Your website header is the first impression site visitors have of your brand. If you don’t grab their interest in those first few moments, you risk losing their attention. The header must be attractive, unique, reflect your brand values and have space for other information. Excellent website header design requires attention to detail and knowing which features stand out from the rest.
There are 1.5 billion websites in existence, but just under 200,000 are active. The numbers show there is a lot of competition for user interest. Your website header design must hit all the points needed if you have any hope of capturing users and keeping them on your page.
Your header appears on every single page of your website, making it a crucial design element at your disposal. You need a balance of images, text, colors and appeal. We’ve thought about some of the best tips for creating a fantastic header and chosen eight essential elements to website header design.
1. Study Other Websites
Start by looking at the sites of your competitors. What do they have in their headers, and do you feel it is effective or needs improvement? Your goal isn’t to copy what others have done but to get an idea of which things work best for your target audience. Also, look at some award-winning sites through places such as Awwwards.com to see stellar designs.
2. Know Your Purpose
The one thing website header design should do is help accomplish your goals for your website. Do you want to provide easy information to visitors or drive them toward taking action? Whatever your purpose, your header must focus on the objective and move people through the buyer’s journey.
Some vital elements in a website header include navigation, calls-to-action (CTAs) and contact information. You should also have a company logo for branding and a tagline to explain what your mission is.
3. Use Readable Fonts
One mistake amateurs make in website header design is choosing a pretty but not readable font. It’s more important your text is clear and viewable on different size screens than gorgeous looking.
What percentage of web users are mobile these days? The World Advertising Research Center (WARC) predicts 72.6% of people will access the internet via smartphone only by 2025. As you design your header, make sure it works on both mobile and desktop. The most readable fonts scale automatically and are simple serif or sans-serif type.
4. Fill the Screen With a Photo
One of the trends we’ve seen in recent years is a full-width hero image for a site’s header. The style works exceptionally well for travel-related websites or companies with unique ties to the natural world. Keep in mind if you use a picture for your background, you need to use some transparency effects for navigational features not to distract. Your tabs may have a transparent background, and the letters be a vivid white.
Also, be careful in your website header design to choose a photo with some light or dark areas where text appears. Similar colored sections prevent words from blending into the background and becoming unreadable. Another option is to place a background on buttons and behind text and make it partially transparent, so parts of the photograph still show through.
5. Choose Changing Headers
Another trend in the last few years is website header design with changing height as the user scrolls. The header stays at the top of the screen at all times in a fixed position, but the larger elements, such as the tagline or hero shot, disappear into a thin bar for navigation and with the company logo.
Narrow headers work well because they keep key elements where the user can access them without overtaking the entire page. E-commerce sites may benefit from this type of design. The focus goes to the product description. The fixed bar still allows the user to navigate back to the home page or categories with a single click.
6. Enhance User Experience with Special Effects
Your header serves as a map of your site. You can show visitors where they are, no matter how deep into the hierarchy they travel. Use animated underlines, changing colors on tabs and other shifts to indicate if a person is on a specific page.
There are dozens of different ways you can create special effects for your site’s roadmap, but they should trigger on hover or click and use a consistent method throughout the site and not just in the website header design. The more predictable your design, the easier time consumers have of utilizing the functions.
7. Focus on Your Logo
Your logo is the most essential branding effort you have. You want people to see your logo before they see anything else. You also want them to remember your brand image, so when they come across it again, they associate it with your site. Your header is where your logo lives. You have to figure out the best sizing, placement and white space around it.
Traditionally, logos go in the upper left or the top center of the page. You probably shouldn’t stray too far from the norm in this area, but play around with the size to make sure you can see the logo and use it as a place marker for the homepage. Allow enough white space, so the logo draws the eye, but not so much it creates awkward spacing. Align other elements in your header with your logo.
Test Different Versions
Your website header design isn’t something you create once and forget. As your company grows, you may need to add categories. Technology also shifts and advances every year, so you may need to update to take advantage of new trends or better serve your customers’ needs.
Keep trying new things. Split test changes to see what your users respond best to. With a little extra effort, your header will rise above any of your competitors’ websites and help gain you new fans.
About The Author
The Designerly staff is committed to providing well-researched and ongoing learning resources. We're dedicated to educating you on key design concepts and showcasing strategic marketing plans to help grow your business.