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The 10 Best Website Design Best Practices. – Ndiwano
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The 10 Best Website Design Best Practices.

These days, if a company doesn’t have a website, it’s almost like they don’t exist. A website acts as a digital business card in a world that increasingly operates online, allowing brands and businesses to provide valuable information about their products and services while connecting with potential customers. Websites can be used for lead generation and increase conversion rates, boosting overall succes

However, not all websites are created equal. A website should be well-designed to achieve its goals successfully (e.g., convert online visitors to paying customers). A well-designed website will be clear, easy to navigate, and user-friendly. The design will draw the web visitor in, engage them, and essentially hold their hand as they peruse the online platform.

An easily visible menu bar at the top of the website’s homepage is one example of logical web design in action. That said, it takes far more than a menu bar to create a stellar site. But just what makes for great website design? Certain tricks have been shown to boost a page’s user-friendliness. This guide covers:

  • Why are web design best practices so important?
  • The top 10 website design best practices

Why are web design best practices so important?

In an age when so much business is done online, a well-designed website is no longer just “nice to have.” It’s a must. Even a seemingly small design detail like a clear menu bar can be important—making or breaking the relationship with a potential customer.

Without this small but important addition, a web visitor may struggle to find the webpage they need. In the worst-case scenario, the visitor may get so frustrated that they leave the website—a lost opportunity for the brand or business hoping to win that potential customer over.

Here are a few more general reasons brands and businesses should pay attention to website design best practices:

  • Create a great first impression: When visitors come to your website, you want them to be interested and engaged. A poorly designed website can quickly send visitors running. In contrast, a well-designed website will draw them in and encourage them to keep clicking and spend more time on the site. Again, think of a website like a modern business card. It’s all about first impressions.
  • Keep up with the competition: Your brand or business likely has competitors who offer similar or even identical goods and services. When shopping around, consumers may take website appearance and ease of use into consideration. If your competitor’s website is more visually appealing or easier to navigate, a potential customer may turn to them instead.
  • Increase conversions: If you sell products via your website (for example, you have an e-commerce website), you probably want to use it to boost conversions and get more online visitors to turn into paying customers. A well-designed site can help you reach that objective.
  • Boost business success: An increase in conversions means increased profits, which leads to business growth. Even if you don’t sell products directly on your website (e.g., you have a brick-and-mortar retail store), you can still use this platform to attract consumers to your brand or business, engage with them, and direct them to your store.
  • Improve your SEO rank: Search engine optimization (SEO) rankings take into account website visitors’ statistics, including how much time people spend on a site. Having people arrive on your site and then quickly leave again can increase so-called bounce rates and hurt your SEO rank. Conversely, having people spend more time on your site and click on more different pages can help SEO.
  • Maintain consistent branding: You likely have an established brand identity that you’ve developed to help set your company apart from competitors in the field. Your brand identity consists of everything from the appearance of your logo to the color schemes and jargon you use in your marketing campaigns. Your website is a valuable tool in reinforcing this brand identity.
  • Save money on marketing: A well-designed website can be a valuable promotional tool, which you can leverage in a variety of digital marketing spaces, from social media to blogs. By investing in a well-designed website once, you have a useful tool you can use over and over again, sharing it across various platforms to raise your company’s profile.

The value of great web design can be seen in a number of statistics. For example, users decide in about 50 milliseconds whether they’ll stay on a website or click onward. Here’s more food for thought: 38% of people will quit a website if they find the layout or content isn’t aesthetically pleasing. When it comes to websites, the truth is that people do judge based on appearances.

Note that web design isn’t the same as web development. While the design is about how a website looks (its form), development is about its function. For example, if you click on a button that says, “Contact Us,” does it actually direct you to a landing page with contact information? Think of it this way: Web development refers to what’s happening behind the scenes (e.g., the coding that determines how the website reacts when the user clicks on a button). Web design is what you see front and center.

Looking to get an estimated cost for designing a website? Use the free website design cost calculator to get an estimated website design cost.

The top 10 website design best practices

So, now that the benefit of good web design is clear, the question remains: Just what is good web design? People may differ in their preferences regarding aesthetics. For example, some people may like a sleek and modern style with minimal color, while others may prefer a more vibrant look with lots of color and graphics. But these personal preferences aren’t what makes a web design “good” or “bad.”

Accessible web design best practices ultimately come down to a few basic design elements, all of which add up to one thing: They enhance the user experience for the person browsing the website. Here are some essential website design best practices that designers implement to make a stunning site.

1. Easy navigation

A well-designed website is easy for a person to navigate. Good website navigation is characterized by a primary navigation bar (menu bar) with clear language telling the user what they’ll find when they click on a page (e.g., “services,” “contact,” “about”). These signposts should be clear, simple, and relevant to your website. They should also be visually easy to read (e.g., a clear font against a plain background).

It’s also helpful to include a navigation map in the site’s footer, a search bar so people can look for specific keywords, and breadcrumbs on each page that track the user’s journey throughout the website, allowing users to easily see where they are and retrace their steps if needed. Here’s a good example of great website navigation on Adriatic Luxury Hotels:

Adriatic Luxury Hotels Ndiwano

The menu bar is clear, easy to read, and precise. The navigation is also subtly divided to serve two target audiences: There are general tabs for consumers seeking information (e.g., “special offers”) and tabs for those ready to take action (“online check-in” and “book now”). Notably, those “take action” buttons are more vibrant with an orange hue, ensuring a visitor who already knows what they want to do finds where to go quickly.

2. Text minimization

Large chunks of text tend to be a turn-off on digital screens. This is especially true for people accessing a website via their tablet or mobile device. Usually, when people visit a website, they already have a mission in mind—they want to get information or find a product, for example. They don’t want to read a lot of words. They just want the bare minimum information they need to achieve that mission!

So, it’s advisable to minimize text on the screen. Slack is a great example:

Slack Ndiwano

Why does it work? There aren’t more than 100 words on this page, but you get all the information you need. The text in the top blue bar tells you what Slack is (“your digital HQ”) and what it’s for (keep your teams connected). This is followed by a brief call to action (CTA) in copywriting style (“Transform the way you work …”). The small amount of text is perfectly complemented by obvious CTA buttons (e.g., “Talk to Sales,” “Try for Free”).

3. Consistent color scheme

A consistent color scheme is part of any strong visual brand identity. Think of some of the biggest brands you know—you can probably immediately name their signature colors. For example, Coca-Cola has red and white, while Walmart has their blue/yellow scheme, and McDonald’s has the golden arches against a red backdrop. A website should reflect a brand’s color scheme. Facebook is a great example of this:

Facebook Ndiwano

The signature Facebook shades of dark blue, lighter blue, and white are pretty easy to recognize. Also, note how the color scheme is carried over in other elements of Facebook’s visual brand identity, like the logo. The simplicity is a testament to the fact that color schemes don’t need to be complicated. A few complementary tones that go well with one another will do the trick.

A professional web designer will know what colors match and can propose color palettes that you can then use throughout your website (and in other branding materials). People without design experience are often surprised by what seemingly opposing hues actually work well together. You can take a look at a color wheel to get a sense of how it works.

4. White space

While a consistent color scheme is important to web design, a lack of color is just as critical in the design process. White space helps keep a website from looking cluttered or overfull. It technically refers to what designers call “negative space,” or the areas of the page between elements. Margins, gutters, and in-between graphics are all important zones for white space. Quip is a great example of this website layout best practice:

Quip Ndiwano

What does this white space accomplish? It promotes a tidier appearance, creates a balanced visual effect, and makes it easier to read the content. When the eye isn’t overwhelmed by text and images, it’s easier for web visitors to register what’s on the screen and to act accordingly. For example, white space around a CTA button like “Shop Now” allows the eye to zoom in on it (and, hopefully, the user will click)!

5. Texture

A website is only visible on a two-dimensional screen. So, how can it have texture? When using this term, web designers refer to visual texture. It’s actually possible to use imagery to give a page an almost three-dimensional appearance, making it look like you could actually touch it. A textured page helps recreate the physical sensation of touch but through sight, adding depth. Here’s an example from Empire Vintage:

Empire Vintage Ndiwano

This is clearly a visually captivating webpage. But why does it work? First, check out the page background. Instead of a single solid block of color, you can see that the background has a slight pattern to it, mimicking the appearance of a painted wall. This creates that textured appearance, which is enhanced by the visual elements like the signs (the navigation buttons at the top) and decor (e.g., the mannequin).

Stacking layers of visuals in this way adds depths to the page, making it more interesting. Nonetheless, note that textured doesn’t mean cluttered or messy. This page still respects other key rules of a website that support usability and clarity. There are clear navigation buttons, plenty of white space, and a cohesive color palette. Further, there’s minimal text and clear typography.

6. Images and visuals

Images are an essential part of any website, helping balance text by visually engaging the viewer. Visuals can also be more compelling, as people often tend to be more moved by what they see versus what they read. Plus, some people simply process visual imagery better than text. Finally, visuals and images help keep a website from looking boring—the last thing you want.

There are many ways to incorporate visuals effectively into your website. Further, there are also many different types of visuals you can play with. Examples include photographs, infographics, memes, gifs, videos, screenshots, and animations. While you don’t want to overwhelm people with visuals, it’s good to provide enough diversity to keep the website lively and interesting. Toggl offers a fantastic example:

Toggl Ndiwano

The website has a video as the background, showing a person using a three-scoop ice cream scooper. The video concludes with a triple scoop ice cream cone. The visual is unusual (whoever saw a three-scoop ice cream scooper?) and compelling. It also speaks perfectly to the Toggle brand, which is all about saving time and increasing efficiency. The minimal text and high-quality color palette complete the impact.

7. Dynamic content

Also known as adaptive content, dynamic content refers to content that changes according to the user’s behavior. It allows for more personalized and user-friendly browsing, creating a more satisfying experience overall. An example of dynamic content is a landing page that adapts to a user’s location based on IP address. For instance, the appearance of an EU landing page may differ from that of a U.S. one.

Dynamic content can be very useful in increasing conversions. For example, an e-commerce site can offer a user personalized recommendations based on past browsing or buying. Dynamic content requires attention to both web development and design, bringing together the “back of house” and “front of house” operations to create an overall responsive design. Booking.com is a great example:

Booking Ndiwano

A person in the United Kingdom who visits the hotel bookings portal and searches for hotels in New York will find they are being carefully catered to. Recognizing a UK IP address, the site is automatically configured to British English and currency (pound sterling). The reviews presented are also tailored to the user’s home market, with a U.K.-based review appearing. The visual touch of a Union Jack affirms this visually.

8. Powerful CTAs

Your entire website should be geared toward some CTA. For example, it could be getting the visitor to buy a product, sign up for a newsletter, subscribe to a blog feed, start a free trial, or simply learn more about the products and services your brand or business offers. A CTA will generally use active, promotional-type language, like “Shop Now,” “Get Started,” “Find Out More,” etc.

Your website may have multiple CTAs, with different CTAs appearing on different landing pages according to their purpose. When you have a CTA, make sure it pops. CTAs should stand out visually, with color, typography, design, and image that sets them apart from the rest of the page. This ensures that a person can quickly identify the CTA and take action as required. Nintendo offers a great example:

Nintendo Ndiwano

The CTA here is “Learn more.” It’s accompanied by a brief heading telling you exactly what you can get if you click the button (“Pre-order digitally now—Play at launch”). The copywriting already tells you why you’d want to click. The CTA button itself is bold and red, matching the Nintendo logo header in the other corner. It stands out against the white background and has plenty of white space around it.

9. SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical part of any website’s design and development. Great SEO makes it easier for people to find your website online. It will also allow your website to appear higher in Google’s search rankings. Great SEO design considers everything from how pages are labeled to the titles of images and the content on the actual page (e.g., keyword usage).

It’s important to take into account not only SEO for desktop but also SEO for mobile. A mobile-friendly design is now a factor in how well a webpage does in Google rankings. If a desktop design isn’t adapted for mobile, users may experience problems, such as slow loading time or elements not appearing where they should. Shutterfly offers a great example of SEO-friendly design. Here’s the desktop site:

Shutterfly Ndiwano

When you go to the mobile site, you’ll find the entire design is adapted for a vertical, small mobile screen. In addition to using SEO best practices, you’ll find that Shutterfly adheres to other rules of thumb outlined in this guide. There are clear CTAs, a set color palette, and plenty of white space. Visual elements help add depth and make the page more engaging.

Shutterfly 2 Ndiwano

10. Storytelling

A well-designed website uses the above best practices to metaphorically take the user by the hand and lead them through the site. Ideally, that web visitor’s journey concludes with them pursuing a certain CTA. Storytelling can help contribute to this journey, drawing in the web visitor and encouraging them to continue to the final goal (buy a product or service).

People are naturally captivated by narratives, and incorporating brand storytelling into a website can help engage visitors. This doesn’t mean you have to add huge narrative chunks of text to your website. Storytelling can be much simpler—for example; it can be conveyed through imagery. Zillow offers a great example of this:

Zillow Ndiwano

The photo clearly shows a family moving into a new house. There’s a moving truck being unloaded, and people are carrying furniture and boxes into the home. The photo alone is telling a story—of a happy family making a new home for themselves. This narrative offers a promise to the viewer: “You can move into your dream home, too.” The copywriting text accompanying the image, “Change starts here,” reinforces this idea.

Get ready to boost your website design

Ready to take your web design to the next level? Ndiwano.com has the professionals to help you achieve your vision. Scout out a web designer for your project, choosing from an array of talented professionals around the world. You can select the fitting individual according to criteria like reviews and specialty—for example, e-commerce website design best practices vary from nonprofit website design best practices.

Alternatively, if you’re a web designer, you can use the platform to connect with potential clients and build your portfolio. Create an account and then craft a winning web designer profile to start getting work. On Ndiwano.com, you can collaborate with businesses and brands from small and medium-sized enterprises to major corporations.

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