Web Design Best Practices to Keep in Mind for Your New Website

Your website is arguably the most influential online tool for your brand. It is your headquarters in cyberspace and as such, is greatly reflective of your business and its inner workings. But building reputation or credibility is not a website’s sole function. All well-implemented websites are designed to serve practical purposes which can include anything from capturing leads and generating sales to exchanging information, building an audience, education, and entertainment. A website should serve business objectives and do it well.

There is virtually decades’ worth of knowledge that you can delve into when it comes to designing a good website but here is a concise collection of some of the most important principles and best practices that you should apply in your current or new website.

Intuitive Navigation Is Key

Navigation is the backbone of a website. It is all about visitors finding what they are looking for as effortlessly as possible. It is true that much of the heavy lifting is done by the menu when it comes to helping the visitors get around your site as they learn about who you are, what you do, and how you can help them with their needs. But navigation is much more than that.

At its most fundamental level, navigation is about the proper structuring of information. It doesn’t matter how good your products and services are or how experienced or expert your company is at what it does. If your visitors get frustrated by navigating your site or struggle to find what they visited your site for in the first place, they will probably leave and never look back which is a shame since they will never get to experience the good things about what you have to offer.

Each Page Should Focus on One Thing

If your website as a whole is a tool to serve an overarching business goal, each page of your website should serve a specific subset of that goal. For example, imagine you are running an e-commerce business and your primary objective is to get people to buy your products. Your site map should include multiple pages that cover everything from lead generation to products, orders, payment, shipping, and everything in between.

Now, as a visitor goes through your marketing funnel, each page should be viewed as a step designed to facilitate their movement through the customer’s journey which ultimately ends with closing a sale. The objective of these pages should not be complicated. For example, a landing page should only focus on piquing the users’ interest to attract traffic. A product page should only focus on providing key information to help users understand the product. And each of these pages should include a strong call-to-action to guide the customer to the next step until—as King Kong puts it—browsers are turned into buyers.

Pages that try to do different things at once don’t do any of them well. Today, the average user’s attention span is too short for such distractions.

Be Creative But Don’t Ignore the Standards

Unless we are inventing something that has never existed before, it is good to keep this rule of thumb in mind: conventions contribute to expectations.

Your visitors are most certainly not experiencing what it means to visit a website for the first time. They have probably visited thousands or millions of websites before it. This means that they are coming with preconceptions and expectations as to what they are going to find and where they are going to find it. Deviating from the norms and standards of web design creates friction. How many times have you got frustrated with a website because the navigation bar was not where it is supposed to be or you couldn’t find the contact button?

With that being said, blindly following what others are doing is not helpful either. There needs to be an intention behind every design decision. Too many times we see websites follow certain trends without knowing the reasoning behind them which leads to missed opportunities. Often, the best creative solutions in UX design cause incremental improvements rather than drastic changes.

Originality should not be at the cost of usability.

Consistency Breeds Trust

Consistency is one of those design principles that are easy to perceive but hard to implement. It is about establishing standards in the users’ minds and following those standards everywhere to ensure usability and learnability. When a user experience design is consistent, people can easily learn how to use it and transfer that knowledge to new contexts. This reduces cognitive load which saves the user’s time and effort.

Consistency in web design includes both visual and functional aspects. Visual-wise, consistency is achieved by designing a unified system of elements such as layouts, typography, imagery, and colors, and repeating those defined elements to create a design that looks and feels familiar. Functional consistency pertains to the behavior of elements in interactive design. A website is said to be functionally consistent when similar objects within it function in a similar fashion or similar actions always lead to similar results.