As the old saying goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” especially with regard to web design.
While technology changes rapidly around us these days, good design really doesn’t change all that much. The better sites are solid systems that run a simple, easy-to-follow design. Take a good look at company websites like Google and Apple. Really study their design styles, use of white space, sizing, fonts, etc. You will find those designs to be very clean and easy to read.
While design tools improve over time, the basic fundamentals pretty much stay the same. With that said, here are my 10 top web design tips I recommend, now and always:
1. Design With Faster Load Times in Mind: There is nothing worse than web pages and blogs that hang when you try to load them. How you manage your graphics and content is key. Unlike print, web images should be sized and reduced to smaller file sizes to ensure proper load times. If you are unsure about how to accomplish this, there are countless guides online and on most computers and devices on image management and compression.
2. Proper Use of Images Is Key: There’s nothing worse than “image pollution” on a website! No one wants to be bombarded with gazillions of images, especially if they’re spammy in nature, badly designed or irrelevant to your site’s content. There are countless online tutorials on proper image design and implementation. Content management systems like WordPress also offer design and imagery assistance in their Help codex.
3. Shorten Your Page Text Whenever Possible: In today’s busy world, let’s face it… people simply don’t read anymore, they “scan”… they “browse”… they “screen” … they “peruse.” Before you know it, they move onto something new. You literally have about 5 seconds to grab someone’s attention on a website before they get bored or frustrated, so keep your text concise whenever possible. If you have a lot of content to convey, try breaking it up over multiple pages or posts, which will reduce the monotony a bit. Remember, everyone’s brain is on “information overload” these days, so ease up on the verbiage and keep your sentences short and sweet.
4. Good Navigation Is Crucial: I’ve been designing and developing websites for many years. It was true from day-one when I started back in 1995, it’s true today and will be true tomorrow. If your site navigation sucks and people can’t find what they’re looking for, they will run for the hills, unlikely to return! So make sure everything is labeled legibly and easy to find. Otherwise, what’s the point of having a site? If people can’t find what they want when they visit you, they’ll move on to look for greener pastures elsewhere. That’s the truth.
5. Make Sure Your Content is Relevant to Your Website: If you are basket weaver, it’s best to stick to the topic of making baskets. Going off on other tangents rarely bodes well with viewers and it’s a bad business move for you. Unless there is a specific reason to wander or stray into non-related topics, don’t do it. It’s annoying and viewers will leave frustrated.
6. Don’t Overuse Animation: Unless your website must use animation to relay a specific graphic message to your viewers, ease up on it. Better yet, don’t use it. A nicely done slideshow featuring photography or cool images is fine, but unless it’s relevant to your message, over-the-top graphics are unpopular. In fact, most online viewers are at their wit’s end with endless crazy animations, advertisements and blinking, flying images blasting all over the place, especially on mobile and tablets. If you do nothing else, ease up on the graphics. You will have better luck attracting customers and gaining site traffic. If you’re going to use video, that’s great. Be smart about it.
7. Proper Design & Color: Like it or not, websites are catered to a global market these days, and are expected to be responsive and current. Content management systems such as WordPress offer a wide array of templates that are well designed and graphically pleasing. If you want a really great looking website without the ability, desire or budget to create something on a large scale, WordPress can be a huge help.
8. Don’t “O.D” On Too Many Fonts: Some designers will argue that “font diversity” is important for a great design. I disagree in most cases. For print work that’s just fine, but for web and apps, keep it simple and consistent. Use fonts that read well on all platforms. Stick to your online staples such as Arial, Helvetica, Verdana, and your basic sans-serif family of fonts, which are easier to read and work with.
9. Test Your Work Before Launching It: One of my biggest pet-peeves is programmers and designers that don’t test their work! GRRRRR! I pull my hair out finding bugs! Yes, it’s tedious but it’s essential to test your work and check it on all of the multiple browsers and computer configurations (i.e. PC, Mac, Safari, Chrome, Firefox, I.E. etc). Nearly every computer or device is different, and it can be really shocking to see how drastically your work changes from browser to browser. You may not be able to please all the people all the time, but do your best to fix what you can. If you are working from a paid or premium theme, most have toggles for desktop, laptop, tablet and cell phone settings.
10. Mistakes and Typos are Killers: To err is human without a doubt, but typos and mistakes send a bad message about you. So really take the time to proof and correct all of your website content before you launch it. This means all text, images, links, videos, and everything in between. It can be virtually impossible to proof your own work, so ask a friend or colleague to help. You can also enlist the help of a proofreader, which can be very beneficial. Doing this means you care about your viewers and they will take your business more seriously. Well written content “legitimizes” your work and makes you look more professional.
Have other tips about design and development? Send me a note and let me know your thoughts. I’m happy to hear your ideas. 🙂