Your search for the ultimate guide on web design best practices is over.
If you’re looking to learn more about web design, and specifically about the best practices of good web design, you’re in the right place.
We’ve shortlisted the 15 most important web design practices that are sure to boost your overall user experience big time.
Set your conversions on an upward trend with our top picks for the best practices for web design.
1. Simple and easy website navigation
When it comes to web design best practices, website navigation cannot be emphasized enough.
You want to offer visitors a pleasant browsing experience, right?
The best way to achieve that is by keeping the number of choices (clicks) the user has to make in order to navigate somewhere on the site to a minimum.
But, don’t neglect the visual side of your site navigation.
What to do
Make the menu or navigation bar easy to understand – this is not the place to use internal jargon.
Your menu should also not be too crowded, or you’ll end up overwhelming a potential customer (more on decision fatigue later).
Make the search bar easily accessible on all pages, and consider introducing breadcrumbs to your website design for ultimate accessibility.
This way, your user can find their way back to any landing page with one simple click.
2. Clear and bold call to action (CTA)
Emphasizing your call to action sections is one of the best web design practices because it is just so effective.
Regardless of whether you’re a brand, a business, or a creative professional with a portfolio website, you want to persuade visitors to do something when they land on your website.
What to do
First and foremost, your calls to action need to be easily visible in your overall web design.
This means that you should be using a bolder font, contrasting color, and persuasive language in the CTA button or banner.
Also, think about the actual positioning of your CTAs on your site:
- Is the button/banner placed high enough on your page?
- Is the button/banner grouped together with the corresponding offer?
If you’re unsure about your placement, use heat mapping tools to further understand where visitors spend the most time on your website.
The power of A/B-testing
It’s also a great idea to conduct regular A/B-testing with your CTAs.
If you run an email marketing campaign, you could create two similar landing pages but experiment with the CTA placement on both.
When you’re ready to send out an email, simply split your email list into two and divide your traffic to your pages A and B.
Give it a few days, and then analyze the results.
You might be surprised at how different the conversion rates and overall engagement are.
3. Keeping things familiar
When it comes to web design best practices, even if you’re a top web designer, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
More often than not, ensuring user familiarity with your web design is in your best interest.
That’s because most visitors have grown accustomed to certain web design principles, and the moment you take them away, you’ll end up confusing your users.
What to do
For example, it’s really not in your or your brand’s best interest to introduce a brand new navigation system to your web design as users might find it counter-intuitive and bounce.
Chances are that your visitors will have no clue how to get around your website and end up closing the tab and taking their business elsewhere.
So, there’s no shame in opting for the typical navigation bars, hamburger menus, and social media icons.
4. Optimizing and prioritizing SEO
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of tailoring the content of your website so that it best answers a potential search query on search engines like Google.
You’re basically grooming both your website and the content on it to look favorable to search engines, resulting in free organic traffic.
In short – it’s a way of generating visits to your website without paying money for it.
What to do
Make your site a true search engine’s pet by focusing on both on- and off-page SEO.
First and foremost, produce content that answers a particular search query, giving search engines a reason to show your website to potential customers.
This way, your website will show at the top of the search results.
So, if you haven’t already, add a blog section to your website and get busy writing.
Remember to format your blog post content correctly, using the appropriate heading styles and keywords.
Add image alt texts and work on getting other websites linking back to your content (called backlinking in the world of SEO).
Learn more: The Complete Guide to Small Business SEO
5. Using white space
When you first start learning about web design, best practices, and overall design theory, it’s natural to want to try everything out at once.
But hold your horses – white space isn’t necessarily a sign that you’re failing when it comes to the top-notch web design standard.
What to do
First of all, empty space on your pages helps your calls to action look more prominent and persuasive.
When a business consciously tries to not clutter its pages with more and more content, the content that actually matters stands out easier.
Also, white space helps visitors to digest the web design faster.
And as a bonus, opting for a more minimal look helps your site load fast, too.
6. Fast page load times
When it comes to best practices in web design, the speed of your website can’t be stressed enough.
If your page speed is slow, not only will your visitors get frustrated – but search engines will also see it as a bad thing.
And that doesn’t just mean desktops. Your website should be lightning-fast on mobile devices, too.
In fact, Google has even created industry benchmarks to further prove the point that speed matters.
According to this data, it’s obvious that a loading speed of under 3 seconds is by far the best way to keep visitors on your website and web pages.
What to do
But how do you actually speed up your website?
You can try a few things:
- Optimize the images on your website (the smaller the better)
- Regularly audit your site for broken links (those 404s can take ages to load)
- Make sure you’re using responsive design on every page
It’s always worthwhile to check what kind of speed promises different web hosting providers have.
Even if the price for a full year’s hosting seems affordable, keep an eye out for potential warning signs. If the hosting provider only has servers in one country, you risk having a slow website: that’s because your browser could take longer to communicate with the servers where your website is hosted.
Product photos and images of all sorts are a fundamental part of good website design practices.
Since a picture tells a thousand words, many brands and businesses use visuals not just on social media, but extensively on their websites, too.
Even if you’re not an online store owner or a freelance photographer with a portfolio website, you’re most likely still going to use at least a few images on your website.
To keep your website design relevant to your brand and field of business, consider using images that demonstrate how your product is meant to be used.
Or, if you’re selling a service or your skills, images that capture the nature of your business is all about would work wonders.
What to do
Make sure that you’re using high-quality images that contain human faces wherever possible.
You also want to optimize all your images for SEO: this means that you should compress the file sizes so that they load faster.
And don’t forget about that all-important alt text.
If for any reason your image doesn’t load up, the alt text is what will be shown on your page instead: it should be descriptive of the image.
8. Responsive design
Maximize the user experience by keeping your website mobile-friendly.
Since about half of the people on the internet use mobile devices to browse, if your content isn’t optimized for smaller screens, you risk losing up to half of your potential traffic.
Because it’s been proven over and over that if website visitors have to wait longer than 3-5 seconds for your home page to load, they will leave your site.
That’s why you should use website elements that scale accordingly to the screen they are being viewed from.
What to do
If you’re new to the world of website design, consider using a website builder to be 100% sure that you’re making no mistakes when it comes to the responsive design of your site.
Consider opting for a builder that’s up to date with all web design best practices.
This way, you won’t have to worry about staying on top of the constantly changing web design standards.
Instead, you’ll just need to:
- Pick a template you like
- Design your website in the builder editor
- Snd toggle between the desktop and mobile views to double check everything’s working as it should.
There’s probably no easier way to make sure your website is truly mobile-friendly.
9. Story-driven, consistent branding
When it comes to digital marketing, websites that look put-together and have a clear brand usually emerge on the top.
A large part of branding is telling the story of your business.
That’s why it’s important to take a moment before you start designing your website and think about what kind of a story your brand is trying to tell.
This means that your website should look consistent from one page to the next, and the design should reflect the mission and values of your business.
What to do
Take the time to make sure you’re understanding what kind of a brand you’re building, what values are important to your business, and what your mission is.
Next, translate these values into your logo and an overall color scheme for yor website.
You want to make sure that your menu bar, footer and other elements that get repeated on your pages reflect your brand’s story, and remain uniform.
Think about your target audience, too: you should be creating your website with the end-user in mind.
If you’re an environmental advocate, bright red branding might feel out of place on your website.
10. Don’t give them too many choices
While you want to be able to offer a few different options for your website visitors (be it a few different pricing choices or a handful of different products that you sell), don’t go overboard with it.
Have you ever seen a child throwing a tantrum in the supermarket candy aisle, because of the sheer number of choices available?
According to Hick’s Law, when presented with too many choices, people tend to suffer from what’s called an ‘analysis paralysis’.
When there are too many options to choose from, the time that it takes to reach a decision increases as well.
What to do
In the world of eCommerce, this could mean the following scenario: by having too many products or deals available, the visitors take longer to consider which one they want to buy.
And the longer they think about whether they need another pair of sneakers or not, the higher are the chances that they will need to talk with their spouse/sister/dad about it.
And cue abandoned carts and drops in your conversion rates.
So, remember one of the basic digital marketing principles, that lends itself well to web design: keep it simple, stupid.
11. Make the rule of thirds your friend
This is probably one of the worst-kept secrets in the world of website design.
The rule of thirds is a photography and design practice, where an image or a web page is divided into 9 parts with horizontal and vertical lines.
And where those lines intersect, that’s where the viewer is initially going to be looking at when they see the picture or land on the site.
And you, too, should be applying the golden rule of thirds to your website and landing pages.
Because that way, you’ll be able to inject the most important information into sections on a web page that the visitors’ eyes are naturally drawn to.
What to do
The easiest way to make sure you’re putting the rule of thirds to use is by designing your website using a grid.
Top-notch website builders come with a grid editor, meaning that you can place your content in just the right places without messing up the rest of the page.
Divide a page up into 9 equal sections, and identify where these sections intersect – you want to place the most important information at the intersections.
Then, consider the content of your page: what’s the most important information that the user should notice?
Maybe it’s a call to action button, a form, or maybe just your business logo.
12. Add unique finishing touches
You’ve probably noticed that the most memorable and best web designs have that little something to them.
So while you want to keep your overall website design familiar and intuitive, there’s no harm in introducing small design elements and details to your website content.
An easy way to do this is by adding little animations to loading screens and user actions (think mouse clicks and animated buttons, to name a few).
You need to make your website stand out from the masses, after all.
What to do
Think about the design elements you have at your disposal, as well as your target audience.
Chances are that engineers won’t really care about a unicorn prancing around the screen when they confirm their email subscription – but it might go down a treat if you’re selling stationery or children’s clothes.
And not all unique details need to be complicated animations you need to hire web designers for.
Just changing up your iconography and option for an on-brand font can already spice up your web pages, with relatively minimum effort – or cost.
And sometimes just switching up your site copy can make a huge difference to how you sound as a brand.
Think about ways of saying repeated and tired phrases in a fresh and new way.
Just because your 404 error page isn’t exactly the most exciting page to land on, it doesn’t have to sound like all the other 404 pages out there.
13. Similarity plays to your advantage
We humans are pretty simple creatures, and we like it when things are symmetrical and similar to each other.
In fact, we have a tendency to group similar items together, in order to better make sense of the world.
And it’s definitely in your best interest to use the Gestalt principle in your web design.
By using similar colors and shapes in your design for call to action and contact buttons, for exapmle, you make it easy for the user to build connotations with certain design elements on your site.
What to do
Make the most out of this website design practice by starting with a little design audit.
Note down all the different elements you’re using on your site, writing down the current shape, size and color of each element.
Then, start grouping similar elements together: maybe your buttons and campaign sections use the same color, or you use different-sized circles around your content.
Next, look at ways to include similar elements together on your individual pages: if you have a landing page for collecting newsletter subscriptions, consider using a similar color scheme for the copy section and the email form.
14. Don’t shy away from purpose-built landing pages
Even on this list, landing pages are probably the biggest deal when it comes to website design best practices, so take notes.
When it comes designing your landing pages, you should take the time to build separate pages for paid and organic traffic.
This mainly boils down to SEO.
To attract organic traffic from search engines, you need to make sure you’re using the right keywords and optimizing your content and back link profile accordingly.
The visitor who searches for ‘best car washing service in Chicago’ isn’t necessarily ready to book their car in for a wax yet.
They might still need time to evaluate all service providers in the area before they part with their money.
But with paid ad traffic, your visitors have already seen an offer about your business online.
Maybe you’re offering first-time buyers 50% their first car wash, for example.
In this case, a user who’s landed on your site is already most likely wearing their buying hat and won’t need as much convincing to make a purchase than someone who’s still shopping around.
What to do
Get on top of your landing page game by looking at the paid advertising campaigns you’re currently running for your site.
Think about what they are selling, and where the user ends up once they click on your ad.
If you’re currently sending your ad traffic to a page that basically repeats what you’re saying in your ad, consider creating a new page that prompts the user to select the offered product or book an appointment with your sales team.
Things like pricing, and more details on the advertised deal are more important to a user who found your website through a paid ad than the history of your brand.
Similarly, ensure that users who landed on your site through organic sources (like search engine traffic) are given plenty of details about your business and your products and services.
15. Pay attention to your copy
Have you critically analyzed how you’re using text in your overall web design?
We live in an attention economy, and the sad reality is that most people online don’t actually read everything on your website.
But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still try to get your visitors to read what you’ve got to say.
While website design best practices can vary when it comes to the copy on your website, there are a few rules that apply across most fields.
What to do
There are a few ways to make your website copy more digestible to busy passers-by.
While you should do everything in your power to minimize text on every page, make sure that the words you are using are making a difference.
So, use short sentences and short, skimmable paragraphs.
Treat the written content on your website like you would a magazine ad: it has to grab the visitor’s attention immediately, or it’s game over.
Make it easy for your readers to grasp what you want to tell them: use bullet points, bolded words, and different font sizes to communicate your main ideas across fast.