A good website design is more than just pretty pictures slapped onto a site, it is the heart of your online presence and is usually the first point of contact for your potential clients.
With that in mind, it is important to understand what makes a website perform well, attract qualified leads & keep your visitors engaged.
Designing a new website should be a fun and pleasurable experience however, there are a few basic design principles that should be considered in order to design the perfect website.
Good design should solve problems and communicate your message effectively to your potential clients.
By applying some proven design principles when having your website designed, you can make your website more appealing to visitors and more effective in achieving your objectives.
Basic Design Principles for An Effective Website
Visual hierarchy is one of the most important principles behind good website design. Visual hierarchy is when a visitors attention is brought to the most important elements on your website without having to read the content or search around the page.
￼Image Source: Techjini
Certain parts of your website are more important than others and should therefore stand out more (headings, forms, calls to action, buttons, value proposition etc)
For example, if you have multiple elements on a page, make sure that your calls to action are emphasized with a larger buttons and/or bolder colors and texts.
However, in order to effectively leverage the principles of visual hierarchy, you need to first determine your business objective.
Here are 6 principles you can use to establish visual hierarchy:
When people are reading we tend to read the bigger elements on a page first, so emphasize important content by making it bigger.
If the graphic treatment or color contrast is strong enough, you can often override the top-down or left-to-right reading habit and draw attention to the largest element on the page.
Bold color and high contrast
This one is pretty straightforward — bright and bold colors stand out and draw attention.
When put against a muted or grayscale background, bold color can deliver a striking effect.
Typeface weight and pairing
The weight of the stroke is the most important font attribute for establishing visual hierarchy. That’s why we often use bold type to emphasize certain phrases in an article.
In addition, word placement, style (e.g. serif and sans serif), and modifications like italics and underlining also affect the visual hierarchy of the text.
￼Image Source: Digital Marketer
Headings and Subheadings
The use of headings and subheadings in an article or a text-heavy page helps create visual hierarchy.
Set the style for H1, H2, and H3 tags so they’re consistent across the entire website, making it easy for visitors to understand the hierarchy of information.
Our brains are used to reading text that’s arranged in a grid of vertical or horizontal lines.
Anything that breaks the grid, such as text that’s arranged on a curve or at a diagonal, will automatically grab viewers’ attention and become the most prominent element on the page.
Space and Texture
Instead of making everything bigger and louder, you can call attention to an understated design element by putting ample space around it.
The combination of typeface, point size, tint, weight, letter spacing, line spacing, and general spatial distribution creates a holistic “texture” for a layout.
Texture and tone influence the order in which people read the text. A shaded box, for example, gives emphasis to the content inside the box and draws the reader’s attention.
Attractive Clean Design
When you’re designing a website, make sure all visitors are able to access all the information quickly and easily.
Here are 4 principles you can use to establish an attractive clean design:
With the current surge in mobile device usage it’s necessary to make sure your website can be viewed anywhere by your users on any device.
With a mobile responsive website, all content and pages are flexible across all screen resolutions and devices. Whether you’re viewing a website on your smartphone or a laptop, it will be unified and easy to navigate despite the differing screen sizes.
Providing an optimal experience for the user across the board, responsive web design means your user can read and navigate the site with minimum resizing and scrolling.
Whether it’s page layout or navigation, a website needs to be intuitive to use. That means that your visitors can find what they need and take the desired actions in the most efficient way possible.Don’t make your visitors jump through hoops to use your website.
If you put a link to every single page on your website in the navigation bar, it’s going to look chaotic and overwhelming.
Visitors will get confused, and the confused mind says, “No!”
Design your website menu to show only high-level categories. Slowly drill down as the user goes deeper into the site.
￼Image Source: Smart Passive Income
White space is empty or negative space. It’s the area on a website that is not covered or occupied by text or images.
Using white space will help you balance design elements and organize content to improve the visual communication experience and hold your visitors attention.
The reduced clutter makes it easier for visitors to naturally focus on important elements on your site.
Just take a moment to think about what you do when you run into a very busy website or run into a wall of text…
More than likely you scroll down the page or even click away from the site. Good design should facilitate usability of your website and help users find what they need easily.
When you design with white space, consider the following:
- Legibility: Use white space to make your text more legible by considering font, size, color, style
- Branding: Use white space to communicate your brand image. For example, a lot of negative space between design elements usually reflects minimalism and luxury. On the other hand, a lack of white space is often associated with being “informative,” as in the case of many news websites.
- Focus and attention: The white space around a design element helps you direct visitors’ attention, and it’s particularly useful for guiding them through interactive content.
The more choices you provide your website visitors with the less likely they become to complete your desired action. Every choice that you make available increases the amount of time required to make a decision.
On conversion-focused designs, such as landing pages, it’s a very good idea to minimize the number of choices available.
For example, most landing pages have no header section or navigation to click through to another page. They simply feature a hero image, concise text, and one prominent call to action to make it clear what the visitors are expected to do.
It’s often tricky to determine the ideal spacing between design elements. When objects are grouped together, they tend to get perceived as one object.
If you have a lot of content on a page, using a grid system can help achieve a clean and organized look.
Grid systems are visual devices that have been used for centuries to give our brains a structure for understanding content on a page.￼
A grid system doesn’t have to be restrictive.
You can break the grid to call attention to specific content, making the page design even more powerful.
Most designers like to work with grid systems with multiple columns for creating groupings that are visually exciting.
Apple Australia using a 6 column grid system:
￼Image Source: Web3 Blog
Divine Proportions – Golden Ratio
The Golden Ratio, 1:1.618, is a mathematical ratio often found in nature, that makes all things proportioned to it aesthetically pleasing.
Here’s what the golden ratio looks like:
￼Image Source: Wikipedia
Over it has discovered that the brain seems to be hardwired to like objects and images that follow the Golden Ratio.
When applied to design, it often results in an organic and natural-looking composition that’s pleasing to the eye.
Many artists and architects have proportioned their works to approximate the golden ratio. A famous example is Pantheon built in Ancient Greece:
￼Image Source: idFive
Can it be used for web design?
￼Image Source: Geek.com
Here’s National Geographic:
￼Image Source: Canva
￼Image Source: Facebook
You can determine the dimension of different elements on a page using the Golden Ratio. If your layout width is 960px, divide it by 1.618 and you get 594px. Now you know that the content area should be 593px and sidebar 367px.
It’s also popular for sites to set the width of a two-column layout based on the Golden Ratio.
Make your life easier by starting with the Golden Ratio diagram and use the squares to guide the placement of text and images.
Rule of Thirds
A simplified way to use the Golden Ratio for composition is to follow the Rule of Thirds. This rule has been used by artists for centuries. And once photography came along, it became a basic principle for photographers as well.
Now the rule of thirds is also being applied to website design to create beautiful eye catching websites.
If you divide a web page into 9 equal parts with two horizontal and two vertical lines, your visitors’ attention will most likely be drawn to the intersections of the lines:
The top left intersection tends to draw the most attention, making it the ideal location for the important information.
￼Image Source: Clockwork Design Group
Find Ideas for Your Own Website Design
When designing and developing your website, go to Google and search keywords relating to your product or service and look at some of the top ranking sites for ideas.
If you’re looking to update your current website but don’t have the budget to deploy a pricey website designer or developer, consider using a drag and drop page builder.
There are many page builders available that will work with your existing WordPress website that make it very easy to edit your website with drag and drop elements such as columns, grids, carousels, images, videos, product galleries, portfolios, and more.
The Beaver Builder plugin in particular provides professionally designed templates & complete sites to make designing easy and save you time. Simply choose a template or pre-built site, replace the images and text with yours, then hit publish.
As much as the internet is about unique, original content, when it comes to websites there is a distinct list of requirements to follow. Your website design needs to be both aesthetically pleasing and financially rewarding.
Following the principles and tips described above can help you increase conversion rates and reduce bounce rates. They can also help you guide your website visitors toward a desired next step in the conversion process.
Even if a design is pretty, it might not be useful or practical. Keep that in mind when designing your website.