Importance of Web Design

Our 14 key web design principles to help you deliver a great user experience

The best website design should fulfil its purpose by effectively delivering its message while building trust with your audience and guiding them to take the desired action. It is essential to create a great user experience, so that potential customers enjoy interacting with your site and find it useful. It needs to solve a problem for them in the easiest way possible.

Like other forms of design, the best outcome will be due to form and function. A positive user experience is when the site works well and looks good. Both elements are required for your small business website to perform effectively and convert leads.

Your site should stand out from the crowd and differentiate you from your competitors. This will be different for every business but there are some clear guidelines and fundamental principles that we use to create the best website design possible.

The following principles, if implemented well, will contribute to how potential customers perceive your site and your business. They will help you to create a professional and functional site that engages your audience, builds trust and leads to more conversions.

1. Purpose

The first thing you need to clarify is the purpose of your website. Is it to inform, educate, inspire, or convert? Are you looking to tell your brand’s story, or raise brand awareness? Are you trying to showcase your expertise and authority, or build your reputation? Or maybe build a community? Do you need to generate leads or make sales? Most, if not all, websites are trying to do all these things to varying degrees.

Working out your site’s purpose will give you a clearer strategy and help guide the design and content. This process involves defining who your ideal user is. Finding out what problem they have that needs solving and the information they might need. And then thinking about how your website can provide that.

If the important foundational work around your brand is already done, you can use this to help build your site.

2. Simplicity

A website should be simple to use. If your audience finds it difficult to navigate, you have failed at the first hurdle. Start by removing any unnecessary design elements that do not serve a purpose. They are a distraction from the action you are trying to encourage and what the visitors are trying to accomplish.

Avoid using too many colours in your design. Five is the suggested maximum. Typefaces should be legible and large enough to read easily. The suggested maximum is three typefaces in three different sizes.

Use images efficiently and keep graphics to a minimum. They should only be used if they perform a specific function.

3. Credibility

A well-designed website can add credibility to a business, which then establishes trust. It delivers what the user expects and responds intuitively to their actions. Your site should look professional and legitimate. We’ve all visited websites that look amateurish and suddenly lost confidence in that company’s abilities.

Everything from site organisation to visual design and content will have an impact on the perceived credibility of your website.  

4. Consistency

The best design has a consistent overall look, feel and tone across every page. The pages don’t all need to look the same but there should be a clear visual brand identity that ties the whole thing together.

This could include consistent fonts, colours, imagery, backgrounds, button styles and tone of voice. Ideally, you should have layout guidelines for long-form content such as blog posts.

While consistency is important, you should also ensure that the key elements stand out to the user. This is vital when it comes to any calls to action. 

5. Clear Site Architecture & Navigation

Navigation is seen as one of the most important features when it comes to website design. Users need to be able to find the information they’re looking for, and it’s your job to make that task as easy as possible. If they cannot find what they are looking for in the first few seconds, they will likely click away and try somewhere else.

Content should be sorted into clear categories with descriptive titles and pages should be ordered by topic. This will make navigation intuitive and the user journey as frictionless as possible.

6. Visual Hierarchy

The way our eyes perceive information is essential to the user experience and their journey through a website.

The correct parts of your site should get the user’s attention and, in most cases, these will be aligned with the site’s purpose and your business objectives. For example, do you want them to fill in a form, click a button, or call you?  

There are different ways to engineer visual hierarchy including size, scale, colour, typeface, space, balance, symmetry, perspective and viewing patterns. Make sure you use visual hierarchy to draw attention to the most important elements of your site.

7. Content

You could have the most beautiful website in the world, but without good content, it really wouldn’t matter. The best site will have great design and great content. The content should be original, relevant, and centred around the user’s needs.

Your content is another opportunity to attract, engage and influence visitors by converting them into customers. Once you know your site’s purpose, this will help to guide your content.

8. Imagery

When used correctly, images can help create a good first impression of your site. They help to attract attention and break up text to give users a rest from reading.

Your website imagery should reflect and communicate your brand identity. Images should be clear, high-quality, the right size and resolution, and should enforce your message.

Choose wisely and use website images efficiently.

9. Mobile-Friendly & Responsive

A large proportion of internet searches are carried out on mobile devices. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly and responsive. If users land on your site from their mobile and it doesn’t display correctly, they will simply leave.

As well as being mobile-friendly, the best website design should also be compatible across different browsers. Make sure you test for this as part of your design process.

10. Usability

In 1956, cognitive psychologist George Miller asserted that the average person could keep just five to nine pieces of information in their working memory. Miller’s Law has since become a major principle of UX Design.

With this in mind, the best website design avoids big blocks of text and breaks the content into manageable chunks. The use of white or negative space is also advisable to stop a webpage from looking cluttered and too busy.

Leave adequate space between visuals, columns, and lines of type to create a clean design that is engaging, drives focus and is easy to use.

11. Accessibility

You also need to consider accessibility. This means designing in a way that provides equal access to information and functionality, and removing any barriers that might prevent interaction by people with physical or situational disabilities.

An example would be ensuring that the site can be navigated by blind users who use text-to-speech software or text-to-Braille hardware. Another would be ensuring the text and images are large enough for users with poor sight. Or when links are underlined as well as appearing in a different colour to enable colour-blind users to notice them.

An important factor is choosing readable and web-friendly fonts that work on most devices. Accessible fonts should be clear and easy to read at large and small sizes.

12. Load Time

Our attention span is particularly short so if a website doesn’t load quickly, users won’t stick around. According to Google, 53% of users will leave a site if it takes more than three seconds to load.

The best website designs will either be a bespoke site that has been custom-built to be fast and responsive or a site built on a fast website theme.

13. SEO

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the strategy we use to get free traffic from search engines. We use it to move a website further up the search results pages, so more people can find it. The best website design or redesign will be developed with SEO in mind.

Many businesses only think about optimising their site after it has been built, but the two go hand-in-hand. SEO should be incorporated as part of the design services process.

14. Clear Call to Action

The final principle is ensuring you have a clear call to action. This means making it obvious what you want the user to do once they land on your site. Don’t provide too many options; instead, guide and navigate them to take action.

This can be done by having large, noticeable buttons that make it easy to click. The text should be descriptive and persuasive to prompt action. And don’t be afraid to spell it out, using detailed link text like: ‘add to basket’, ‘download the report’ or ‘book a table’.

Website design is largely subjective, but these are some established principles that should be followed to deliver the best user experience.

We Make Media is a Devon-based web design company. We’ve been helping small businesses grow in the West Country since 2010. If you’re interested in a website design for your business, we would be happy to discuss what you’re looking for and how we can help. Book your free discovery call.

Jeff Cooper. 29 September 2022

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