There are as many different approaches to web design as there are web designers. But, there are certain principles that most professionals will abide by.
15 Key Elements of Web Design
- Use clear, legible, easy-to-read fonts. Stick to the basics like Verdana and Times New Roman. Before switching to anything fancy, ask yourself why a simple font won’t do. More often than not, you’ll realize that that a simple font will do just fine.
- Consider how the eye travels. If you’re creating a website for an English-speaking audience, remember that we read left to right, top to bottom, and we usually look at the big words and pictures first. Arrange your site’s layout so that it’s easy to scan with the eye.
- Simplify. A good idea in web design is generally to strip your site of anything that it doesn’t absolutely need. Does every single member of the staff really have to have a link to their bio on the front page, or can that be tucked away on a “meet the team” page? The less you have going on on any particular page on your website, the better.
- Consistency is key. Stick to a few key colors, keep to general themes for photos and other images, and try not to use more than three fonts in total. Every page on your site should match every other page on your site.
- Don’t be afraid of negative space. It’s not like a book or magazine where you’re wasting paper by leaving big blank spots. You’re just making the page easier to read, and less of a chore to look at.
- Make the links and buttons easy to find. If a user has to click through seven sub-menus to find your eShop page, they’re going to give up and buy the item on eBay or Amazon, instead. Make sure anyone visiting your page can figure out how to get where they’re going within a few seconds of loading the site up.
- Know your audience. Kids will respond to brighter colors and cartoony characters and logos. All that flash isn’t going to help someone take a real estate website more seriously, though. Design a site that looks like what your key demographic wants to see.
- Invest in a stock photo account. Or take your own pictures, if you have a decent camera and an eye for good imagery. A site without pictures can be a bore to look at, and if you’re using the same free pictures everyone else is seeing, it makes your website look sort of generic.
- Keep your paragraphs short. Nothing scares a user off like a big block of text that looks like a page out of Moby Dick. We’re looking for information, and we’re trying to get to it as quickly as possible. So keep it short, and keep it simple.
- Stick to symmetrical designs. Generally you’re going to produce a better-looking website if you use symmetrical design. But…
- Don’t be afraid to mix it up. Asymmetrical pages can grab the user’s attention when they serve as a break from convention. Just make sure that you’re using an asymmetrical design for a good reason.
- Design for web and mobile. Ideally you want one version of the site that works great on both platforms, with nothing changing but some general layout. To achieve that you’ll want to make sure that your buttons are simple, your text is clear, and your pictures are easy enough to read without having to squint, even when you shrink them down for a phone.
- Incorporate some video. Short how-to videos, or product reviews, or whatever it is that suits your brand, can help to keep visitors engaged.
- Ask for some input. Show your website off to some friends and colleagues. Ask them find the contact link or the store and see if they have an easy time of it. Your site may look really cool, but what matters the most is that it’s easy to navigate. And you won’t know if it’s easy to navigate until you’ve seen someone navigate it.
- Convert. Remember that your website serves a very specific purpose: conversion. Whether that means getting users to click “buy it now” or join the mailing list or sign up for a paid membership, every feature of the website should serve that purpose. Whether a site looks great may be a matter of opinion, but conversion rates are where we can objectively measure whether or not a website is actually working. If users are not answering the Call to Action, then it’s a bad website no matter how good it looks.
2021 Web Design Trends
While the above-listed elements of web design have remained pretty standard at least since the dawn of the “Web 2.0” era, and across all corners of the industry, from web design in Denver to web design in California, this is still a constantly-evolving discipline, and things change.
Public tastes change over the years, our screens get bigger, and smaller, and bigger, and cutting-edge tech becomes cheaper and more common. So every year brings along some new trends in web design. Here’s what we’re looking out for in 2021:
- 3D Interactivity. Just a few years ago you’d have to be crazy to put some bandwidth-hogging 3D features on a website. Chances are half of your visitors would see their browsers crash the minute they clicked on your website. But in 2021, even the cheapest phones and laptops can handle some basic 3D to take a virtual house tour or build their dream car.
- Personalized Web Design. We’ve had light/dark layout options for awhile, allowing users to choose the experience that they prefer. In 2021, we have the data to automatically adjust a website in realtime to a user’s preferences. If the data tells us that they’re very outdoorsy, we can switch the site to natural colors and landscape photos. If they’re into cutting-edge consumer electronics, we can show them the slick, white-on-black version of the website with parallax-scrolling backgrounds.
- Emulating Print Media. Using grain effects, retro fonts and muted colors can lend your website the appearance of a newspaper or a magazine. Obviously this isn’t the right approach for every website. If you’re selling an electric car, you probably want something sleek and modern. But when it suits your brand, there’s nothing wrong with tapping into nostalgia for the printed page.
- Augmented Reality Features. For about a decade now, we’ve been hearing that “this is the year augmented reality finally takes over!” That’s probably not true in 2021 anymore than it was in 2011, but, AR has certainly become more commonplace now than it used to be, and we have the technology to let users see how that new fridge will look in their kitchen by simply pointing their phone where they want it to go.
- Bold Design Choices. We’ve been emphasizing the importance of simplicity, and simplicity is just about the most important thing in web design. But when it’s called for, a bold, abstract web design or a flashy image or a striking animation can be just the thing to switch things up and keep your visitors engaged. Like print media nostalgia, this doesn’t suit every brand, it doesn’t suit every website, and it doesn’t suit every product. But remember the golden rule of web design: You need to convert your visitors. If your visitors are the kinds of people who will respond to a little flash here and there, go for it.
Like any discipline, web design is something that you get better at the more you do it. With some practice, everything we’ve listed above will become second nature. You’ll know where to place your buttons, what images to use, when to follow the rules, and when to break them.