Keeping in line with web design best practices is vital for user experience (UX) and maintaining a strong web presence. This is because your website is your digital calling card and you need to make sure it’s presentable, appealing, and attractive.
“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” – Tim Brown, President and CEO, IDEO.
The Importance of Web Design
Your website is your digital business card and one of the most important aspects that make up your online presence. It’s where first impressions come from, and starting off on the wrong foot can be detrimental for your Brand. Think of it this way, your sales and marketing teams bring users to your website, and your site’s design is what keeps them there. Because of this, web design has a big impact on your conversions.
Your website’s design also determines your credibility and signals your Brand’s quality. If someone lands on your site for the first time, you want to make them feel welcome. You want them to view your business as legitimate and trustworthy enough to give you their money. A poorly designed website does the opposite. Thinking of a website as a physical storefront, would you rather walk into a poorly lit and shabby store, or a bright and vibrant one? Exactly.
The sad truth concerning web design is that too many people overlook it. Even worse, you’ll often come across big named Brands with low quality designs. Why? Because they’re already known and people trust them. Unless you’re one of these, your website’s design WILL make or break you.
5 Best Practices for Becoming a Better Designer
There are some essential skills that every digital designer should have, such as creativity and ideation, familiarity with design software, typography knowledge, maybe some coding, etc. All of these things are important, yes, but there’s something more important, something that encompasses all of them. And that is, or rather are, design best practices:
1: Your Design Should Solve a Problem
Our first best practice is that it should solve a problem. Before you begin any design, ask yourself this: what problem are my users trying to solve? This is, after all, why they’ll be on your website in the first place. They have a problem and are looking for a solution to help them out, and that solution is you.
Your objective, therefore, is to convey to them that you are the one to go to. You have to let them know that your services are better than your competitor’s. In this sense, for your design to solve a problem, your users should be able to easily and clearly discern how your Brand is the solution they not only want, but need.
2: Your Design Should Be Easy for Users
Up next, your design should be easy for users. To this end, Aumcore, a responsive design firm, tells us that “[a] seamless UX design doesn’t make the user think twice about what they should do next. Instead, it should adapt to users’ needs and behaviors, and feel natural to them.” Your design should incorporate an intuitive navigation that allows users to easily locate whatever they need.
In other words, we have very small attention spans and are wont to click out of a website if we can’t find what we need within the first couple of seconds after landing. To accommodate, your design should allow users to find what they’re looking for in as few clicks as possible, and a recommended max number is three.
Ease of use goes beyond navigation, though. It expands to formatting, coherency, and other factors we’ll see in the following best practice.
3: Your Design Should Be Consistent
Leading off of ease-of-use, consistency in web design facilitates a user’s interactions with your Brand because it harmonizes and ties everything together. As such, you should maintain consistency in icons, formatting, typography, color, spacing, style, positioning and everything else. Doing otherwise creates a disjointed user experience that’s distracting and unprofessional. Even worse, it’s bad for branding.
Touching on of the most important design elements, it’s very important to have a consistent color palette with a dominant color and one or two secondary ones. To demonstrate this, what well-known brand comes to mind when you see red and white, and similarly, red and yellow? To most, the first conjures Coca-Cola and the second McDonalds. This is because repeated exposure to these Brands has cemented their color schemes in our brains, effectively allowing us to recognize them with ease.
Other things to keep in mind are typography, which should be consistent in font, size and spacing, the size of elements on each page, and how everything relates to each other. If you’re successful in consistency you’ll make your users’ lives easier because it will make everything more predictable (we like predictability), make navigation easier, and further, and improve UX.
4: Your Design Should Be Updated with the Latest Trends
One of the last things you want is for your users to land on your site and feel as though they travelled back in time to 2007. Even worse is if you have poorly rendered images Ad logos. This is why many Brands relaunch their website every couple of years — trends come and go and users like modern sites.
Keep updated on the latest trends and incorporate them. While semi-flat designs with elements appearing on the same surface was big last year, this year we’re seeing a rise in geometric shapes and patterns. Similarly, multi-tone gradient imagery is seeing an increase in use, animations and GIFs are more prominent, and micro animations are especially in.
5: Your Design Should Support Everyone
As important as all of these best practices are, this one is even more so for obvious reasons: everyone should be able to access your website. For this, keep web accessibility, the practice of making your site accessible to people with disabilities, in mind. As an example, use semantically meaningful HTML with textual equivalents for users who can’t see.
Additionally, we live in a mobile world in which a very large number of people browse the Internet exclusively on their mobile devices. Because of this, you have to make sure that your site is accessible for users on all devices — desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets. Your best bet for this is to get a responsive website design in which all elements scale up or down depending on screen size. If you’re unsure as to what to do, consider getting in touch with a responsive design firm that can optimize your site for all users.
Abiding by design best practices goes beyond appearance if we also consider SEO. For example, Google rewards websites with seamless navigation, responsive designs, low CTRs (click-through rates), and overall, good user experience. And because all of these fall within the realms of web design, it’s important not to neglect anything.
To facilitate your internalization of what we covered today, here are the best practices again:
- Your design should solve a problem
- Your design should be easy for users
- Your design should be updated with the latest trends
- Your design should support everyone
- Your design should be consistent