Websites that are easy to use, highly engaging, and optimized for user experience perform better. That’s easy to say, but how do you actually design a website for the user? From visual hierarchies to neat navigation and compelling content layout – there’s a lot that goes into good web design.
Here are 10 of the most important web design principles to apply to your website.
1. Give Users a Smooth Ride
If users have to jump through hoops to find their way around your website, they’re probably going to give up.
Good web design should be intuitive. Users don’t need to think hard when their web pages are self-explanatory. This frees up their mind to focus on what you’re saying, what you’re offering, or what action you want them to take.
Generally, the less your users have to do, the better. This could include removing long forms and consolidating overlapping pages into a single page.
Follow the generic conventions of page layout such as having your logo in the top left and your menu top and center. By meeting expectations, your users will feel familiar and at ease on your website.
2. Direct User Attention
You’ve managed to bring people to your website – awesome! Now, how do you keep their attention? Good web design uses visual and written cues to lead the user’s gaze and keep them curious to find out more.
Create a visual hierarchy to guide your audience. All content should flow logically, building on what came before and pushing readers on to find out what comes next.
Use size, color, and contrast to make key information stand out. The goal is to guide the user exactly where you want them to go – without them even thinking about it.
3. Employ Effective Writing
It’s not just visuals that matter with web design. The way you write, what you say, and how you organize text can all have a huge effect on user experience. Some of the most important principles to keep in mind include:
- Concise – Writing should be easy to read and digest. Use short, concise sentences and break up chunky text into small paragraphs.
- Quick – Most users will scan your content rather than read it. Make your layout scannable by using appropriate headings and sections.
- Easy – Use plain, natural, and objective language. Avoid technical jargon, confusing vocabulary, and overtly salesy language.
- Consistent – Keep your tone and voice consistent throughout your website. Whatever page your user is on, it should feel familiar and in line with your brand.
4. Use a Scannable Layout
Users want to jump in and find what they’re looking for quickly. That’s why most users scan websites rather than reading the fine details.
Design your website layout accordingly. Research has shown that people tend to scan either in a Z pattern or an F pattern. Most importantly, users read left to right and top to bottom. Your content should work in harmony with this.
In addition to adding appropriate headings and breaking up text into bite-sized pieces, try using bullet points and lists. Highlight key information and use images to convey your messages quickly.
5. Aim for Simplicity
“Keep it simple” is one of the golden rules of design. Extravagant design and unnecessary elements distract users from more important things.
Don’t confuse your users or distract them with unimportant details. Keep your visuals and messaging simple and clear. Restrict yourself to two or three colors and don’t overcrowd your pages. White space can be pretty powerful.
6. Embrace White Space
You hardly notice it, but that space around your website elements is a key player in effective web design. When you overcrowd your web pages, it’ll overload the user’s mind. By preserving plenty of white space, you make it easier for users to orientate themselves.
Plus, white space is what makes your important information pop off the screen. For example, by giving your call to action space to breathe, it’ll be more noticeable.
Overcrowding web pages is actually more common than you might think. To help you avoid other web design pitfalls, check out the most common web design mistakes.
7. Keep Things Consistent
The usability of your website will improve when you have consistent messaging, branding, and design.
When your website is consistent, users can quickly and easily pick up information and learn how to use your website without hassle. Consistency makes users feel at ease and familiar, wherever they are on your website.
Focus on keeping these areas consistent:
- Visuals – Keep your font sizing, buttons, labels, colors, and other visual elements the same throughout your website.
- Function – Keep controls consistent so your user knows what to expect when they click on something, scroll or fill out a form.
- Voice – Develop a clear voice that aligns with your branding and messaging. Use this throughout your website, right down to the error messages.
8. Speed Up Load Time
We all know the agony of visiting a slow website. If your pages take too long to load, you’ve already lost your user’s attention.
The truth is, website design choices can have a significant impact on your website’s load speed. For starters, reduce your image file sizes and optimize your images for the web.
Using browser caching tools, reducing HTTP requests, and hosting videos on a third party site can all help you speed up your website.
9. Make it Mobile Friendly
To keep up with your competitors it’s crucial that your website design supports screens of all sizes. Why? Because more and more users are visiting websites on their phones, tablets, and laptops.
The mobile-friendly design drives up conversions and improves user experience. And it’s good for your search engine rankings because Google preferences mobile-optimized websites.
10. Test and Adjust
No web design is complete without thorough testing, fixing, and optimizing. Testing your web design can give you hugely valuable information about problems and weak points.
In many cases, you won’t know what will work with your target audience until they start interacting with your site. By conducting ongoing tests, you can figure out what is working and what needs work.
At the end of the day, optimizing web design for user experience should be an ongoing process. Apply the tips in these articles and then head over to our 6 Tips from professional web designers for more expert advice!