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10 game-changing web design best practices

web design best practices

Web design is a nuanced blend of creativity and functionality, where every pixel matters. To create a website that seamlessly merges visual allure with user-friendly navigation requires a delicate balance. To help you strike it, we’ve put together a list of 10 web design best practices for you to keep in mind while you learn how to make a website.

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Web design best practices

01. Maintain visual consistency

Maintaining consistency in your layout, color scheme, font usage and imagery helps users feel comfortable and focused on the reason they came to your website in the first place. Because it helps to define your brand identity, visual consistency can even foster feelings of familiarity and trust in visitors.

The Site Design panel in the Wix Editor makes it easy to maintain visual consistency, because the AI designer will automatically adjust the entire site to accommodate your choices (learn more about how to design a website with AI). In the site theme section, you can either choose preset color palettes and text themes, or build one to fit your existing brand guidelines. In the page background section, you can apply a color, image or video to every page background in your site. Finally, the page transition section enables you to choose how your site transitions as visitors click from page to page.

  • Stick to a color palette: Limit your color choices to a cohesive palette of three to five colors that complement each other and reflect your brand's personality. Consistently use these colors throughout your website, marketing materials and social media.

  • Limit your font variety: Choose one or two fonts for your website and stick to them across all pages. Ensure that the selected fonts are legible and align with your brand's tone and style.

  • Align imagery with brand style: Use images that resonate with your brand's personality and style. Consider using consistent filters, visual themes or image types to maintain a cohesive look and feel.

02. Develop a clear hierarchy

In the context of web design, hierarchy plays a vital role in guiding users through a website and ensuring that they can quickly gather the most critical information. By strategically arranging content based on their importance and significance, you can create a visual flow that aligns with typical reading behavior. This ensures that even those who don’t read every word or don’t scroll to the end of your page will capture the important details. Once you’ve determined what is most important, use these website design tips to make the hierarchy clear:

  • Define your objectives: To determine the hierarchy of a webpage, you need to clearly define its objectives and rank them in terms of importance. The hierarchy of the page should align with that ranking, and the dominant elements of the hierarchy should help you meet the most important objectives.

  • Put the most important content at the top of the page: The top area of the page (a.k.a., the above-the-fold area) sets the expectations for the rest of the page. Visitors understand what the page is all about by scanning the content at the top. As a result, the content at the top of the page has a much better chance of being noticed by the user than content that is available on scroll.

  • Use headers, color, element size and visual cues: In addition to layout and positioning, designers use various visual elements to make a site’s hierarchy apparent. Headers help to structure and label content, while color and element size can be used to create focal points. Utilize visual design tools like color contrast and white space to guide users' attention to the most important elements on the page.

03. Design with ample white space

Think of what happens when you enter a cluttered room—you might feel stressed, distracted and overwhelmed. Several studies have shown that that's true for many of us. A cluttered website can have an equally unpleasant effect. Ensuring that each fold has ample white space (a.k.a., negative space, or the empty or unmarked areas between design elements) can help to reduce visual noise and offer users a more comfortable browsing experience. These tips can help you follow this web design best practice:

  • Group content strategically: White space serves as a valuable tool in grouping content and distinguishing between related and unrelated elements. The principle of proximity reinforces this concept, stating that people perceive things that are close to each other as related. By strategically placing elements near each other, designers create visual associations, making it easier for users to comprehend relationships and navigate the content seamlessly.

  • Utilize grid-based layouts: Grids are a foundational element of modern web design, as they help designers distribute elements (including white space) on a webpage. Wix’s Strips and Columns can be helpful in building a grid for your site.

  • Set margins and padding: Properly sized margins and padding contribute to a balanced and visually pleasing design. Define appropriate margins and padding around your content, ensuring that important elements have enough space to breathe.

04. Make the navigation intuitive

According to Jakob’s Law of Internet User Experience, users develop mental models of how websites function based on their past experience. Deviating too much from those models can confuse them and hinder their ability to find what they need. Therefore, your navigation system—the elements that enable users to move around a website—isn’t the place to get creative. It should be as familiar and predictable as possible to avoid confusing visitors and hindering their ability to find what they need.

Here are a few examples of conventions you should stick to in order to adhere to this web design best practice:

  • Follow the three-click rule: An intuitive navigation system is tailored to the needs of its users. For that reason, you need to define the end goals of your visitors before designing your website. Once you do that, use the three-click rule to make sure that visitors can achieve each goal without unnecessary complication. This rule states that visitors should be able to find desired information in less than three mouse clicks. If you’re struggling to make this work, consider building a mega menu, which accommodates more sections and subsections than a regular menu.

  • Incorporate breadcrumbs: If your site has a lot of layers to it, breadcrumbs can prevent users from getting lost. This navigation aid shows the path a user took to get to their position within a website’s structure. By displaying the navigation path, you make it easy for them to get a sense of your site structure.

  • Use a hamburger menu for mobile navigation: To optimize mobile sites, consider reducing your website header to your logo and a hamburger menu button (three stacked horizontal lines). This is a commonly used tool to hide menus and save valuable screen space while providing easy access to navigation options.

  • Use clear link labels: Make sure links and category labels are descriptive and straightforward, conveying their purpose without ambiguity. Avoid using jargon or confusing terms.

05. Avoid burdening pages with lots of text

When browsing online, people tend to scan rather than read in-depth. For that reason, browsers often have a low tolerance for text-heavy content. That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t include a lot of text on your site (though you definitely should limit it to the necessities). What it does mean is you have to optimize text for skim-readers so they can easily find the content that is aligned with their goals. Here are a few practical recommendations on how to achieve that:

  • Chunk long blocks of text: Large, continuous blocks of text hinder easy scanning. Breaking them into smaller, more digestible sections, such as paragraphs with 100 to 200 words and 50 to 75 characters per line, helps users quickly find the information they need.

  • Pair text with visuals: Pairing text with relevant visuals is a standard best practice for web design because countless studies have demonstrated the picture superiority effect, which says that people understand and remember pictures better than words. This means that visuals can actually make it easier for people to process, understand and even remember your content.

  • Use clear, descriptive subheadings: You’ll notice that almost all of the articles on the Wix Blog make frequent use of subheadings. We don’t just do that for the SEO benefits; we also do it because our articles tend to be quite long. By implementing clear and descriptive subheadings, we aim to enhance the readability and organization of our posts.

06. Make your calls to action prominent

Calls to action, or CTAs, are vital for encouraging website visitors to convert, as they help to guide users toward your desired end goal. For maximum impact, make sure your CTAs are prominently displayed and clearly distinguishable from the surrounding content. Position them strategically throughout your page, placing them in areas where users are most likely to take action. For instance, product landing pages often feature a CTA button multiple times so that visitors can make a purchase the second they’re convinced. Here are a few more tips to take into account:

  • Write actionable labels for CTAs: The label you use for CTAs should motivate your customers to convert. Instead of using vague labels like "More" labels, use verbs like “Buy,” “Subscribe” or “Sign Up.”

  • Design them with contrasting colors: Make sure the CTA button color stands out from the background and surrounding elements.

  • Use animation: Consider adding subtle animations or hover effects to make the CTA more engaging.

07. Use a mobile-friendly design

In 2022, over 60% of the global internet population used a mobile device to go online. Because of that, Google actually prioritizes sites with quality mobile versions. With those factors in mind, it’s important to optimize your site for the small screen.

Tools like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and Wix’s Mobile Editor are helpful for optimizing a website, but you need to know the following in order to make the most of those tools:

  • Thumb-friendly design: Thumb-based interactions are much less precise than a cursor. Therefore, buttons and other interactive elements should be large enough (around 44 x 44 px) that they can be tapped with a thumb.

  • Use fonts that can easily be read on a small screen: Ensure that the font you choose to use for the body copy of your website looks good on a small mobile device screen. Scale it to the size of 14px (minimum recommended size of body text) and see if you can read the text comfortably. If you cannot, consider changing the typeface to a more readable one.

  • Remove unnecessary visual details: Try to hide elements that could negatively impact site performance. For example, it's recommended to avoid fancy animated effects on mobile devices because they require more computational power and don’t work well for mobile devices.

08. Focus on website speed

Slow-loading websites frustrate users and increase bounce rates, leading to potential loss of traffic and customers. According to Kissmetrics, about half of users expect a website to load in two seconds or less and will leave if it takes longer.

Google also considers site speed when determining site rank in search results, so making yours faster can help to increase its visibility. Here are a few practical recommendations for increasing site speed:

  • Compress file sizes: Using modern file formats like WebP and AVIF or compressing images with tools like TinyPNG both help to reduce load times without compromising image quality.

  • Implement lazy loading: Lazy loading delays the loading of images and other non-essential elements until the user scrolls down to view them. This reduces the initial page load time and improves the user experience, especially on long pages with many images.

  • Use a content delivery network (CDN): A CDN takes your static files (images, CSS, JavaScript, etc.) and serves them on the servers closest to the user's physical location. This reduces latency and speeds up page loading, resulting in a smoother user experience.

Note: Wix constantly updates its infrastructure so your site loads as quickly as possible. This guide to website optimization can help you improve your site performance even further.

09. Design with accessibility in mind

Website accessibility is not just a nice-to-have feature; it's an ethical and practical necessity that benefits both users and businesses. According to the CDC, about 27% of Americans have a disability. That means you could be preventing a quarter of consumers from engaging with your site if you don’t make it accessible. Here are some practical recommendations to ensure accessible design:

  • Ensure a strong color contrast: Color contrast is the difference in brightness between foreground and background colors. The contrast ratio is the difference in contrast between foreground and background. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) says that a contrast ratio between text and its of at least 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text is necessary for it to be visible to low-visibility users. You can use tools like Webaim Contrast Checker to check color contrast compliance.

  • Use alternative text: People with vision impairments use screen readers to process the information on a website. These tools rely on alternative text, or alt text, to translate images and videos to their users. Therefore, adding captions and alt text to images is vital. Additionally, captions as well as video transcripts or close captioning are necessary for people with hearing impairments.

  • Enable keyboard navigation: Some users may have difficulty using a mouse due to motor impairments, so ensuring that all interactive elements can be accessed and controlled using the "Tab" key on a keyboard is essential.

10. Leave a lasting impression

While visual consistency and intuitive navigation are crucial for creating a seamless user experience, it’s important to find opportunities for unconventional design choices. Injecting creativity and uniqueness into your site can be a powerful way to set yourself apart from competitors and establish a distinct brand identity. Check out these ideas for leaving a lasting impression:

  • Try out asymmetrical layouts: Experiment with non-traditional, asymmetrical layouts to add visual interest and make your website feel dynamic and engaging.

  • Implement microinteractions: Subtle, interactive elements throughout your website—such as hover effects, animated buttons or playful loading animations—can make the user experience a bit more fun without distracting the user.

  • Make your own graphics: Use custom illustrations that reflect your brand's personality and story. These illustrations can be hand-drawn or digitally created in a distinctive style that sets your website apart from others.

web design best practices infographic

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