Your website header shouldn't be taken for granted. Aside from serving as a primary navigation tool, it's the first thing that most visitors see when they land on your website. Therefore, it’s vital that you dedicate a good amount of time and effort to building it when creating a website.
Because there’s so much pressure on this little piece of real estate, we’ve put together a list of website header best practices that’ll help you maximize its potential. Later on, we’ll go through a few standout examples of the web design element to demonstrate how to put those best practices into action when making a site.
What is a website header?
A website header refers to the top section of a web page that appears consistently across all pages of a website. It typically appears above all other site content, and contains elements like the logo, website menu and other important information. Because this element is so prominent, it helps to set the visual tone and provide essential navigation for the entire website.
8 types of website headers
Web designers have done quite a bit of experimenting with website headers over the years, so there are a lot of different approaches to website header design. While some types of website headers are useful for branding or aesthetic purposes, others prioritize usability. Let’s discuss a few of the most common types of headers so that you can decide which is best for your purposes as you start designing a website.
01. Sticky website header
A sticky website header stays pinned to the top of every web page so that it’s always visible no matter which page your visitor is on or how far they scroll. This simple yet effective approach guarantees uninterrupted access to essential information.
02. Static website header
Unlike a sticky website header, a static website header doesn’t move and disappears from view when visitors scroll. This choice prioritizes space and simplicity over navigational ease. If you make a static website header, consider adding a “back to top” button to make navigation easier for visitors.
03. Vertical website header
In a vertical website header, the logo and other header elements are stacked vertically, allowing for a compact and streamlined presentation. Placing the header vertically can also draw attention and create a sense of visual interest. It can help differentiate your website from others that use more conventional horizontal headers.
That said, you’ll want to make sure that your vertical header doesn't overpower the main content or hinder usability. Check that all of your header elements are visible and legible, especially on smaller screens.
04. Hidden website header
A hidden website header is concealed and only becomes visible when a user clicks on a hamburger menu button. This technique helps to optimize screen space and create a more interactive navigation experience. It is crucial, however, to prioritize user experience when implementing this option.
While some designers have explored alternatives to the hamburger menu, it's important to consider that deviating from the familiar icon may cause confusion if visitors do not recognize your icon as the navigation menu.
05. Full-screen website header
A full-screen website header hides behind a menu icon and spans the entire width and height of a device screen when it opens. This bold, visually engaging type of website header tends to create quite an impact. That said, it’s not for every website.
A full-screen header is more complicated from a design perspective than others, especially in terms of optimizing it for performance and responsiveness. If you’re confident in your design skills, you can use Wix’s lightbox feature to easily incorporate a full-screen website header into your website.
06. Transparent website header
If you like the usability of a sticky header but don’t love the look, consider making it transparent. A transparent header has no solid background, so it integrates seamlessly into the rest of the page. This type of header has a sleek appearance, and it’s useful for emphasizing the hero section of your web pages. When using the static version of this header style, make sure that the text doesn't blend into or clash with other sections of the page and that it's always legible.
07. Hero website header
A hero header is a prominent and visually striking design element that occupies the entire section above the fold. The purpose of this header style is to engage users from the moment they land on your web page. It sets the tone, establishes your brand identity and communicates your website's main offering or value proposition. A hero header often includes interactive elements to encourage users to take certain actions, such as exploring your products or becoming customers.
08. Mega-menu website header
When you hover your mouse over the header above this article, you’ll notice that dropdown menus appear under each of the navigation options. Mega-menu headers like this one use dropdown menus, sometimes with multiple columns, to provide extensive navigation options and subcategories. Keep in mind that this style can get overwhelming for visitors, so you should only use it if it’s absolutely necessary.
What should you include in a website header?
Deciding what you should include in your website header can be challenging since it’s such a small amount of space. Here, we’ll explore the elements that often appear in a website header to help you decide what to include in yours.
The logo is a fundamental component of a website header, serving as a visual representation of your brand identity. Adding your logo to your website header can build brand recognition while establishing a visual anchor that fosters trust as your visitors browse through your site.
According to a study from the Nielsen Norman Group, users are 89% more likely to remember a brand when its logo appears in the left corner of a website header than when it’s in the right corner. Once you’ve added a logo to your website header, it’s also a great practice to link it to the homepage. This way, visitors browsing various pages of your site can get back to the start in just one click.
Tip: Need help creating a unique logo? Use Wix’s free logo maker for inspiration.
As we’ve discussed, a navigation menu will be a primary element of your website header. When creating your navigation menu, it's essential to prioritize clarity and simplicity. Ordering the page links hierarchically and labeling them clearly will guarantee an intuitive user experience.
A website header is often meant to guide the user towards where they need to be before they even start looking. If your site includes an online store, adding a shopping cart to the header will simplify and improve your shopper’s checkout process. The ubiquitous basket icon will be recognized as a checkout location as users continue to browse and add items. Most importantly, they won’t get distracted from their (and your) final goal: fulfilling their orders and paying with ease.
If your website contains a substantial amount of text-based content, incorporating a search bar in your website header can significantly enhance navigability and improve the overall user experience. Users can easily search for specific information, articles or products without having to navigate through menus or scroll through lengthy pages.
This is especially true for websites with a blog. A search bar allows readers to input keywords or topics of interest, and immediately find relevant blog posts or articles.
Tip: With its corresponding Search report, the Wix Site Search feature offers valuable insights into user intent. The report reveals what visitors search for on your website, which gives you a deeper understanding of their interests and preferences. This information can help you to optimize your website’s structure and prioritize the information that resonates most with your visitors.
When designing a membership website, it is essential to provide a seamless login experience for your users. Since the primary purpose of a membership site is to restrict access to exclusive content, you’ll need to create a designated area for users to log in and access members-only material.
By incorporating a login link in the header, you create a user-friendly experience that allows members to easily access their accounts and enjoy the exclusive content your membership site offers. It streamlines the login process, enhances usability and reinforces the sense of exclusivity associated with the membership.
Social media links
Because website designers often place social bars in website footers, there’s no pressure to fit them into your header. That said, you might want to make room for one if social media is a significant aspect of your overall marketing strategy.
Placing social media icons in the header ensures they are immediately visible to website visitors, making it easier for them to connect with your social media profiles. It signals to users that you have an active online presence and encourages them to engage with your brand on social platforms.
In today's interconnected world, expanding your organization's reach to a global audience is a strategic goal for many businesses. By incorporating a language menu in your website header, you can send a clear signal to foreign visitors that you value their business and are dedicated to providing a seamless user experience tailored to their language preferences. It shows that you recognize the importance of communication and are willing to accommodate their needs.
The language menu in the website header serves as a user-friendly tool that allows visitors to easily switch between different language options. It enhances accessibility and enables individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds to easily navigate your website, fostering a sense of inclusivity and understanding.
CTA buttons are extraordinarily useful for guiding user behavior. By placing your primary CTA button in the website header, you can make it one of the first elements visitors see when they land on your website. This prominent placement increases the likelihood of capturing their attention and enticing them to take action.
5 best practices for website header design
Designing an effective website header requires thoughtful consideration and clever strategies to optimize the limited space available. Following these best practices can help you make a website header that is captivating, user-friendly and aligned with your brand identity.
01. Use clear, readable fonts
Since the header is the northern star of your site navigation, it’s essential that you strike a balance between representing your brand identity and maximizing readability. After all, the purpose of the text in your header is to guide your audience. If it's difficult to decipher, it can detract from the overall user experience. Therefore, opt for a font that is clearly legible in a variety of sizes. Color can also hinder readability, so make sure to choose high-contrast color schemes for the font and its background.
02. Assess the header’s design
While there is no universal template for a perfect header design, it's important to maintain a sense of fluidity throughout your webpage. While it should never go unnoticed, try to make sure your header’s size doesn’t interfere with the rest of your page’s content
Consistency is key when it comes to visual elements within the header. Make sure that the color scheme, imagery and font align with the overall design of your website. This cohesiveness enhances the user experience by providing a visually unified and familiar interface.
03. Include a clear call to action
If it’s important for your business’s success, you’d be missing out if you didn’t include an effective call-to-action button on your header for everyone to see. For example, an eCommerce website can include a call-to-action button that reads “Shop Here” in its header. Or, in the case of a nonprofit website, the header is an excellent place to encourage visitors with a “Donate Now” button. Make sure your message is enticing, clear and can be summed up in one or two words.
04. Add animation
Hover effects and trigger animations in website headers provide visual feedback, which is crucial for user experience. They can also help you capture the attention of visitors and encourage them to interact with the header.
When implementing hover effects and trigger animations in your website headers, check that the effects are subtle, purposeful and consistent with the overall design of your website. They should enhance the user experience without causing distractions or slowing down your website's performance.
5 website header design examples
Before diving into your website header design, get some inspiration from this collection of headers that Wix users have featured on their sites. These examples can provide insights into the elements and design choices that make a header both visually appealing and effective.
01. Generation She
Generation She manages to fit a larger variety of elements in its header than normal without overwhelming visitors with a cluttered design. The header features the nonprofit’s modern logo, a well-structured navigation menu and a compelling CTA. This thoughtful arrangement ensures easy access to important information and encourages user engagement from the outset.
One notable aspect of Generation She's website header is the incorporation of social media links, which are presented as eye-catching buttons in a trendy neon-pastel color scheme. This adds a touch of visual appeal while effectively connecting visitors to the organization's social media presence.
02. Dopple Press
As Dopple Press demonstrates, a hero website header is a great way to make a strong visual impact. The header design cleverly incorporates the printer's natural paper stock as the background, instantly establishing a connection to the brand's core product.
The printer's logo is front and center in the header, showing off the brand’s personality. To the right, a colorful cartoon mascot adds a playful element to the overall design, capturing the attention of visitors.
On the left side of the header, a unique menu icon with a spinning hover effect stands out. This interactive element adds an element of excitement and invites visitors to explore further. When clicked, the icon reveals a full-screen navigation menu, which incorporates three soy ink colors used by Dopple Press in their printing processes.
The decision to hide the navigation menu creates a sense of spaciousness and allows the branding elements to take center stage. The abundance of white space surrounding the logo, mascot and menu icon enhances the overall aesthetic and allows the sophisticated branding elements to shine.
The website header design prioritizes legibility without sacrificing aesthetics. The static bar makes navigation easy for visitors, regardless of where they are on the site. By utilizing an electric blue hue for both the navigation buttons and the logo, the designer gives the header a clean, seamless appearance that prioritizes legibility.
The Barcelona-based store has two language options in the right corner of the header: English and Catalan. This thoughtful inclusion caters to international customers while demonstrating the retailer’s pride in its Catalan roots.
04. Aurelio de Anda
Adding text to your website’s header is a great way to give your viewers a personal or professional message from the start. In this example, the message appears as a ticker banner at the very top. The designer’s name spans the page width in a large, monolinear font. To its right, a music player adds to the browsing experience and the two most important links appear as brightly colored buttons. Finally, underlined anchors to different parts of the homepage appear beneath the designer’s name in a fine serif font.
05. Wendy Ju
As a product designer, Wendy Ju uses her online portfolio to showcase her knack for creating a good user experience. With a short vertical menu on the right and her personal logo on the left, the site is well-balanced and easy to navigate. Both the menu and logo float out of view when viewers move past the above-the-fold section, but they reappear with an upward scroll.