This article generally explores the essential web design principles and provides recent examples to illustrate their significance. At all costs, an effective website is crucial for businesses to establish an online presence and engage with their target audience. Conversely, a good-designed website not only entices visitors but also keeps them engaged and encourages them to take desired actions.
To achieve this, it is essential to adhere to certain principles of web design that focus on user experience and engagement. You can hire a freelance web designer in Dubai for the best website design services. If your website design lacks user-friendliness and fails to represent your brand accurately, it can hinder your company’s progress. Your website serves as a virtual business card.
As such, it offers potential clients their initial impression of your brand and services. To enhance user experience and attract more visitors, it is crucial to design your website strategically. Regardless of your business type or target niche, incorporating fundamental website design principles will enable you to create a modern, attention-grabbing design that captivates readers.
We aren’t going to discuss the design implementation details (e.g., where the search box should be placed) as it has already been done in several articles; instead, we focus on the main principles, heuristics, and approaches for effective web design—approaches which, used correctly, can lead to more sophisticated design decisions and simplify the process of perceiving presented data.
The Topmost Essential Web Design Principles For Beginner Webmasters
Your website’s usability and utility, not the visual design, determine the success or failure of its outcome. Since the page visitor is the only person who clicks the mouse and decides everything, user-centric design has been established as a standard approach for successful and profit-oriented web design. After all, if users can’t use a feature, it might as well not exist. Learn more in this video:
By all means, when you offer your visitors some service or tool in every project, try to keep your user requirements minimal. Remember, the less action your target website users require to test a service, the more likely a random visitor will try it out. Usually, first-time visitors are willing to play with the service, not filling out long web forms for an account they might never use.
Let users explore the site and discover your services without forcing them into sharing private data. It’s unreasonable to force users to enter an email address to test the feature. Ideally, remove all barriers and don’t require subscriptions or registrations first. User signup alone is enough of an impediment to user navigation to cut down on incoming traffic. But it leads to more conversions.
To use web design principles properly, we first need to understand how users interact with websites, how they think, and the basic patterns of users’ behavior. Of course, a great web designer has years of website design experience and a fantastic portfolio of global clients by following critical web design principles from industry professionals. Some of the design principles are as follows:
#1: Simplicity And Minimalism
One of the fundamental principles of good web design is simplicity and minimalism. Websites can deliver a clean and focused user experience by eliminating clutter and unnecessary elements. According to Krug’s first law of usability, the web page should be self-explanatory. When creating a site, your job is to eliminate the question marks — to break the barrier.
Minimize the decisions users must make consciously, considering pros, cons, and alternatives. If the navigation and site architecture aren’t intuitive, the number of question marks grows, making it harder for users to comprehend how the system works and how to get from point A to point B. A clear structure, moderate visual clues, and easily recognizable links can help users.
In particular, this is to help them find their path to their aim. A simple website layout with ample white space allows users to navigate the content and see what they want quickly. Minimalistic websites convey a sense of professionalism and elegance. While at the same time, they help enhance the overall visual appeal.
By all means, the Apple Website exemplifies simplicity and minimalism in web design. Its clean layout, generous white space, and intuitive navigation make it easy for users to explore their products and services. Users are rarely on a website to enjoy the design; furthermore, in most cases, they are looking for information despite the design. Strive for simplicity instead of complexity.
#2: Consistency And Coherence
Consistency and coherence in web design create a sense of familiarity and make it easier for users to navigate different website sections. Maintaining consistent branding elements such as colors, typography, and imagery across various pages establishes a cohesive visual identity. Maintaining consistency in menus, Call To Action (CTA) buttons and interactive elements is vital.
This ensures a seamless user experience for more target leads conversion. Realistically, users’ habits on the Web differ from customers’ habits in a store. Visitors glance at each new page, scan some of the text, and click on the first link that catches their interest or vaguely resembles what they’re looking for. There are large parts of the page they don’t even look at.
Most users search for something interesting (or valuable) and clickable; when some promising candidates are found, users click. If the new page doesn’t meet users’ expectations, the Back button is clicked, and the search process is continued. If a page provides users with high-quality content, they are willing to compromise the content with advertisements and the site’s design.
Content is why not-that-well-designed websites with high-quality posts have gained a lot of traffic over the years. In this case, the Airbnb Website is an excellent example of consistency and coherence in web design. The consistent use of their signature colors, fonts, and iconography creates a unified experience throughout the site, enhancing usability and brand recognition.
#3: Responsiveness And Mobile-Friendliness
With the increasing use of mobile devices, websites must be responsive and mobile-friendly. Responsive design ensures that websites adapt to different screen sizes and resolutions, providing an optimal user experience on smartphones, tablets, and desktops. Mobile-friendly websites load quickly, have easy-to-tap buttons, and utilize vertical scrolling to accommodate mobile users’ preferences.
If a website can’t meet users’ expectations, the designer has failed to do his job correctly, and the company loses money. The higher the cognitive load and the less intuitive the navigation, the more willing users are to leave the website and search for alternatives. When analyzing a web page, users search for fixed points or anchors that guide them through its content.
On that note, a certified web designer will create a unique responsive website for your business. For instance, the Spotify Website demonstrates excellent responsiveness and mobile-friendliness. Whether accessed on a desktop or a mobile device, the site seamlessly adjusts its layout and functionality, providing an intuitive experience for users.
#4: Clear Navigation And User-Friendly Interface
Most website users don’t search for the quickest way to find the information they want. Neither do they linearly scan webpage, going sequentially from one site section to another. Instead, they satisfice; they choose the first reasonable option. As soon as they find a link that seems like it might lead to the goal, there is an excellent chance that it will be immediately clicked.
Optimizing is hard, and it takes a long time. Satisficing is more efficient. Usually, website users muddle through instead of reading the information a designer has provided. If they find something that works, they stick to it. It doesn’t matter if they understand how things work as long as they can use them. If your audience acts like you’re designing a billboard, create great billboards.
Navigation is crucial in helping users explore a website and find the information they need. Clear and intuitive navigation menus, breadcrumbs, and search functionalities facilitate easy access to different sections. A user-friendly interface with well-organized content, readable fonts, and appropriate use of headings aids users in understanding the website’s structure and locating all info.
For example, you can look at the Asana Website showcasing effective navigation and a user-friendly interface. Its well-structured menu, clear headings, and logical content organization guide users to explore different features and understand the product’s value.
#5: Visual Hierarchy And Readability
It’s important to realize that your website users want to be able to control their web browser tools and rely on consistent data presentation throughout the website. E.g., they don’t want new windows popping up unexpectedly, and they want to be able to get back with a “Back”-button to the site they’ve been to before: therefore, it’s a good practice never to open links in new windows.
Creating a visual hierarchy within a website allows users to grasp the importance and relationships between different elements. Proper use of headings, subheadings, bullet points, and contrasting colors helps users scan and digest information effectively. For readability, use legible fonts, appropriate font sizes, and suitable line spacing to enhance user experience and engagement.
For example, The New York Times Website exemplifies using visual hierarchy and readability effectively. Given its prominent headlines, subheadings, and well-formatted articles with proper spacing, it makes it easy for readers to navigate and consume the news content. Focusing users’ attention on specific site areas with moderate use of visual elements can significantly help.
Your visitors can get from point A to point B without thinking of how it is supposed to be done. The fewer question marks visitors have, the better sense of orientation they have and the more trust they can develop towards the company the site represents. In other words: the less thinking that needs to happen behind the scenes, the better the user experience, which is the aim of usability.
#6: Strive For Optimal Feature Exposure
Modern web designs are usually criticized due to their approach of guiding users with visually appealing 1-2-3-done steps, large buttons with visual effects, etc. But from the design perspective, these elements aren’t a bad thing. On the contrary, such guidelines are highly effective as they lead the visitors through the site content in a straightforward and user-friendly way.
For instance, the DirMOD Website combines visual appeal with a clear site structure. The website has nine main navigation options, which are visible at first glance. But their choice of colors might be too light, though. A fundamental principle of successful user interface design is letting users see the available functions. It doesn’t matter how this is achieved.
What matters is that the content is well-understood, and visitors feel comfortable with the way they interact with the system. The “keep it simple”-principle (KIS) should be the primary goal of website design. Sometimes, the best website design is pure text, without adverts or further content blocks matching precisely the query visitors used or the content they’ve been looking for.
This is one of the reasons why a user-friendly print version of web pages is essential for a good user experience. As a rule of thumb, it’s better to innovate only when you know you have a better idea but take advantage of conventions when you don’t.
#7: Mark Conventions As Your Friends
At all costs, the conventional design of website elements doesn’t result in a boring website. Conventions are very useful as they reduce the learning curve and the need to figure out how things work. For instance, it would be a usability nightmare if all websites had different visual presentations of RSS feeds. That’s not that different from our regular life, where we tend to get used to all.
The basic principles of organizing data (folders) or shopping (placement of products). With conventions, you can gain users’ confidence, trust, and reliability and prove your credibility. Follow users’ expectations—understand what they expect from a website’s navigation, text structure, search placement, etc. A typical example from usability sessions is to translate the page.
In particular, let’s say translating the page into Japanese. While at the same time, assuming your web users don’t know Japanese, e.g., with Babelfish—and provide your usability testers with a task to find something on the page in a different language. If conventions are well-applied, users can achieve a not-too-specific objective, even if they can’t understand it.
#8: Employ “Visible Language” To Communicate
To illustrate, in his papers on effective visual communication, Aaron Marcus states three fundamental principles involved in using the so-called “visible language” — the content users see on a screen.
- Organize: provide the user with a clear and consistent conceptual structure. Consistency, screen layout, relationships, and navigability are important concepts of organization. The same conventions and rules should be applied to all elements.
- Economize: do the most with the most minor cues and visual elements. Four major points to be considered: simplicity, clarity, distinctiveness, and emphasis. Simplicity includes only the features that are most important for communication. Clarity: all components should be designed, so their meaning is not ambiguous. Distinctiveness: the essential properties of the necessary elements should be distinguishable. Emphasis: the most important aspects should be easily perceived.
- Communicate: match the presentation to the capabilities of the user. To communicate successfully, the user interface must balance legibility, readability, typography, symbolism, multiple views, and color or texture. Use a maximum of three typefaces in three-point sizes — 18 words or 50-80 characters per line of text.
#9: Embrace The White Space In Your Design
It’s tough to overestimate the importance of white space in your design. Not only does it help to reduce the cognitive load for the visitors, but it makes it possible to perceive the information presented on the screen. When a new visitor approaches a design layout, the first thing he/she tries to do is to scan the page and divide the content area into digestible pieces of information.
Complex structures are harder to read, scan, analyze, and work with. If you have the choice between separating two design segments by a visible line or by some whitespace, it’s usually better to use the whitespace solution. Hierarchical structures reduce complexity (Simon’s Law): the better you provide users with a sense of visual hierarchy, the easier your content will be to perceive.
Eventually, using white space occasionally is an intelligent move. For example, the Cameron Website uses white space as a primary design element. The result is a well-scannable layout that gives the content the dominating position it deserves. Equally, as the Web differs from print, it’s necessary to adjust the writing style to users’ preferences and browsing habits.
An optimal solution for effective writing is using:
- short & concise phrases (come to the point as quickly as possible),
- scannable layout (categorize the content, use multiple heading levels, use visual elements and bulleted lists which break the flow of uniform text blocks),
- plain and objective language (a promotion doesn’t need to sound like an advertisement; give your users some reasonable and accurate reason why they should use your service or stay on your website)
Suffice it to say that most promotional writing won’t be read. Likewise, long text blocks without images and keywords marked in bold or italics will be skipped. Still, exaggerated language will be ignored. To avoid this, ensure you talk business and avoid cute or clever, marketing-induced, company-specific, and unfamiliar technical names. Perse, Eleven2.com gets directly to the point.
#10: Test Design Early, Test Performance Often
In other words, this is also called the TETO principle—it should be applied to every web design project as usability tests often provide crucial insights into significant problems and issues related to a given layout. A user-friendly service requires almost nothing from the visitor, which is unobtrusive and comforting. And that’s what you want your users to feel when they visit your website.
Test not too late, not too little, and not for the wrong reasons. In the latter case, it’s necessary to understand that most design decisions are local; that means that you can’t universally answer whether some layout is better than the other one as you need to analyze it from a particular point of view (considering requirements, stakeholders, budget, etc.).
Some crucial points to keep in mind:
- According to Steve Krug, testing one user is 100% better than none, and trying one user early in the project is better than testing 50 near the end. Still, according to Boehm’s first law, errors are most frequent during requirements and design activities and are more expensive the later they are removed.
- Testing is an iterative process. That means you design something, test it, fix it, and then test it again. Problems might haven’t been found during the first round, as other issues practically blocked users.
- In regression testing, usability tests always produce beneficial results. Either you’ll be pointed to the problems you have, or you’ll be indicated to the absence of significant design flaws, which is, in both cases, valuable insight for your project.
According to Weinberg’s law, a developer is unsuited to test his or her code. This holds for designers as well. After you’ve worked on a website for a few weeks, you can’t longer observe it from a fresh perspective. You know how it is built, and therefore you know exactly how it works—you have the wisdom independent testers and visitors of your site wouldn’t have.
As websites provide static and dynamic content, some user interface aspects attract attention more than others. Images are more eye-catching than the text—just as the sentences marked as bold are more attractive than plain text. The human eye is a non-linear device, and web users can instantly recognize edges, patterns, and motions. This is the drawback of video-based adverts.
Such advertisements are incredibly annoying and distracting, but they perfectly capture users’ attention from the marketing perspective. Humanized perfectly uses the principle of focus. The only element directly visible to the users is the word “free,” which works attractive and appealing but is still calm and purely informative. Subtle hints provide users with enough information.
Overall, implementing the crucial web design principles—simplicity and minimalism, consistency and coherence, responsiveness and mobile-friendliness, straightforward navigation, user-friendly interface, visual hierarchy, and readability—can significantly enhance user experience and engagement on a website. Focusing on these principles and incorporating recent examples is vital.
As such, businesses can create compelling online experiences that captivate their audience and drive desired outcomes. Be that as it may, it’s essential to realize that Saad is a professional web designer in Dubai with 18 years of experience and has the perfect skill set for creating a website for your business. If you think there is something else we can add, please share it with us below.
Top Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Answered
Q #1: How can simplicity and minimalism improve web design?
Simplicity and minimalism eliminate clutter, enhance visual appeal, and improve user navigation on websites.
Q #2: Why is consistency important in web design?
Consistency establishes a cohesive visual identity, improves usability, and strengthens brand recognition.
Q #3: What does it mean for a website to be responsive and mobile-friendly?
Responsive and mobile-friendly websites adapt to all screen sizes, load quickly, and provide an optimal user experience.
Q #4: How does clear navigation benefit website users?
Straightforward navigation facilitates easy access to information, improves user exploration, and reduces frustration.
Q #5: Why is visual hierarchy essential in web design?
Visual hierarchy helps users understand the importance and relationships between elements, allowing for effective information scanning and consumption. By doing so, your potential audience will want to come back to your website to get more resources.