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    8 min read

    8 Simple Principles of Web Design, and Then Some

    By Derek

    Sure, web design has some complicated elements, but there are a few basics all website owners may benefit from knowing. Understanding these principles ensures that your website attracts adequate traffic and that its visitors return. Besides, these basic principles of web design go a long way in building and maintaining a professional website over a prolonged period of time.

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    1. Provide Simple Navigation

    If you want a functional and attractive website, it’s important to avoid clutter. For example, you need to present your menus in a suitable manner. This is because they reduce the number of items listed on the homepage and do it in an organized matter. Even with the menu, you should try to limit the items on the list. If a menu has over 20 items, users might find it overwhelming.


    Pages should be broad enough to allow a variety of details, which means each topic does not necessarily need to be under its own menu. Highlighting the important topics on the menu and using sub-menus ensure that the navigation is clean, simple, and user-friendly.


    2. Cater to Your Target Audience

    One of the key principles of web design is that your website needs to cater to the needs and expectations of its target audience. To find your audience, you need to look at the demographics of the people most interested in what to have to offer. These come in the form of age, gender, income, and location. You also need to understand what drives your audience, be it their values, their beliefs, or the type of products they favor.


    Stepping into your customers’ shoes is part of the parcel. You may do this by creating user-personas of the people you foresee using your website and coming up with real-life scenarios. This enables you to identify your ideal customers, their behavioral patterns, their needs and expectations, as well as their pain points.


    When designing with a target audience in mind, you need to pay due attention to personalization. In this fast-paced consumer-driven world, it’s common for people to buy from companies that align with their values and beliefs, so it’s crucial that you get this aspect right. You may do this by:

    • Identifying the type of content your audience likes (be it in the form of text, images, or videos)
    • Determining the tone and voice it uses
    • Understanding how to convey your message
    • Knowing how best to place and use calls to action (CTAs)
    • Researching your top competitors

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    3. Use Negative Space Wisely

    Also referred to as whitespace, negative space can balance the aesthetics of a website. For instance, you may use negative space to complement all the positive space found in how you display the content. Separating paragraphs with whitespace and using some space between the headline and content provides a necessary break.


    While whitespace is important, you should make sure there’s not too much of it because it might create an unfinished or empty look. Simply play around with this aspect to ensure that the balance gives your website a clean uncluttered look that visitors find attractive.


    4. Leverage Responsive Design

    One cannot emphasize the use of responsive web design enough. Regardless of how users access your website or the devices they use, they should have good user experiences. This means you need to optimize your website for desktops, tablets, and mobile phones alike.


    The main difference between the different devices people use is their screen size. From a user’s perspective, there’s nothing as bad as cut-off text or imagery. If you’re in the process of building your website, it’s better to opt for responsive web design at the onset instead of working on it later. If you have an existing website that is not responsive, consider going the web redesign way to ensure its optimization for smaller screens.


    5. Prioritize “Above the Fold” Space

    The space that visitors see without scrolling is very important, and it’s crucial that you use it properly. Think about what your visitors would want to see soon after they land on your website. Is it a mission statement, a company logo, or a call to action? You may have all these elements above the fold on well-performing pages. These are details that help build brand identity and give visitors considerable information without them clicking on anything.

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    6. Standardize File Names

    If you have files, it’s important to rely on an organized system that helps you find the items you’re looking for in a quick and efficient manner. Keep all file titles in lowercase, because files are case-sensitive on the web. For example, “Sunset” and “sunset” are different because of the case. To avoid having an issue finding a particular file, just stick to lowercase.


    Avoiding spaces when naming files is important. In most cases, the space you add converts to “20%”, which results in a very unusual name or Uniform Resource Locator (URL).


    You may use hyphens instead of spaces if you need to separate words. According to the website design guidelines recommended by Google for file names, search engines view hyphens in directories and file names as spaces.


    Using underscores, on the other hand, does not have the same effect, and might affect your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts adversely. This means hyphens are better for SEO and naming purposes.


    7. Source Images in the Right Way

    Make sure you use the images you get from other websites or people with the required permissions and the right attributes. A number of new site owners tend to hotlink. This is when they link to images on other websites instead of saving the images on their computers and uploading them to their sites. Consequently, the person hotlinking ends up using the other website‘s bandwidth, which is not fair. Besides, if you do this, your site might be subject to the other site’s status. So, if the website stops working or the image in question no longer exists, it will not be available on your site.


    If you work as an affiliate marketer, you might get a code that helps put up a banner on your website. Changing such banners is typically easy, and you may track their performance as well. In this case, hotlinking is okay.


    Other than as an affiliate marketer, you should avoid hotlinking. Just get the images you want, download them, and upload them. Using original images is ideal. If this is not possible, just get stock images or other images with the required permissions.

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    8. Maintain Separate Directories

    In the initial stages, it might appear like a good idea to dump all files into a single directory. You may think that having everything in a central place is the way to go. While this might help keep things simple early on, the bigger your site gets, the more difficult it will be to sift through a single directory.


    A good approach is to have a separate directory for each type of file. These might include images, CSS files, HTML pages, and other types that are high enough in number to warrant a directory. Make sure you clearly name all directories and files for easy access.


    Other Elements in Your Website Best Practices Checklist

    The website best practices checklist is extensive, to say the least, and here are other crucial elements that need your attention if you plan to create and manage a website on your own.


    Define Your Website’s Purpose

    It’s important to accommodate the needs of visitors to your website, and ensuring that each page comes with a clear intention enhances interaction. This requires that you have a clear purpose for your website, be it generating sales, attracting leads, imparting knowledge, or providing entertainment. With a clear purpose in mind, you may work on creating a website that resonates with its target audience.

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    Use the Right Typeface and Fonts

    The typeface you use can help represent your brand in a positive light and attract the attention of your target audience. While the typeface you select needs to look good, it also needs to be easily readable. This is also the case with the font you select (which refers to the size and weight of the typeface).


    If visitors have trouble reading the content on your website, there’s little chance of them performing desired actions. Some of the best typefaces for web design include:

    • Abril Fatface
    • Centra No. 1
    • Open Sans
    • Proxima Soft
    • Voyage


    In addition to getting the typeface and font right, it’s also important to use as few typefaces as possible. Using all caps is a definite no.


    Use Pop-Ups Wisely

    While modal windows and pop-ups can be highly useful, they tend to be annoying to visitors when used indiscriminately, and if this happens, a website might find itself at the mercy of its visitors. If you’ve ever clicked on what you assume to be important information, only to come across a pop-up asking you to register for something, you probably understand why it can be irritating.


    If visitors have not yet gone through much or all of your content, chances are they will not sign up for or subscribe to anything. As a result, you should not block them from going through your content with an annoying pop-up.  Bear in mind that pop-ups have attracted a lot of negativity because they are highly abused. If you do not know where to place one, just avoid it completely.


    If you would like to use a pop-up, think about places such as the bottom of an article or a page. You may have a pop-up window asking visitors if they would like to subscribe to a newsletter or sign up for related content. If they’ve gone through the content, it is more likely that they will sign up, especially if they found the content interesting and useful.


    Use the “F” or “Z” Pattern

    Using an “F” pattern in web design involves imitating a reader’s natural eye path without disrupting its flow. When it comes to English, people read in an F-shaped pattern. This means they start with the headlines of a page, scan down the left for sub-headings or bullet points, and then read across. Following this method works particularly well with sales and landing pages that aim to drive conversions.


    Unlike the “F” pattern, the “Z” pattern involves scanning from the top left to the top right, then going down to the left bottom end, and culminating at the bottom right. This pattern usually works well with pages that carry little information on focus on the CTA.

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    Break the Text Down

    Research carried out by the Nielsen Norman Group indicates that web users don’t read the entire content they come across. Instead, they scan pages and pick out sentences, phrases, or words. Ideally, the textual content you provide should be objective, concise, and easy to scan. This typically involves:

    • Using relevant sub-headings
    • Making use of bullet points
    • Limiting one idea per paragraph
    • Using short sentences
    • Steering clear of colloquialisms
    • Limiting the word count
    • Highlighting keywords


    Consider Visual Hierarchy

    This refers to how you arrange the elements of your website based on their importance. To get this right, you need to pay attention to style, typography, colors, contrast, imagery, and whitespace. Your goal when working on the right visual hierarchy is to establish a focal point that highlights where visitors can find the information they seek.


    Don’t Forget Load Time

    The longer your website takes to load, the more you may expect visitors to leave without carrying out desired actions. Ideally, pages on your website should load in less than two and no more than three seconds.



    Remember that that consistency plays a key role in creating a good-looking website that produces satisfactory results. Once you understand the principles and best practices for website development, you may look forward to attracting more traffic and improving the user experience your website delivers. If you feel you do not have the required technical know-how, partnering with an experienced web design agency might be in your best interest.

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