizing design principles in your projects will increase the usability of your websites, have an impact on how people perceive them, and ultimately give you the power to decide what is best for your consumers and your web design company.
Although the way your website looks is undoubtedly significant, most visitors do not come to your site to judge how slick the design is. They seek to accomplish a task or discover a certain piece of knowledge.
Unnecessary design components, or those that have no functional purpose, will therefore simply confuse and make it more difficult for visitors to achieve their goals.
When it comes to usability and user experience, simplicity is your best friend. If you have all the necessary page elements, it's tough to design a page that is too simple. There are several methods to use this principle, including:
Here is a fantastic example of HERoines Inc.'s homepage design, which is straightforward but powerful.
2. Visual Hierarchy
Visual hierarchy refers to the arrangement of website elements so that viewers would naturally gravitate toward the most important ones first. It is strongly related to the principle of simplicity.
It's critical to remember that usability and UX optimization's goal is to lead users to take desired actions in a way that feels natural and enjoyable. By altering the size, color, or placement of pieces, you may create a website where readers are drawn to elements first.
The primary heading "Get 3 months of Premium for free" dominates the visual hierarchy in the Spotify sample below thanks to its size and page location. It makes their goal the first thing you notice. The "Get 3 Months Free" CTA is then shown as a call to action. Users can click this CTA to take more action or look through the menu options above.
Making your website's navigation user-friendly is essential for facilitating an easy and quick search for visitors. It's important that users don't struggle to determine which links to click on when they first land on your website. To ensure an effortless navigation experience from point A to point B, minimal resistance should be provided.
To improve the navigation on your website, you can follow these guidelines:
To ensure a smooth user experience, it's important to maintain a consistent look and feel across all pages of your website, including backgrounds, color schemes, typefaces, and even writing style. This consistency improves usability and user experience.
However, it's not necessary for every page to have the same layout. Instead, you can design distinct layouts for different types of pages, such as landing pages or informational pages. By doing this, visitors can easily understand what type of content they can expect to find on each page if you use these layouts frequently.
As an example, Airbnb follows a standardized design for all its "Help" pages, which makes it easier for visitors to navigate and find what they need. If each "Help" page had a different design, it would create confusion and frustration for users.
According to Statista, mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets accounted for 48% of all worldwide page views. Our research also found that 93% of users have abandoned websites that didn't display correctly on their devices.
This underscores the importance of responsive design, which refers to the ability of your website to adapt to the various devices used by your visitors in order to provide a fantastic user experience.
Achieving responsive design requires investing in a highly flexible website structure. When a visitor accesses a responsive website, the content is automatically resized and rearranged to fit the specifications of the device they are using. This can be achieved through HTML templates that are optimized for mobile devices or by building a dedicated mobile website.
Ultimately, providing an excellent experience across multiple devices is more important than maintaining a consistent appearance. It's important to test your website's cross-browser compatibility and mobile friendliness. You may have only used one web browser to visit your website, such as Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox. Open your pages in each of these browsers and check how your elements appear. While they should be similar in most cases, it's important to see for yourself to be sure.
The goal of online accessibility is to create a website that can be used by anyone, including those with disabilities or limitations that affect their browsing experience. As a website designer, it is your responsibility to include these individuals in your UX plan.
Like responsive design, accessibility applies to all aspects of your website, including its layout, graphics, textual and visual content, and page structure. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), developed by the World Wide Web Consortium and the Web Accessibility Initiative, outline the standards for web accessibility. These guidelines broadly state that websites must:
Achieving a balance between originality and meeting user expectations is a major challenge in web design. As experienced internet users, we have become accustomed to certain conventions such as placing the main navigation at the top (or left side) of a page, having a logo located at the top left (or center) of a page, making the logo clickable to direct visitors back to the homepage, incorporating links and buttons that change in appearance when hovering over them, utilizing a shopping cart icon with a numbered badge to indicate the number of items in the cart on ecommerce sites, and providing users with buttons to manually rotate slides on image sliders.
Instead of disregarding web conventions for the sake of originality, it is a mistake to do so. There is still ample room for creativity within these constraints. To illustrate this point, let's briefly consider architecture as another field of design. Building codes exist to ensure that people can comfortably and safely occupy spaces. An architect does not disregard or complain about these codes because they guarantee the safety and comfort of the building's occupants. Regardless of how stunning a building may look, if the stairs are uneven or people cannot escape during a fire, they would prefer to remain outside.
Similarly, meeting user expectations and crafting a memorable experience can go hand in hand. If you deviate from what users expect, they may feel uneasy or even frustrated with your website.
Adhering to web conventions can enhance the credibility of your site, which in turn, fosters trust. If you aim to create a site that provides the best possible user experience, credibility is critical.
Being transparent and straightforward about your product or service is one of the most effective ways to boost your credibility. Don't make your visitors hunt for information about what you offer. Instead, be upfront on your homepage and dedicate adequate space to explaining the value of your offerings.
Additionally, having a pricing page that is linked on the homepage can also improve your credibility. Instead of requiring potential customers to contact you for pricing information, list your prices clearly on your site. This approach makes your business appear more trustworthy and legitimate.
Ultimately, the usability and user experience of your website relies on the preferences of your end-users. If you are not designing for them, then who are you designing for?
While the principles outlined in this list are an excellent starting point, the key to improving your site's design is to conduct user testing, gather feedback, and make changes based on what you have learned.
However, it is not advisable to conduct usability testing alone, as your own biases may influence the results. Instead, recruit testers who have never visited your site before, just like any first-time visitor.
To get started with user testing, here are a few tools you can use:
These guidelines can be useful in shaping the structure of your web pages and website. However, how can you implement these guidelines during the design process? Let's explore some actionable checklists you can follow for user-centered website design and development.
Our checklist is flexible and customizable, allowing you to adjust it according to the unique requirements of your business and users. You can either follow the checklist in sequential order and mark off the items as you complete them or choose to focus on the specific steps that are most applicable to your current situation.
We will guide you through the essential research, design, technical, content, marketing, compliance, and testing phases, ensuring that you have all the necessary components to construct a successful website that caters to your users' needs.
It is crucial to prioritize research before embarking on designing your website. Thorough research enables you to gain a deeper understanding of your target audience, ensuring that the product you create satisfies their desires and requirements.
1. Carry Out User Research
To create a website that effectively addresses customer issues, employ both qualitative and quantitative user research techniques. After comprehending your user base, consistently conduct research to confirm the viability of your preliminary ideas with your intended audience. This process will furnish you with invaluable user insights that can help you decide which design to pursue further.
Gather feedback from your existing or test users. Additionally, you can carry out diary studies, interviews, and focus groups to gain a better understanding of your users and determine whether your design satisfies their unique requirements.
2. Do Market & Competitor Research
Conducting market and competitor research is essential in determining how your website will fit into the current market and identifying strategies to differentiate yourself from competitors.
Prioritizing navigation and branding elements are crucial to develop a visually appealing and functional website that delivers an outstanding user experience (UX) and user interface (UI).
3. Plan Your Site Layout (and make it responsive)
To create an effective website design, begin with a broad perspective and gradually move towards more detailed aspects. Here are some tips to help you get started:
Here's a pro tip: To ensure your website is responsive and functions well on various devices, start strategizing your mobile interface during the initial design phase. To optimize for mobile, adjust elements such as CTAs, images, and navigation menu placements, making them easy for users to interact with on smaller screens.
By developing different interfaces early on, you'll have more time to test them with various users, ultimately leading to a successful website.
4. Use Wireframes to Test Your Layout
After you have a clear understanding of how your website should be organized for users, it's time to put it to the test using wireframes.
Wireframes are two-dimensional visual representations, also known as 'website blueprints,' that are used to outline:
It's important to avoid incorporating branding elements or graphics during the wireframing stage. Instead, utilize wireframes to confirm and test basic interfaces in the design process, allowing you to identify any usability issues early on, before committing significant time and resources to your website.
To create and test wireframes, you can use popular tools such as:
5. Establish Your Branding
To ensure that your website aligns with your product vision, it’s crucial to maintain consistent branding. This means making important branding decisions early on and testing them with users. Here are some tips:
Remember not to include branding elements or graphics in the wireframing stage, as wireframes are designed to validate and test basic interfaces in the design process to identify usability issues early on.
To ensure your website runs smoothly, it's essential to handle technical tasks effectively. Here are three steps you can take to design a high-performing site and prevent technical problems, providing your users with a seamless experience:
6. Register Your Domain Name
To ensure your website has a smooth launch and to prevent technical issues, it's important to register your domain name early in the process. However, don't rush into it as choosing the right domain name can build credibility, increase brand awareness and marketability, and boost SEO rankings.
Here are some tips for selecting a great domain name:
7. Find a Reliable Web Hosting Service
Opt for a dependable web hosting provider as it plays a significant role in your website's performance. Your hosting provider determines several factors, including security, speed, downtime, and SEO rankings.
Consider using a reliable and widely used web hosting service such as:
8. Set Up Your SSL Certificate
SSL certificates are small data files that establish secure connections between web browsers and servers, ensuring that any information entered a website is safely encrypted. Not only do SSL certificates keep data secure and prevent cybercrime, but they also verify website ownership. Most importantly, they instill confidence in users by making them feel safe while browsing your site.
When users see a website with "https://" instead of "https://" or notice a lock symbol in the upper left-hand corner of their browser, they know that the site has SSL certificates set up properly and can trust that their data is secure.
Strategically optimizing both copy and images on your site can help you share essential information, enhance your brand identity, make a positive impact, and increase the likelihood of users converting into paying customers. Here's how to do it:
9. Source and Optimize Your Images
A common mistake in web design is using low-quality, repetitive, or incorrectly sized images that fail to engage and may even frustrate your audience. To make your website's images more impactful, reflect your brand identity, and leave a lasting impression, you need to follow these best practices:
10. Create Engaging and On-Brand Copy
Crafting website copy that strikes a balance between providing detailed information and maintaining interest is a challenging task. Your content should be able to communicate your brand identity, cater to specific user needs, and avoid appearing irrelevant, long-winded, or boring.
Having a great website copy informs customers about your products and helps them connect with your brand, making it crucial to perfect your content.
One effective way to create excellent website copy is to develop a deep understanding of your audience. By building empathy with your users, you can create content that addresses their unique problems and pain points.
There are several other web design best practices that can aid in producing great copy:
Although a significant part of your marketing strategy will be executed after launching your website, initiating some crucial marketing actions during the design phase can assist you in starting on the right track.
11. Make Sure Your Tracking Codes Work
It is crucial to verify the functionality of your website's codes with tools like Google Analytics to ensure effective conversion tracking, conversion rate optimization, ad campaign tracking, and analysis of marketing data.
12. Connect Third-Party Integrations and Plugins
Incorporating integrations and plug-ins can enhance your website's features and analytical capabilities, but having too many connected simultaneously can significantly decrease the loading time. To determine which integrations and plug-ins to include, prioritize those that are aligned with your user and business objectives and the ones you will use frequently.
Here are some recommended marketing plugins:
Ensure that your website conforms to the local laws and regulations to establish trust with users and prevent potential complaints or penalties.
13. Include Site Disclosures
In numerous countries worldwide, such as the United States, site disclosures are mandatory, and they provide users with transparent information about your business and website, which helps establish customer trust. It is essential to ensure that your disclosures are easily accessible and remain permanent features on your website.
Here are some typical disclosures that you may need to include on your website:
14. Consider Data Protection Laws
Adhering to local data privacy and collection regulations is critical to avoid potential reports, fines, and user dissatisfaction. In terms of establishing user trust, it is also crucial to maintain transparency regarding how and why you collect users' information, how it is processed, and how it is used.
To ensure compliance, begin by referring to the applicable data protection laws, such as the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Californian Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and integrate data protection into your web design from the outset.
To design a compliant site:
After putting in all the effort, how do you ensure that your website is successful among the most important audience- your users?
15. Ensure Your Website Functions Well with User Tests
Before launching your website to the public, it is crucial to test it with real users to ensure its viability. Pre-launch testing allows you to assess the functionality of your design, make necessary adjustments, address any bugs or glitches, and guarantee that your customers have the best possible experience.
It is essential to conduct pre-launch testing with people who were not involved in the design process to eliminate bias and obtain genuine user feedback about the site's performance. Here are some techniques to try:
At the heart of effective web design lies a customer-centric approach that prioritizes ease and intuitiveness of their experience. Our comprehensive guide outlines 13 crucial aspects of web design and provides practical tips to implement before, during, and after the design process to ensure continuous enhancement.
1. User-Centric Design
According to Kristopher Tabaie, a web developer at Lesar UK, effective web design goes beyond mere aesthetics. It entails a user-friendly layout, straightforward navigation, and a neat interface that conveys the content clearly. This approach facilitates accessibility for your website, both internally and externally to search engines, by creating a seamless browsing experience.
To make your design customer-centric, start by identifying the end goals of your website and the target audience - whether it's potential clients, investors, or employees. Determine what your users want to achieve and their familiarity with your products, services, or brand. Are they seeking product information, comparing prices, or applying for a job?
For ecommerce businesses, the primary objective is usually to generate sales, with secondary goals such as increasing newsletter signups. Therefore, your design should prioritize a straightforward and appealing browsing and buying experience for your customers.
To effectively identify your customers' needs, utilize a 4-pillar framework comprising the following questions:
Moreover, create buyer personas based on actual user demographics and job roles, and conduct research to comprehend their problems and how your website can address them.
Bring together cross-functional teams, including UX and design teams, SEO specialists, content writers, CSM, and sales representatives, to obtain diverse perspectives on your customers and their requirements.
Establish a panel of test users to gather ongoing feedback. Understanding the characteristics and behaviors of your users makes it easier to pinpoint their pain points.
2. Design Conventions
While it may be tempting to create a unique design for your website, failing to adhere to certain design conventions can result in user confusion and higher bounce rates. To ensure customer satisfaction and familiarity, it is recommended to follow these best practices during the design phase:
To increase the likelihood of user conversions, it is important that your website is well-organized, and information is easily accessible. Consider implementing the following seven best practices to ensure great navigability:
4. Information Hierarchy
The concept of on-page hierarchy refers to the arrangement of website elements in a way that guides visitors towards the most significant information first. By doing so, users can navigate the site in a natural and enjoyable manner.
To effectively achieve this, it is important to utilize the appropriate position, color, and size to draw attention to key elements first. A prime example of exceptional visual hierarchy can be seen on Spotify's Premium offer webpage, where the headline effectively captures the user's attention before guiding their gaze towards the benefits and call-to-action.
Creating a website that is easy to read is crucial for providing a pleasant user experience and generating loyal and satisfied customers. To achieve this, consider the following tips:
Maintaining consistent branding across your website is essential for building customer recognition and establishing trust. It's important to ensure that your branding is appropriate for your industry, as visitors seeking an accountant, for instance, are likely to quickly leave a site that employs bright colors and Comic Sans font.
To achieve effective branding, limit your use of colors to three and maintain a consistent look and feel throughout all pages. Choose colors that elicit the desired emotional response from customers.
Effective visual elements are essential for capturing users' attention and breaking up text, which in turn makes your site more scannable. Additionally, they help customers imagine how they might use your products or services in their daily lives.
To ensure that your website's visuals are engaging and effective, there are several best practices to keep in mind. For example, when designing your site, choose images during the wireframing stage. Whenever possible, avoid using generic pictures and opt for high-quality photos of your products, employees, or premises to create an authentic impression and establish trust.
Be sure to make your images responsive so that they look good across different devices. Additionally, compress them to avoid slowing down your site and include alt text for SEO and accessibility purposes. While animations can be effective for providing instructions, it's important to minimize the size of large files to avoid negatively impacting load speed.
If your business is seasonal, be sure to rotate images regularly to reflect changes in your offerings and ensure that users always see the most up-to-date products.
The purpose of your website is to persuade users to act, such as purchasing a product, signing up for a newsletter, or downloading a lead magnet. To help turn users into paying customers, strategically placed calls to action (CTAs) are essential.
Here are some best practices to make your CTAs stand out:
9. Responsive across devices
With over 50% of website traffic originating from mobile devices, ensuring your website is responsive on smartphones and tablets is crucial for providing a positive user experience. If your website is difficult to navigate or doesn't display properly on smaller screens, users may become frustrated and leave.
During the final design stage, consider implementing these best practices for responsive web design:
Mobile responsiveness is also important for SEO, as non-responsive websites are less likely to rank well on Google's mobile-first index, which may result in lost traffic. According to Shane McEvoy of Flycast Media, "having a website that is not mobile-ready sacrifices valuable traffic."
It's important to ensure that your website is accessible to everyone, regardless of their device, special needs, or location. This means considering compatibility with assistive technologies and making the site easily navigable for all users. When developing your site, it's important to use tools that don't have any built-in accessibility issues.
To make your site more accessible, follow these best practices:
Ranking high on search engine results is essential to make sure that users can find and browse your website. However, it's not just about ticking the boxes for optimization. You need to ensure that your website is user-friendly and meets the needs of your target audience.
To improve your search engine optimization (SEO), consider implementing these best practices:
To build user trust and enhance your brand reputation, it's essential to prioritize website security whether users are just browsing or making payments.
To maintain high levels of security, follow these best practices:
It's crucial to test your website design ideas as early as possible and continuously run user tests until the launch. After the launch, it's essential to perform ongoing testing, especially when adding new features or updates, to identify any bugs that might affect the user experience and cause customer churn.
While web design trends are constantly changing, it's important to remember that user-focused design is always important. By following web design best practices, you can create a great user experience that allows users to achieve their goals easily on your site.
Keep users in mind throughout every stage of the design process, and even after the launch of your site, to foster loyalty and boost revenue. By gaining a deeper understanding of how users interact with your site, you can set your business up for success.
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