It’s easy to get caught up in the aesthetics when building or revamping a website. Is that the proper hue of blue? Should the logo appear on the right or left side of the screen? What if we slapped a huge animated GIF in the middle of the screen?
However, in a world where people have access to over 1.8 billion websites, you must ensure that yours is more than simply a nice face. It should be built for usability, or how easy it is to use your web design creation, as well as user experience (UX), or how pleasurable it is to interact with it.
You may now spend years learning the ins and outs of these fields. But, to give you a head start, we’ve compiled a list of the most important standards and best practices you may implement for your next website redesign or launch. Then, to put these recommendations into action, we’ll go over 10 features you’ll need on your site. Let’s get started.
While the aesthetic of your website is crucial, the majority of visitors aren’t there to judge how slick the design is. They desire to finish a task or locate a certain piece of information.
As a result, extraneous design components (i.e., those that serve no functional purpose) will simply overload visitors and make it more difficult for them to achieve their goals.
From the standpoint of usability and user experience, simplicity is your best friend. It’s difficult to go too simple when you have all of the necessary page elements. This principle can be applied in a variety of ways, including:
Colors: In general, don’t use a lot of them. Use a maximum of five (plus or minus two) different colors in your design, according to the Handbook of Computer-Human Interaction.
Typefaces: The typefaces you choose should be very legible, so avoid anything too artsy and keep script fonts to a minimum, if at all. Keep text color to a bare minimum and ensure that it contrasts with the backdrop color. Using a maximum of three different typefaces in a maximum of three different sizes is a typical advice.
Visuals: Use graphics only if they assist a user in completing a task or performing a specified function (don’t just throw graphics in there at random).
Visual hierarchy, which is closely related to the idea of simplicity, refers to the arrangement and organization of website elements in such a way that users naturally gravitate toward the most important aspects first.
Remember that the purpose of usability and UX optimization is to guide visitors to take a desired action in a way that feels natural and enjoyable. You can build your site such that readers are drawn to specific elements first by modifying the position, color, or size of those elements.
With its height and page location, the primary heading “Get 3 months of Premium for free” lies above the visual hierarchy in the Spotify sample below. It immediately draws your attention to their purpose. The “Get 3 Months Free” CTA is then displayed, prompting action. More actions can be found by clicking this CTA or scanning the menu options above.
It’s critical to plan out simple navigation on your site so that visitors can locate what they’re looking for. A visitor should be able to land on your site and not have to think too hard about what to do next. It should be as easy as possible to get from point A to point B.
Here are some suggestions for improving your site’s navigation:
Maintain a straightforward primary navigation structure (and near the top of your page).
Include navigation in your site’s footer.
Breadcrumbs should be used on every page (excluding your homepage) to help users remember their navigation path.
Include a search bar towards the top of your website so that users can conduct keyword searches.
Provide a limited number of navigation options each page. Again, keep it simple!
Include links in your page copy and make it obvious where they lead.
Make sure users don’t have to dig too far. Make a basic pyramid-shaped wireframe map of all of your site’s pages: The top layer is your homepage, with each connected page from the previous layer forming the next layer. It’s preferable to keep your map to no more than three levels deep in most circumstances. Take, for example, HubSpot’s site map.
Another tip: Once you’ve decided on the main (top) navigation for your website, stick with it. On every page, your navigation should have the same labels and be in the same place.
In addition to maintaining consistency in your navigation, the general appearance and feel of your site should be consistent throughout all of its pages. Backgrounds, color schemes, typefaces, and even the tone of your text are all examples of areas where consistency improves usability and user experience.
That isn’t to argue that every page should have the same design. Create different layouts for different types of pages instead (e.g., landing pages, informational pages, etc.). You’ll make it easier for visitors to comprehend what kind of content they’ll discover on a specific page if you use those layouts consistently.
Airbnb, for example, employs the same layout for all of its “Help” pages, which is a common practice. Consider what it would be like for visitors if each “Help” page had its own distinct design. There would almost certainly be a lot of shrugging of shoulders.
According to Statista, mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets accounted for 48% of global page views. According to our findings, 93% of consumers have abandoned a website because it did not display properly on their device.
The takeaway here is that in order to give a truly excellent user experience, your website must be compatible with the numerous devices that your visitors utilize. This is referred to as responsive design in the computer sector.
Investing in a highly flexible website structure is what responsive design entails. A responsive site automatically resizes and rearranges information to fit the dimensions of whatever device a visitor is using. This can be accomplished through the use of mobile-friendly HTML templates or the creation of a dedicated mobile site.
Finally, providing a fantastic experience across several devices is more important than looking identical across those devices.
It’s also worthwhile to verify your website’s cross-browser compatibility, in addition to its mobile-friendliness. Most likely, you’ve only used one web browser to visit your site, whether it’s Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or anything else.
It’s now time to open your sites in each of these browsers and see how your items look. There should be little difference in presentation in theory, but you won’t know for sure unless you see it for yourself.
The purpose of online accessibility is to create a website that anyone, including those with disabilities or limits, can use. It’s your obligation as a website designer to factor these consumers into your UX strategy.
Accessibility, like responsiveness, applies to the entire site, including the structure, page style, graphics, and both written and visual content. The Web Content Accessibility Rules (WCAG) are guidelines for web accessibility published by the Web Accessibility Initiative and the World Wide Web Consortium. These standards state, in basic terms, that websites must be:
Perceivable: Visitors are aware of your website’s content.
Operable: Your website’s functionality should be accessible in a variety of ways.
Understandable: All content and notifications are simple to comprehend.
Robust: Your website works with a variety of assistive technologies, devices, and browsers.
See our Ultimate Guide to Web Accessibility for more information on this subject.
Balancing creativity with your expectations is a major problem in web design.
Most of us are seasoned internet users who have developed a set of standard practices over time. Conventions like these exist:
The main navigation is located at the top (or left side) of the page.
Placing a logo in the upper left (or middle) of a page.
Making the logo clickable so that visitors can always return to the site.
When you hover over links and buttons, they change color and look.
On an ecommerce site, a shopping cart icon is used. A number badge on the icon indicates the number of goods in the cart.
Ensure that picture sliders have manual rotation buttons that users can click.
While some may choose to toss these out for the sake of individuality, this is a mistake. Within the limits of web convention, there’s still plenty of potential for innovation.
Let’s take a look at another design discipline, architecture. Building codes are in place so that people can live comfortably and safely in their homes. Apart from the legal ramifications, an architect does not object to or violate these regulations because they ensure the safety and comfort of visitors. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the structure is; if you slip on uneven stairs or can’t escape a fire, you might choose to stay outside.
You can create a memorable experience while also meeting user expectations in the same way. Users may become uncomfortable or even frustrated with your site if you go against their expectations.
Following web norms provides legitimacy to your site. In other words, it improves the level of confidence that visitors have in your website. Credibility goes a long way when it comes to creating a site that gives the finest user experience possible.
Being upfront and honest about the product or service you’re selling is one of the most effective ways to boost your credibility. Visitors shouldn’t have to sift through dozens of pages to figure out what you do. On your homepage, be honest and give some space to expressing the importance of what you do.
Another way to increase trust is to have a pricing page that is also linked from the site.
Rather than forcing consumers to contact you for pricing information, make your prices available on your website. This gives your company a more trustworthy and authentic appearance.
At the end of the day, end-user preferences determine usability and user experience. After all, who are you designing for if not for them?
While the concepts outlined in this list are a fantastic place to start, conducting user testing, gathering feedback, and making adjustments based on what you’ve learned is the final step in enhancing the design of your site.
Also, don’t waste your time testing usability on your own. You’ve already put a lot of time and effort into your design, which introduces your own prejudices into the mix. Get testers who have never seen your site before, just like a new visitor would.
To help you started, here are a few user testing tools:
Website Grader: This free tool assesses your website based on a number of criteria, including mobile, design, performance, SEO, and security. It then makes personalized recommendations for improvement. More information on Website Grader can be found in our dedicated blog post.
Crazy Egg: Use four different intelligence tools to track numerous domains under one account and reveal insights about your site’s performance: heat map, scroll map, overlay, and confetti.
Loop11: This program makes it simple to design usability tests, even if you don’t know HTML.
The User Is Inebriated: Pay Richard Littauer to get wasted and write a review for you.
Do you have any doubts? We gave it a shot.
See our list of the best user testing tools for even more possibilities.
These recommendations should hopefully help you structure your web pages and website as a whole. But how can you put these principles into action? Let’s take a look at some practical design best practices you can use during the process.
1. Choose a typeface that is simple to read and skim.
The arrangement and presentation of type — letters and characters — on the page is referred to as typography. It’s critical to choose carefully since website typography impacts not only how we read but also how we feel about text on a web page.
You should look for a typeface that is:
- simple to read and skim
- readable across many devices and screen sizes for all people
It should also complement the style and feel of your company. In 2018, the luxury fashion house Burberry, for example, changed its emblem for the first time in 20 years. It dropped the knight emblem and replaced the original serif typeface with a bold, all-caps sans serif typeface. As a result, the logo is simpler and more modern-looking, making it easier to see on any device — and reflecting the company’s efforts to become more transparent and appealing to a younger population.
2. Select a color scheme that is appropriate for your company.
Color, like typography, has the ability to influence not just how we comprehend and engage with text, but also how we feel about it. As a result, your color scheme should check the same boxes as your website typography. It ought to:
strengthen your brand’s identity
Make your website simple to read and navigate, and it will generate emotion and look nice.
The main colors yellow and red, for example, are used by Buzzfeed to attract consumers’ attention and make them enthused about the material. The primary color blue, which is associated with trust, is reserved only for links and CTA buttons. Both feelings are great for a media site to evoke.
The negative portions in any composition are referred to as whitespace. Whitespace gives consumers visual breaks as they analyze the design or information of a website, which is not simply attractive to the eye. Whitespace makes it easier for people to focus, digest information, and understand what’s important by reducing distractions.
That means you can use whitespace to minimize information overload or analysis paralysis — as well as to draw attention to key pieces on the page. This might entice consumers to do things like join up for a subscription or purchase your latest collection, among other things.
Eb & flow Yoga Studio, for example, employs whitespace to direct people to a specific action: signing up for three weeks of lessons. It’s important to note that whitespace does not imply a lack of color or images. Instead, it means that every feature on the page is strategically placed, with plenty of white space between them, to avoid overwhelming or confusing visitors.
4. Use texture to bring character and depth to your design.
Web textures, which resemble a three-dimensional, tactile surface, attempt to combine the physical sensation of touch with another sense – sight. They’re a terrific design option to solid color backdrops, especially if you want to give your site more personality and depth.
Take a look at the texture on the homepage of Mony’s Tacos, a Santa Barbara-based restaurant. Doesn’t it appear to be chalk on a blackboard? I don’t know about you, but just looking at it makes me feel the chalk on my fingertips. It’s the ideal aesthetic for a restaurant that wants to be California’s go-to Mexican spot in the Funk Zone.
5. Use pictures to draw readers in and inform them.
In website design, striking a balance between text and graphics is critical. Including pictures in your material can help it become more informative, interesting, and memorable. You’ve probably heard the statistic that people only remember 20% of what they read and 80% of what they see? The specific percentages are debatable, but the core concept isn’t. Some people find it easier to learn and comprehend information when it is presented in a visual style.
From a cosmetic company’s website, here’s an interesting example of text breaking up with visuals. This demonstrates the virtually limitless options for incorporating pictures into your website design.
6. Make your navigation as simple as possible.
One of the most crucial design components on a website is navigation. It has an impact on whether people stay on your site and browse or go back to the previous page. That’s why it’s critical to keep things as straightforward as possible.
A horizontal navigation bar is used by many websites. The key pages are shown side by side in this navigation style, which is located in the website header.
Take, for example, the navigation bar on Blavity. Three content categories are highlighted, including “News,” “Op-Eds,” and “Lifestyle,” as well as links to their submission and sign-up pages. This allows visitors to quickly access the pages they’re looking for. Other navigation items are housed under a dropdown menu labeled “More” so that they’re still accessible but don’t clog up the top-level menu. Finally, the navigation bar is sticky, allowing users to navigate the site without having to scroll up and down the page.
7. Make your call-to-action buttons stand out.
CTAs are components on a website, commercial, or other piece of information that encourage visitors to take action. For example, the call to action could be to sign up, subscribe, start a free trial, or learn more.
Your CTAs should stand out in your website design. Consider how you’re using color, as well as other aspects like as backdrop color, surrounding images, and surrounding text, to achieve this.
Square is a great example of a call-to-action. Square employs bold language to illustrate how innovative and future-oriented their product is, using a single image to demonstrate how simple it is to use. The blue “Get Started” CTA stands out against this dramatic backdrop, waiting for your click.
8. Make your site mobile-friendly.
We’ve already covered the importance of having a responsive website. However, as mobile devices accounted for 59 percent of organic search engine traffic in 2021, we’re emphasizing the importance of designing a mobile-friendly website. This could entail changing or eliminating some components that would clog up smaller screens or slow down loading times.
Compare the desktop and mobile versions of Etsy’s homepage for an example of one of the best mobile website designs. On the desktop, a navbar with categories appears. A dropdown menu will appear when you hover over each category.
This collapses behind a hamburger button on mobile, which enhances the mobile site’s design and performance. You’ll also notice that the photos are larger, which is ideal for touching on a smartphone device with your finger.
9. Keep the number of alternatives available to users to a minimum.
Hick’s Law states that as the number and complexity of options rise, so does the time it takes for a person to make a decision. In terms of website design, this is bad news. When a website visitor is given too many choices, they may become dissatisfied and leave — or they may choose an option you don’t want, such as abandoning their basket. As a result, it’s critical to keep the amount of alternatives available to a user to a minimum.
A visitor to Shawn Michelle’s Ice Cream’s homepage, for example, will have three options: learn more about the brand, the flavors, or the ingredients. Instead of displaying all three selections at once, they are displayed one by one in a slider. This is a fantastic example of Hick’s Law in action in UX design.
We now know the concepts and best practices to follow throughout the design process. Let’s go over the essential page elements that you should carefully consider include in your design strategy in the next part.