Basic Principles Every Web Designer Needs to Know
When building an effective website, the design may be the single most important factor, considering that it determines usability, functionality, and, in the long run, popularity. Poorly designed websites are websites that perform poorly. Fortunately, enough people have been in the business for long enough now to know what it takes to design a website properly. Below, you can find some of the basic web design principles you should follow for a top-notch design.
CRAP is a term coined by Robin Williams in his 1994 book “The Non-Designers Design Book.” C.R.A.P. is an acronym that stands for contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. According to Williams, a well-balanced combination of those four principles will create a design that is visually appealing to the majority of people.
For contrast, find ways to make different things stand out, even if it is as simple as using a different text block background. In terms of repetition, think about using similar styles and elements to give the entire site a cohesive feel. Alignment is perhaps one of the more important principles for a professional-looking site. Try to keep elements of your pages aligned to make it appear more organized and easier to read. Many designers like to use underlying grids as a way to achieve proper alignment. Finally, proximity is essentially keeping like items together while creating enough space to allow specific portions to stand out.
With good web design, a website’s purpose should be clear practically right away. Visitors should not be left with their biggest questions unanswered. Whether the purpose is to provide entertainment, information, or a business transaction, make that as clear as possible, on every single page, not just the home page.
As “cute” or “cool” as some fonts can appear to you personally, it is typically best to stick to computer screen-friendly Sans Serif fonts like Verdana or Arial. They are more contemporary fonts that are easy for the mass majority of people to read. Additionally, you will likely want to stick to 16 point fonts for optimal readability. Don't use more than three different font sizes throughout the site and stick to similar font designs for consistency.
Just like with fonts, the reason you have to be careful with color selection is that of visibility and readability. Colors that are too bright or too dark make the content too hard to see. You should think in terms of an overall palette when selecting colors for your site. It is important that the colors work in unison for the overall design to appeal to visitors. While you do not have to stick to neutrals, it is important to know that the brightest colors should only be used sparingly and colored fonts over colored backgrounds are typically avoided. Additionally, white space is an effective way to achieve a clean, modern look without having to do much work at all.
What is a website without images? The images you select are vital to the purpose you are trying to convey. It is important to choose images that fit your overall theme without confusing visitors. You want to add to emotions and impressions, not take away from them. It is perfectly acceptable to use stock photos if you do not have your own source of high-quality images. Similarly, you may consider using videos and infographics to share information invitingly.
Similar to alignment as mentioned in the C.R.A.P. acronym, balance is important for a well-designed website. That does not necessarily mean having to achieve perfect symmetry throughout your site, but it is ideal to create an overall sense of balance as a visitor scrolls through the pages you have designed. Balance can be achieved effectively with the combination of images, text, headlines, quotes, media, and more.
If a visitor does not know how to navigate your site, how can you expect them to absorb the information you are trying to share? Navigation is all about making it easy for visitors to move around your site and perform a task when necessary. If you are selling a product, the purchase process should be clear. If you are sharing information, the visitor should be able to find said information in three clicks or less.
It is no secret that people simply aren’t patient these days. If your site takes too long to load, a visitor will simply backtrack and go somewhere else instead. Immediate satisfaction is practically a must in the world of online information-sharing. Make sure your website is fast to enhance the user experience. Examples of fast web hosts are Bluehost or Siteground. Make sure you look around for a discount to keep down your costs, as well-performing hosting can get quite pricey. The faster you can get your site to load, the better. Think less than a couple of seconds.
With Google introducing their mobile-first index, it is more important than ever for your site to be mobile-friendly. Users are accessing websites from more devices than ever before, and you want to make sure they can access your information no matter how they are visiting. If your site is not already mobile-friendly, you will want to rebuild it in a mobile-responsive layout or build a dedicated mobile site.
Following any number of the above basic design principles ensures a better-designed website that is both functional and enjoyable for a visitor. In terms of design, basic principles go a long way.