Whether you’re a brand new web designer, or an old pro, a refresher of the best web design principles is always helpful. You’ve probably heard the saying you have to know the rules, so you can figure out when to break them. This is particularly true when it comes to web design. There are some things you should stick with for usability sake, and other things you can play around with until you find an amazingly unique design.
According to Internet Live Stats, there are 1.8 billion websites, but the number changes by the second. Although not all sites are live at any given time, you’re still competing for the attention of a limited number of users. If you want your site to stand out, you have to follow principles that give it excellent user experience (UX), while also adding in some unique elements.
There are dozens of web design principles. We chose the ones we think are most important to a fully functioning and engaging website. Just what are the most important factors of good web design?
1. Know Your Audience
It doesn’t matter how beautiful your site is. If you don’t understand your audience’s needs, you’ll fail to deliver and they’ll bounce away. Start any web design with an in-depth analysis of your user.
Create a buyer persona showcasing the elements of your typical customer. Study internal data, competitor data and website analytics. If you still have questions about what your customers want, send out a survey and ask. The more detailed your person is, the better you can meet the expectations of your site visitors.
2. Limit The Focus
One of the most important web design principles is to keep your design simple. Don’t try to cram everything imaginable into your site. Instead, think about the purpose of your page and how it aligns with your buyer persona. Does the purpose meet a need the consumer has?
Once you have an objective, everything on your page needs to point to the goal. If anything distracts from it, delete it from your page. Keep the design as simple and on-point as possible for the best conversion rates.
3. Test All Features
Forbes reports about 86% of customers would pay more for better customer experience (CX). One your top web design principles should be fully testing any feature on your website. Click through all links, fill in and submit all forms. Make sure any animation works and pages load correctly. Test your site both on mobile and desktop. Enlist the help of a few friends or employees to test the system on different computers and browsers.
4. Balance Positive and Negative Space
Have you ever visited a site so busy and cluttered you got a headache from it all? There needs to be a balance between the positive and negative elements on your page. Give the users’ eyes a break from time to time by adding nothing at all to the page. When you limit the number of items, you draw attention to the most important features.
Web design principles, such as leaving space around images and text make your page more readable and scannable. Put yourself in the shoes of the average person, who has just a few minutes to check out your site. Are the main details easy to find?
5. Use Navigation as a Tool
When someone lands on your page, they will immediately look for your navigation bar to orient themselves to the page and figure out where to go. Although some modern designs do away with navigation elements in favor of a singular focus on the call to action (CTA) button, this isn’t beneficial for most users, who are used to seeing navigational hierarchy near the top of the page.
Do keep in mind web design principles vary between mobile and desktop devices. You might choose to collapse the menu for the mobile version of your web, so users can click on the hamburger icon if they want to expand the menu, but it doesn’t automatically take up precious screen space.
6. Understand Reading Patterns
As long as your website is aimed at left-to-right languages, there is a certain way the gaze moves across the site. Understanding the reading pattern of most users allows you to place the most important elements where they’ll get the most attention.
Eye-tracking research has been going on for decades, but more and more web designs understand how important it is to put the results of these studies into practice within their designs.
If you follow any web design principles, make sure you understand how people read in a Z pattern. They look to the upper left corner first, before moving right across the page. Next, the reader drops down the page diagonally and reads from left to right again.
Understanding reading patterns means you place elements such as the logo and navigation across the top and the call to action across the bottom of the fold.
7. Tap Into Visual Hierarchy
There are a lot of subtle factors in design. For example, the largest elements tend to also be the most important. Your headline, which sums up what the entire page or company is about, tends to be in a larger font than body text, which simply adds more detail. Images can also have a hierarchy. Even your CTA button should be slightly larger than any other buttons on your page.
Understanding the finer web design principles, such as hierarchy helps you tap into the psychology of design. You can even add little elements such as having the model in a photograph face toward the call to action button to draw more attention to the CTA.
Keep Learning New Web Design Principles
Over time, web design principles change as technology shifts. Ten years ago, no one worried about how well a site adapted to mobile devices. Now, designers consider smartphone users first and how mobile friendly their designs are. Keep abreast of new technology and the way people interact with websites. Keep trying new methods, testing them and adapting as needed. With attention to detail, you’ll engage users and keep them coming back for more content.