There’s no denying we live in a digital age, one that almost requires the use of a computer and the Internet. Web design is a fast growing digital industry that has adapted over time to meet the needs of clients in search of new or updated websites. Businesses, individuals, organizations, and institutions all understand that an effective website is crucial to success with the digital public.
Although there are many different opinions of high quality web design there are certain design principles that are widely accepted as foundational. These principles aim to make a user’s interaction with the site beneficial and hassle free.
- Defined Goals Before any design work can occur, the web designer must have a very clear picture of what the site’s goals are. These goals need to be developed in collaboration with the client and should be forefront in the web design. As a web designer your role is to prompt the client with a series of questions that will help target the reason for the website and will further develop the defined goals.Effective questions include:
Why would a user visit your site? What do you want users to do on your site? Who is your target audience? What will encourage users to return to the site?
- Consistent Design Using a client’s already established logo or branding is a great first step to ensuring the design is consistent. Users will be more naturally attracted to a website that has clearly defined the color palette, typography, and layout. As a user interacts with the website you want to make sure that they are easily becoming more familiar with both the content and navigation. If the site’s individual webpages aren’t consistent you’ll lose the opportunity for users to become more comfortable and adept with its use. You’ll also reduce the likelihood of users returning to the site with a prior knowledge of its content and navigation tools.
- White Space When a user first visits a web page his brain automatically attempts to scan the viewable page and instantly begins to divide the content into easy to understand pieces of information. This is why white space is key; the user’s brain innately searches for it in an attempt to make sense of the content. The more complex the website’s structure the harder it will be for the user to discern and work with it. Many designers rely on the rule of thumb to divide two design elements by white space instead of inserting a third element (such as a line or flourish) to aid ease of understanding.
- Concise Writing Research shows that visitors to a web page almost universally approach writing in the same way. Long blocks of promotional writing will be avoided, segments of text without bold or italicized keywords will be ignored, and superfluous or over exaggerated language will be skipped. Instead, focus on writing that is necessary and concise and that clearly delivers a specific message. Arrive at your point quickly and without extra words and use objective language. Focus on a scannable layout that categorizes content, utilizes a series of heading levels, employs bulleted or numbered lists, and breaks the text into more manageable sections.
- Feature Exposure An effective website makes it easy for a user to understand what the most important parts are by feature exposure. Using design elements that clearly show users how to navigate the site is an excellent way to make it easier to understand. Large buttons, visual effects, easy to understand navigation for subpages, and a clearly defined, consistent color palette are all ways to show users exactly how to use the site. If a user is confused by a site or doesn’t understand the navigation he will likely leave in an effort to find a site that is easier to understand.
Can you think of other web design principles that are highly effective? How can they be used to boost the effectiveness of the website?