First impressions are everything, especially for a website. When we first visit a site, we naturally judge its appearance – the homepage, the general page structure, the font and color choices, the quality of the images, and every other element you can think of. All of it impacts our desire to continue browsing or bounce off the website altogether.
In this article, we’ll share the top 10 website design best practices, from mobile optimization to choosing a great color scheme.
Now, you don’t need to action hundreds of changes right away, but it’s good to recognize the importance of web design. It shouldn’t be an afterthought! Whether you’re designing a website from scratch, or want to revamp your pages, assess these 10 tips and see if you can put any into practice.
First, let’s break down the basics. Website design is all about the look and feel of a website, whether it’s being viewed on a desktop, tablet, or mobile screen, and considers questions such as:
- How does it appear to visitors?
- Can users navigate the site easily?
- Do pages look messy?
- Do customers know where to click?
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider!
Website design incorporates every little element, from the font choice and page structure to the navigation and color palette.
When you’re designing a website, the aim is to highlight its purpose to visitors, which will vary depending on if it’s a personal or a business site. Your web design choices should convey your site’s values, objectives, and services, through a smooth and aesthetically-pleasing journey.
Our eyes are naturally drawn to visuals, which is why web design matters. In fact, 50% of consumers believe web design heavily influences a business’ brand image.
Websites should be appealing, readable, and have a consistently high-quality finish. A well-designed, well-optimized site is key if you want to be successful online – your design choices can impact conversions, awareness, and authority.
Ultimately, web design comes down to two things:
- Overall image – Does your website portray your personal story or business purpose accurately? Have you included all of the key information? Does your website add to your brand image?
- User journey – When a visitor or customer lands on your website, do your design choices engage them? Does your site run smoothly? Are there any bugs or tech issues to resolve?
Websites need visitors, and an outdated, messy-looking website will repel them! While it’s important to convey all of the necessary information, websites also need to cater to the user experience. For example, you’re at risk of visitors bouncing off your website if a page struggles to load, and using stock photos can make your website seem untrustworthy and impersonal.
Looks are one element of web design to consider, but a website should always run smoothly and be easy to navigate.
#1. Essential Text Only
|Use short sentences and paragraphs||Add meaningless words for the sake of it|
|Provide key, useful information||Have walls of text to scroll through|
|Include power words|
When building your website and pages, think about the words you’re adding – text and information are a key part of a website’s structure. Does the copy serve a purpose? Is it memorable? Can visitors skim over the text and get the key details quickly?
We recommend focusing on the essentials only. Don’t overload your homepage or product pages with walls of text. Instead, keep things short and snappy so readers can get a good understanding of your website even if they’re in a rush.
Advice from the Experts
Top Tip: Make sure your calls to action (CTAs) are bold, obvious to the eye, and easy to understand, whether that’s directing people toward a purchase, or asking them to sign-up for a newsletter. Having a clear CTA allows visitors to know exactly what steps to take next.
#2. Include Visual Elements
|Use images to break up pages||Make it hard to navigate through tons of pictures|
|Make sure images are high quality||Use stock images|
|Add lots of product photos if selling items|
|Make your images accessible with alt text|
Using more visuals, such as images or videos, is an easy win if you’re looking to action some of our website design best practices. After all, no one wants to visit a website full of text – without images to grab your attention, your website could end up feeling like an online textbook!
To ensure your website looks attractive, use high-quality custom images and visuals to break up pages and appeal to the reader’s eye. Avoid stock images at all costs – it’ll be harder to stand out with generic photos that visitors can view anywhere. Visuals are a memorable way to convey information to visitors, and it’s especially important if you’re selling products or services since customers like to see what they’re purchasing.
#3. Set a Color Scheme
|Use the same color palette across your website||Use clashing colors|
|Choose colors that complement your brand||Buy into trendy colors that quickly become outdated|
Setting a color scheme can really tie your website together – across pages, elements, and the overall user journey. It can even impact beyond your website to socials, emails, and packaging. Around 39% of visitors appreciate a website’s color choices, compared to 40% placing value on images, so it’s clearly a very important factor in web design.
A color palette gives your website a cohesive and branded look, and it can even help your business stand out. Some brands have certain colors associated with them in the customer’s memory, thanks to the website, logo, and products. For example, red springs to mind when you think about Coca-Cola!
Just remember to avoid clashing colors. No one wants to struggle to read a neon pink sentence against a bright yellow background.
#4. Make Navigation Easy
|Include consistent whitespace||Overcrowd your navigation menu|
|Think about the user journey||Make it hard to search a website|
Navigation is an essential web design element, and it should be easy for visitors to travel around your website. Sadly, up to 42% of people will jump off a website if it’s hard to navigate, so keep things simple and don’t overwhelm users with choices.
The key is to understand what your existing and potential visitors want to look at! We recommend outlining the user journey in advance to make sure they don’t encounter any hurdles when navigating through pages. Here’s a quick checklist of questions to get you started:
- Is the menu clear?
- Can users find their way back to the homepage?
- Is there a search bar?
We have a whole article dedicated to website navigation best practices, so be sure to give it a read.
#5. Be Consistent
|Keep your message clear||Confuse users with messy pages|
|Use the same branding across all platforms||Change your design every month|
|Stick to your color palette|
Once you’ve thought about your copy, visuals, color scheme, and navigation, it’s time to be consistent with those choices. This should be an unavoidable best practice when it comes to web design. You don’t want to confuse visitors with a messy website or appear unreliable by changing your website’s look every few weeks.
You’ll only stand out in someone’s mind if your website’s appearance is consistent! Your message should be the same across your pages, your CTAs should drive customers toward aligned actions, and your visual elements should all contribute towards the same story.
#6. Optimize for Mobile Users
|Prioritize mobile visitors||Design your website with only computer viewing in mind|
|Preview pages for mobile users when designing|
More than half of all global website traffic in 2022 came from mobile devices, which means it’s likely that the majority of your website visitors will be using their phones to view your site. Not only will your site encounter a lot of mobile traffic, but search engines favor and appreciate mobile-optimized content.
Don’t worry! When editing, most major website builders, such as Wix and Squarespace, allow you to see how your site looks on mobile devices so you can make sure it’s mobile-friendly ahead of publishing.
#7. Build a Responsive Site
|Invest in a reliable website builder or hosting provider||Ignore any technical issue|
|Listen to your visitors||Leave site speed as an afterthought|
A lot of the website design best practices we’ve already talked about, such as mobile optimization and using visuals, lean heavily on your website’s responsiveness. For example, improving loading times on mobile devices by one-tenth of a second can boost conversion rates overall!
Visitors don’t like to wait around – time is money, and people are impatient in the digital age. In fact, the biggest reason a visitor might leave a website comes down to loading speed and responsiveness. So, consider small changes like compressing and optimizing your images to help speed up loading times, or removing unnecessary plugins.
Naturally, there’ll always be glitches or mishaps, but minimizing these occurrences is critical if you want to maintain a website that puts a smooth user experience first.
#8. Stay Accessible
|Include alt text on images||Presume everyone can read or navigate your site with ease|
|Add captions to videos||Restrict visitors|
|Optimize for multiple devices|
Similarly to building a responsive site, having a website that’s accessible for everyone ties into a lot of website design best practices. When designing, you might be thinking about the wider picture and your website as a whole, but don’t forget the smaller elements. With images, make sure to include alt text. For videos, include captions!
The main goal is to avoid limiting or restricting someone’s browsing experience with an inaccessible website. When designing, consider visitors with poor eyesight, users with assistive technology, or people using keyboard-based navigation.
Advice from the Experts
Top Tip: But what is alt text and why is it so important? Alt text describes how an image appears on the page, and it’s helpful to have for several reasons. In some cases, the image could fail to load, but alt text is most often read aloud by screen readers owned by the visually impaired.
#9. Remember SEO
|Use keywords||Forget to promote and link to your content from other sources|
|Optimize your site for search engines||Target keywords with high competition|
|Update your website's metadata|
You can design the most beautiful and responsive website, but if you don’t implement an SEO (search engine optimization) strategy, your website will be at a disadvantage. Over half of all website traffic – 53.3% to be precise – is generated via unpaid search listings, AKA organic search.
So, how do you optimize your site for search engines? How can you make SEO-friendly content?
The good news is, a lot of the web design guidelines we’ve already shared will go a long way to help your website rank well on Google and other search engines. For example, alt text on images makes your website accessible, and it’s appreciated by Google. To build an effective SEO strategy, you can also target keywords, create internal links, elevate your content, and build site authority.
#10. Adapt When Necessary
|Gather feedback from visitors||Resist changing your website when necessary|
|Run regular checks and tests||Ignore the user experience|
Finally, with all of these web design best practices, it’s important to know what’s working on your website and what isn’t. If a heavily-visual website is favored by your visitors, lean into that. If they prefer more muted colors and a simple aesthetic, incorporate their opinions into your design choices. But to understand how your visitors feel, you need to ask them and respond appropriately.
We recommend regularly requesting feedback from users, whether they simply visit your website or make a purchase with you. Send out surveys, or engage with people via social channels! Additionally, you could run A/B tests ahead of larger design changes to ensure any new element works.
No website is truly perfect! There’s always room for improvement, and areas that can be tweaked or changed to create a better user experience. That’s where these best practice tips for web page design come in, and you can use them as a guide or checklist going forward. To recap, here are the top 10 website design best practices for 2022:
- Essential text only
- Include visual elements
- Set a color scheme
- Make navigation easy
- Be consistent
- Optimize for mobile users
- Build a responsive site
- Stay accessible
- Remember SEO
- Adapt when necessary
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of every web design best practice, but we think these 10 are some of the most essential. Whether you implement an SEO strategy or update your website’s navigation, it’s important to remember that visitors should be at the forefront of every design decision. A smooth user experience is the sign of a successful website!