Website design is a complex and nuanced artform. It is a constantly evolving field – with practitioners always adapting to the aesthetic trends of the day and anticipating visual paradigms that will determine the successful website designs of the future. Such a fast-moving field can be hard to keep up with, but designers can stay ahead of the curve by keeping a few crucial principles in mind as they go about their work.
The website design industry was worth 38 billion dollars in 2019. The majority of website design professionals list the creative process as their favorite element of the job. The size of the industry is by no means surprising. Websites dominate our public and private lives. Human interaction is more networked than ever, and website design greatly influences how we interconnect with other human beings. The significance of website design should not be lost on any budding creative looking to get into the field. Here are some website design principles that you should always keep in mind as you make your way in the industry.
Before beginning to design a website, ask yourself: what is it intended to achieve? Website purpose comes in many forms – from the sale of products to the promotion of a political or charitable ideal. No website designer worth their salt simply jumps in and starts building a site without first consulting clients and figuring out just what they want to do with their website. A site’s purpose should influence almost every aspect of its design. Layout, font type, imagery, color scheme, and almost everything else are a means to an end: the achievement of purpose.
For a design firm, for instance, the purpose of a website might be to convert prospective clients into leads. This means that a website must be set up to showcase a cohesive and attractive creative skillset. An eCommerce site has a completely different purpose. User Experience must be designed to minimize the stages a person needs to go through before making a purchase.
Many websites are incredibly hard to use for people with any kind of disability. In order to be a truly successful website designer, you need to be able to create sites that are fully accessible by people of all abilities. The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative was set up to create a unified set of principles for accessible website design.
The Web Accessibility Initiative recommends that sites are designed from the ground up with cohesive sans serif fonts, metadata that allows for the use of text to speech software, and clear, scalable contrast.
Clear contrast is extremely important for people with impaired vision or cognitive impairments. When a website is designed with colors that blend, some people may have trouble identifying important features. Luckily for web developers, there are several tools available online that enable you to test your ratios: helping you to ensure your website is as comprehensible as it can be.
Text to speech software is also available freely, and it is recommended that you check that your website is compatible with as many types of text to speech programs as possible before putting it out into the world. Navigation buttons also need to be made as clear and distinct as possible so that people with limited arm movement can move around a website using a mouth stick or with limited mouse use.
Putting Content First
It goes without saying that content should be a priority in web design. This is, however, easier said than done. Too much written or visual media content can make a website look clunky and hark back to awkward-looking web 1.0 site design days. The key to putting content front and center without sacrificing aesthetics is to make sure that content is minimal and meaningful in equal measure. Keep copy to a minimum, but ensure that whatever writing there is serves the purpose of the site in an impactful way. Good copywriting for websites is an art form. As the website designer, it is not your job to write copy. It is your job to put the writing on a pedestal in order to show off your client’s values. Organizing content should be a collaborative process. Keep in touch with your client and let them know when you think their copy is inappropriate for a stylish web design.
Harmony And Consistency
Consistency is key in any design field. A lack of consistency can be especially jarring and obvious when it comes to website design. It all comes back to achieving a purpose. Consistency and harmony need to be present in order to give visitors a clear message about the purpose of a website. Incongruities are distracting and unwelcome features of any website. Too many elements can tax visitors. It is worth remembering that they can always go somewhere else in the vast expanse of the internet. Brand guidelines and a good style guide that you have agreed with your client can help keep a website consistent throughout its design lifetime.
Less Can Be More
Never underestimate the power of blank space. Sometimes the most effective visual messaging can be achieved through a lack of content. Nothing screams ‘bad design’ like a crowded website. Cluttered websites are hard to navigate, inaccessible to people with disabilities, and frequently fail to adhere to a company’s aesthetic ideals.
As a rule of thumb, typography in web design should follow the same graphic design principles as typography in print: namely that it should be consistent, simple, and legible. On top of this, web typography needs to be fully scalable on any device. Modern web design needs to take into account the variety of devices that the modern user uses. Today, over half of all web surfing is undertaken on mobile devices, according to data collated by Statista. Web typography needs to be simple and clear so that mobile users can easily read content on their small screens without any significant problems.