10 Principles of Good Website Design
The world of website design is constantly evolving. As new technologies emerge, new website design principles are born. Something that was standard practice two years ago may no longer be effective today.
For example, two decades ago, it was sensible to build websites with fixed widths and layouts. People only used PCs and didn’t have access to different types of devices. So, website design experts strictly created designs for fixed-width websites (approximately 960 pixels wide), expecting them to deliver fairly consistent user experiences to end-users.
A decade later, browsing the Internet on smartphones became the norm. The way people interacted with websites changed forever. Websites with fixed widths and layouts were rejected by smartphone users. So, in 2010, a new concept called “responsive web design” was created by web designer Ethan Marcotte.
He consolidated three existing website design techniques…
- Flexible grid layouts
- Flexible images
- Flexible media and media queries
…into one integrated approach and called it responsive web design. Those website designers who were ahead of the curve in 2010, quickly modified their design principles to make the most of this rising trend. A little over a decade later, over 60% of all global website traffic comes from mobile phones.
That is why it is essential for web and UI/UX design professionals to consistently keep up with the latest technological advancements and trends. If they do not, they won’t be able to future-proof their products and designs.
The New Principles of Website Design
As technology evolves, the choices and expectations of people also evolve with time. While the primary motive of UI/UX designers will always be to solve their users’ problems and to provide them with a memorable experience, the approach to do so keeps improvising. So, standing in 2023, what are the guidelines that can lead to an excellent experience?
Here are the new, updated principles of good website design that are applicable in 2023 and the decade that lies ahead.
1. Responsive Design: Optimise Each Design Element for Mobile Users
If your website’s goal is to generate repeat visits, mobile navigability and responsive layouts should be your two key design priorities. In a recent survey conducted by Google, 80% of participants claimed that they’re likelier to return to websites and web apps that are mobile-friendly. To make mobile experiences seamless, mobile and web app design experts:
- Include only essential visual cues and design elements on the mobile version of the site to ensure it doesn’t look cluttered. Logos, menus, call-to-action buttons, and social media icons are the four essential design elements of this era.
- Use eye-catching fonts to make all text pages (About Us, Service pages, etc.) easier to scan.
- Resize all page elements including blocks of text and all media files for easier user interaction on mobiles.
Websites that lack these design features don’t load correctly on different types of devices.
2. Smooth Performance: Keep Improving the Website’s Load Time Metrics
Slow load times have indelible impacts on visitor experiences, especially for first-time visitors. In the long run, they significantly diminish websites’ ability to convert. Understanding how fast your web pages load and constantly improving upon that time is a critical part of a web designer’s job.
Seasoned web designers speed up load times and outperform their competitors’ websites by taking various steps, such as:
- Make the website 100% mobile responsive
- Resize and optimise media files
- Compress all images on the website
- Minify CSS/JS Files
- Limit 301 Redirects
3. Use Familiar Web Design Conventions: Balancing Consistency and Innovation
Consistency is an eternal principle of web design. When the behaviour of all interactive design elements on a website is consistent with the end user’s expectations, the experience is smooth and intuitive. But, what if you want to be innovative with your designs? Should you stick to age-old conventions of information architecture, interaction design, and visual design?
Or should you choose consistency? Consider the following example to find the answers to these questions:
- You want to present your website’s search bar in an innovative way.
- But, your end-user may want the search bar to be in the same place it is on most websites.
- Moving the search bar to the bottom of the page might be innovative. But, it’s not what the average website user has come to know and expect.
- Your innovative design trick could cause usability issues for your target users.
In web design, there will always be tensions between consistency and innovation. Whenever web designers feel confused between the two, they should stick to familiar web design conventions. Enabling visitors to find information on the website quickly and confidently should be the aim of every web designer.
To achieve this aim, they must stick to age-old conventions of information architecture, interaction design, and visual design. However, web designers have all the freedom to innovate when it comes to making certain actions or functions on their websites easier and quicker for their users. They also have the freedom to innovate with their websites’ visual language.
4. Innovative, Yet Effective Visual Language
Each brand and each website has its own story. All visual elements of a website should be designed to represent this unique story. So, web designers must use a clear and distinct mixture of imagery, colours, icons, typography, and other visual elements to create a unique brand identity for the website.
Using powerful and distinct visual language is the key to creating a recognisable UI. Combine that with well-written content, and you can create a website that’s hard to forget and impossible not to enjoy.
5. Hierarchical Content Structure Designed to Facilitate Visitor Actions
When professional website designers design a brand-new website or upgrade an existing one, they ask two important questions:
- What are the main business objectives of this website?
- How should the different pages of the website be designed to achieve those objectives?
From there, they map out a basic visual hierarchy for the website. They structure the content on the website meaningfully and logically to make it well-organised and easy to digest. They use visual design techniques to ensure that the most important design elements on each page receive the most emphasis.These visual design techniques include using contrasting imagery, efficient use of white space, and user-centric content alignment. By creating such hierarchical visual and content structures, web designers subtly guide their target users. They advance their journeys on the website from “aware” to “interested” to “engaged.”
6. Align Design and Content
A website’s design and content are like the lyrics and chords for a song. They should always be created together. When a website’s content doesn’t match its design, visitors feel that their experiences are jarring and disjointed. When it does, user experiences feel organic and harmonious.
The written content, interactive components, and visual elements of a website should all be in sync. They should work together to cohesively communicate a clear brand message. That’s why website designers and content creators work together early on in the design process. They must be clear on the types of messages they want to convey to target users.
7. Align Design and SEO
Online visibility is key to making your website easily accessible to target users. Web designers must make SEO a key part of their web design strategies to improve their websites’ visibility. Of course, web designers and SEO professionals don’t usually work together. But, there are many things web designers can do to create SEO-friendly web designs. These include:
- Breaking up text in the right spaces to ensure it works well with other interactive elements on the page.
- Leaving space for content creators to add SEO-optimised headlines, image captions, and subheads on each web page.
- Using SEO-friendly URL design to strengthen the website’s ranking signals.
- Using intentional, well-designed CTAs on each page to simplify navigation.
8. Ensure Frictionless Conversions
Signing up, subscribing, or making purchases on the website should be as frictionless as possible for users. To achieve this objective, web designers must eliminate all points of friction from their designs. Some examples of friction points on websites include:
- Distracting visuals
- Confusing labels
- Unclear CTAs
- Small, hard-to-use menu options
All conversion elements on a website: from the sitemap menu to all purchase buttons, should be self-explanatory and easy to access.
9. Always Test Your Prototypes
Before finalising a design, the best web designers always deploy skilled testers to examine all aspects of the website. The testers repeatedly examine the websites across different devices, platforms, and browsers. Once the tests reveal all the flaws in the design, web designers use this info to root out all errors and improve the website’s overall usability.
10. Keep Evolving: Stay Up-To-Date with the Latest Web Design Trends
Website design is a constantly evolving field. Hence, the principles of good website design are also ever-evolving. In the upcoming decade,
- The number of people using smaller-screen devices to access the Internet will keep growing.
- At the other end of the spectrum, more and more people will access the Internet via their smart TVs and console devices.
- The difference in size between the smallest and the largest screens browsing the web has never been bigger and it will keep growing.
- Website designers will now have to cater to two types of users. Those who access the Internet using 4.7-inch mobile screens. And, those who use 40-inch ultra-wide TV screen displays.
That’s why it’s so important for web and UI/UX design professionals to keep learning and evolving. Use these everlasting website design principles to create high-quality website experiences for your target users!