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22 Web Design Principles for Stunning Sites With Great UX

First impressions separate the bad websites from the good ones, and you don’t have to be a web designer to know the difference.

Good web design helps users to make buying decisions and evaluate your brand and product.

Understanding the principles of good web design ensures that your website stands out and attracts the attention of visitors.

So, let’s learn how to pamper visitors with some jaw-droppingly good website design from these 22 web design principles. 

Keep your website navigation simple

You want to pay close attention to your website’s navigation. 

The site menu is the foundation of all website navigation and your visitors will need it to find their way around your website. 

Still, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun with your menu bar: if you’re tired of the traditional top menu, opt for a drop-down or a sidebar, just like Dolly Ave

Dolly Ave home page

First and foremost though, navigation needs to be easy for your visitors to use – as well as to locate.  

Have a logical page hierarchy

Page hierarchy is one of the all-time top web design principles.

If you don’t organize your website pages logically you’ll end up with a confused user who probably won’t return to your site for a while, if ever.

Ideally, you should only have a handful of main page categories and then categorize the rest of your pages under these parent categories. 

That way, you’re able to keep pages related to privacy policies and terms and conditions separate from your portfolio pages, for example. 

Utilize the F reading pattern 

Let’s face it – most readers online are skimmers. 

And it turns out that the majority of us view a page in a viewing pattern that resembles the letter F. 

In practice, that means that the human eye will first focus on the content at the top of the page, and then move down the page, keeping to the left. 

The F reading pattern example on Mailchimp's landing page

That means that you want to include all the important information horizontally on top of a web page. 

This way, you ensure that most visitors won’t miss what you’ve got to say.

Don’t forget the golden on-page ratio 

We, humans, are visual creatures who love symmetry. 

Editor’s note 📝 – Understanding the web design principle of the golden ratio (the flawless symmetrical relationship between two different parts) helps to make your website look balanced. 

Basing your web page design off the golden ratio and overall rule of thirds makes your design elements look easy on the eye. 

Make negative space your friend 

Negative or white space is important for your website design for two main reasons: 

  • It helps you create a proper visual hierarchy for your pages 
  • It makes your calls to action banners and buttons to stand out 

When it comes to good web design, less is usually more. 

You don’t want to over clutter your website and make it difficult for your visitor to do what you want them to do: subscribe to your newsletter, buy your product or book an appointment with you. 

Just channel your inner Steve Jobs to create a design that Apple would be envious of. 

Understand and implement Hick’s Law

This design principle is based on William Edmund Hick and Ray Hyman’s psychological principles of decision fatigue. 

At its core, decision fatigue refers to the fact that the more choices you give to a visitor, the longer it takes for them to reach a decision. 

In website design, Hick’s Law usually translates to not overloading your web design with lots of visual elements that require the user to take an action.

So, use your call to action buttons and banners sparingly for maximum effectiveness. 

Put Fitt’s Law in action 

Size really does matter in the world of web design. 

Originally coined by Paul Fitts in relation to the theory of the human motor system, Fitt’s Law has become one of the central principles of UX and web design. 

The idea of Fitt’s Law is to ensure that the visual elements in your design are large and closely positioned to the user.

This way they can be easily selected.

Ecwid's landing page, example of Fitt's law

In Ecwid’s case, the big, bold headline and obvious call to action button make it easy to do what Ecwid wants you to do – start selling on Amazon.

So, don’t be shy, try out some bigger fonts for your calls to action and headers. 

And using bright colors for buttons isn’t a bad idea, either. 

Make sure your website is mobile-friendly

This one’s a given: most of us know already that almost half of the people online browse using a mobile device.

But there’s more: not having a mobile-friendly website can seriously harm your SEO, too. 

So make sure that mobile user experience is reflected in your overall website design.

Test all new pages well prior to publishing them, and use good design elements on the page that scale according to the screen size. 

Have lightning-fast page speed

You might not realize it, but your website’s loading speed is one of the grounding principles of effective web design. 

Tip 💁 – Page speed has a direct impact on user experience and the bounce rates of your pages, it’s something you shouldn’t overlook. 

Because let’s face it, would you want to wait around for a page to load? Chances are that you, too, would click away at the 3-second mark. 

2 hours later gif

So take the time to do your homework: there are plenty of ways to increase your page speed with relatively little effort.  

Pay close attention to call to action buttons

Whether you’re a fully-fledged business or a freelancer looking for the occasional side gig, or a big business trying to optimize for every single dollar, you need to think about your call to action.

Thinking strategically about your call to action buttons and how they fit into your overall web design can make a real difference to your bottom line. 

Look at the language you’re using in your buttons, where they are positioned on your website, and where they lead the user. 

A well-designed call to action path: 

  • Starts with a button that’s is easily noticed by the users 
  • Prompts the user to take action by describing how the action will benefit the user
  • Makes it easy for the user to perform the desired action (subscribe to a newsletter, make an order, download content, tweet about it) 

Pick the right hero image

It’s a cliche, but pictures speak a thousand words. 

So choosing your hero images (the main visual at the very top of your pages) is just as important as it sounds. 

You want to focus on high-resolution, high-quality and professional images that are related to your field of business and optimized for the web

Fitbit landing page

Your images should demonstrate how your product or service is used, or tell a story about your brand and business. 

Also pay attention to the colors: you want all images to fit within the overall web design of your website. 

Use web-safe fonts

Effective web design pays attention to typography, too.

First and foremost, you want to use web-safe fonts on your website – otherwise, you risk your design elements potentially looking completely out of place on a different screen. 

Secondly, you should be using a type of font that’s easy to read on a computer or a smartphone screen (don’t forget, 50% of people browse mainly on their phones). 

Editor’s note 📝 – Sans serif fonts are more popular than ever for online content: they are clear and simple typefaces conveying simplicity and minimalism.  

Follow the Z pattern

While it might sound like something out Alice in Wonderland, but just like the F reading pattern, the Z pattern also refers to the route the human eye takes when reading (left to right, and diagonically top to bottom).

And the good news is that the Z pattern is easy to use in web design. 

Evernote landing page

First, remember to include all the key elements and information on the top horizontal line you want your audience to focus on.

Then, add any additional information on the diagonal line that your visitors might need, leading up to the call to action section.

And lastly, the bottom horizontal line should be the place for your call to action: be it an email address field for lead generation, or a button for a separate landing page.  

Don’t underestimate consistency 

Nothing puts users off more than inconsistency in web design. 

So make sure that all elements of your web design are consistent with each other: from typography to colors and the overall aesthetic of your design elements. 

You can take things one step further by using the same design patterns and elements across your social media accounts, too. 

You’ll strengthen your brand and look like a rock-hard professional. 

Use a complementary colour palette 

Your web design color palette will set the overall mood of your website and play its part in creating a memorable user experience.

Canva landing page

A website that mainly uses pastels creates a completely different vibe to a site that relies on darker tones. 

Decide on a color that represents your brand identiy and build your website around different shades of a few complementary colors. 

And as for calls to action, think about using a contrasting color to reinforce visual hierarchy on your websites. 

Plus, you’ll have an easier time grabbing a user’s attention when the order now -button is a blaringly different color to the rest of the website. 

To get started, use online color tools like Adobe Color or Tint and Shade Generator to find the best complementary colors for your brand.  

Who’s your audience?

Your site design should always focus around and reflect your target audience.

A brand selling children’s clothing would use different colors, fonts, and images on their landing pages than a corporate law firm. 

Thinking about your ideal customer is a good starting point for your web design. 

How would your ideal customer would interact with your website layout: would they browse through all of your pages? Or would they prefer a one-page experience instead?

Once you have an idea of the types of factors your audience favors on a website, focus on adding these design features to your site.  

Have a visual design hierarchy

One of the most important principles of good web design comes down to how logical your design is. 

Sure, it’s important that your website is easy on the eye and original, but there should always be structure to the design. 

Crumbs and Doilies landing page

That’s why it’s important to follow basic principles like: 

  • Positioning titles and headings at the top of the page (it’s impossible to not see the big heading on the home page of Crumbs and Doilies)
  • Using shapes like squares and circles to frame different sections of a page (look at the different rectangles in yellow and white)
  • Using icons and illustrations to convey meaning (a cupcake for shopping cart, a magnifying glass for search)

This way you’ll help the users understand your website, even if it’s on a subconscious level. 

Using heat mapping tools can help you identify exactly which sections of your website get the eyeballs, and which ones nobody looks at. 

Pay attention to details

Focusing on the seemingly insignificant things, like micro-interactions when you click on a button, or your footer text, can make the world of difference to your users. 

So don’t just settle for proof-reading the text that goes up on your website and ironing out typos. 

Instead, pay attention to the kind of icons you’re using, how your text is spaced out and how your error pages look like. 

Adding those finishing touches will strengthen your brand and keep users on your site for longer.

User experience is king

One thing that will make or break your website design is how easy it is to use. 

Your page design could be out of this world, but if your website visitors can’t find their way around your web pages, it’s not pulling its weight. 

You want to make your website user-friendly and also guide web visitors towards the most important information on your site. 

For Airbnb, that means getting people to book their next getaway.

For a consultancy, that could be the contacts section of your website – and an online store would want to get their users to make a purchase. 

Think about using grid systems 

Opting for a grid-based layout makes it easy to keep your site design tidy at all times.

Essentially, you want to think about your site as a grid and structure your content and any white space along horizontal and vertical lines. 

This way, you’ll end up with a site that looks structured and well-balanced. 

Plus, a grid-based layout encourages users to subconsciously use the F or Z reading patterns when browsing. 

Drafting your content as squares on a piece of paper can help to fully embrace the principle of a grid. 

Or, use a website builder with a built-in grid editor to make your life even easier.  

Forget about big chunks of text

Miro landing page

When you’re designing a website, you want to keep your design aesthetically pleasing. 

And a huge block of text is the exact opposite of that. 

One of the most important principles of good website design is being economical with your words. 

Tip 💁 – Less is more – save the big paragraphs for a scholarly white paper. And use bullet points to break down your text even further.

If you have to introduce a wall of text to your website (maybe your terms and conditions are thorough), make sure that these pages are not the first thing your visitors will see when they land on your website. 

There’s a reason everyone links to their privacy policy from their footers. 

If you really want to write big juicy paragraphs of text then maybe it is time you thought about starting a blog.

What exactly is invariance?

A computer showing a landing page of a website

Have you ever browsed around an online store and for some reason, the item that looked different from the rest caught your eye? 

The principle of invariance is pretty simple: by having one option look different from the others, you’re automatically intriguing the visitor to take extra care to check out the odd one. 

Use invariance on your pricing page design to highlight the deal or package you’d prefer the users to choose. 

Or add colorful ribbons to your product pages to highlight a sale or a new product line. 

This way, you’ll break the general look of your product page, and make your users pay attention to the design elements that look different to the rest. 

How to easily design a website following these web design principles

Here’s the deal: you don’t need to be a seasoned designer to create a website that looks good.

In fact, using a top-quality website builder makes it possible for anyone to create a site that follows all these web design principles. 

Since you start by choosing a designer-made template that suits your website needs, half of the hassle of paying attention to things like mobile-responsiveness or SEO are already taken care of. 

You’re left with the fun stuff, like: 

  • Mixing and matching colors and fonts until they reflect your brand and business objectives
  • Creating text for your About us page, or any other page 
  • Picking images that best suit the design of your website 

And since most website builders take care of technical aspects of website-owning, like web hosting and domains, you’ll be ready to publish your website in a matter of moments. 

And how knows, maybe your website will be a rising star on our list of best website designs. 

Written by

Author avatar

Matleena

Matleena is a seasoned eCommerce writer, with a particular interest in emerging digital marketing trends, dropshipping, and growth hacking. She’s addicted to coming up with new eCommerce business ideas and making them a reality; she deserves her nickname of ‘print on demand business mogul.' In her free time, she enjoys cups of good coffee, tends to her balcony garden, and studies Japanese.

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