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The Beginner’s Guide to Website Design Best Practices

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

Even the smallest of changes in your website can affect your conversion rates. And considering your website is the heart of your business and marketing campaigns, the stakes are high.

Every passing year brings new features, new standards, and new everything to websites and their design, making web design best practices highly dynamic.

What you need is to solid plan—one backed by statistics and testing to ensure the best results for your visitors, Google crawlers, and, of course, you.

In this guide, we’ll tell you some of the best web design practices you can use to build something that does more than looking nice—a website that acts as a consultant to help you get more customers.

Why Web Design Best Practices Are So Important

Your customers care about design, which is why you should, too.

Web design best practices ensure your audience perceives your brand in a positive light. This way, the chances of them remaining on your page and learning more about your business gets higher. 

In the business world, experts have found that users quickly judge your business based on visuals alone, and if your site doesn’t do much for them, they’ll end up abandoning it.

Just take a look at these stats: 

  • 75% of users judge a company’s credibility based on visual design alone.
  • It takes visitors just 0.05 seconds to form a first impression of a website design. Yes, we mean 50 milliseconds.
  • Nearly 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if they find the content and layout unattractive.

We react to visuals, whether consciously or not, and are naturally drawn to good design. It’s also why well-designed websites convert better than poorly designed ones.

For us, a good design involves two things:

  • Form, which focuses on the look and feel of your website.
  • Function, which focuses on how your website performs and converts.

You have to make sure your business has both aspects set up optimally, which is where web design best practices come into the picture.

Here are a few ways ensuring good web design can improve your website.

Better Navigability

Navigation is a vital aspect of website design. You should keep the choices as simple as possible to make your website easily navigable, which, in turn, will make it easier for visitors to decide where to go. 

Try to limit the number of options to seven or less. Or better yet, you can categorize your options.

Take our Crazy Egg website, for example: 

We’ve categorized our options under five categories: Features, Crazy Egg For, Resources, Legal, and Social. Visitors can go through these categories before selecting an option that fits best. This makes the site more navigable than presenting the menu in a single line without categories.

Higher Functionality

Your website design should make things easy to find, whether it’s your contact information, product or service information, or your ‘About Me’ page. Following web design best practices helps enhance usability by informing you about standard conventions like putting your primary services on your main navigation, with your phone number on the upper right-hand corner of your site.

Interestingly, a study found that even if you have a perfectly functioning website, bad web design will make your users feel it’s harder to use. So a good web design not only affects usability but also our perception of usability. 

Improved Brand Credibility

Web design best practices can also help your brand appear professional and trustworthy. 

A good web design improves your credibility through brand consistency. If you have a well-established brand, your customers will probably recognize your website logo, colors, or style. 

It’s why your website design should reflect your brand.

Just take a look at the FedEx website. Even if you couldn’t read the logo, you’d recognize the purple, orange, and white color scheme. That’s what you should aim for, too.

Better SEO

The whole point of having a website is to further your business interests. Precisely why a good web design isn’t limited to just visual elements.

You have to go behind the scenes and get the coding right. For instance, you want your web pages to load fast, as otherwise, your visitors will go away. Even your content should be optimized so that it ranks higher in the SERPs.

Web designers tend to get carried away with clever designs and technologies, and while these may look great, it ultimately hurts your site’s optimization. Your goal should be to create a simple, fast, and optimized website that helps bring business.

Quick Tips to Improve Web Design Best Practices Today

Keep reading to know the website design best practices that helped us achieve our target goals and create an optimized website fit for the changing times.

Design an Effective Layout for Your Web Pages

Your webpages should be set in a way that provides an excellent user experience for your audience to reduce abandonment rates.

Page layouts can, of course, differ depending upon the page, but it’s best to stick to a general layout for similar page types for site consistency and cohesiveness.

Let’s take Macy’s, for example. 

They’ve chosen a grid for most of their pages that showcases their product categories, along with their products. This maintains consistency throughout the website, allowing users to know what to expect while browsing. 

Similarly, you should design a page layout to build a more consistent and familiar site for your audience that encourages them to continue browsing.

Compress All Your Website Images

You should always select high-quality images over grainy or low-resolution images.

Images are valuable for your site, helping create interest points, breaking up text, and making your website appear trustworthy. They also influence your site speed.

According to MachMetrics, a site speed monitoring company, the ideal website loading time is just three seconds. But if you look at industry standards, you’ll realize that most websites load much slower than that. 

The problem is that visitors have short attention spans, which is why longer loading times can harm your business. If you want to boost conversions, you have to think of ways to reduce page load times, and compressing images is one of the best methods.

Try to upload compressed images that are smaller or appropriately sized than what the screen size states. Additionally, you can use image compression plugins like a WP Smush to do the job for you.

Applying these practices will get your pages to load faster despite the high multimedia.

Utilize White Space Optimally

White space, also called negative space, gives website elements room to breathe visually. It ensures your website doesn’t look overcrowded, so your visitors stay on it for longer.

Unfortunately, though, you’ll find plenty of cluttered website designs all over the internet.

In addition to extreme mistakes, you’ll also find the more subtle ones, such as the improper use of margins in padding, haphazard image and copy placement, and other elements. 

At Crazy Egg, we’ve made a point to leave plenty of white space between elements. Take a look at this example:

As you can see, there’s plenty of space between the copy and different blog pages and a decent line height between the main heading, the most popular categories, and the margins.

We didn’t want to overwhelm our visitors—something you should ensure as well.

Make Your Website Mobile-Responsive

Not having a mobile-responsive website is equivalent to missing a prime opportunity to boost sales.

Considering that nearly 50% of Internet traffic comes from mobile devices, you should take the necessary measures to create a mobile-responsive website. This will help you boost user engagement and earn more conversions, especially since 67% of users are more likely to buy from a mobile-friendly company.

It’s best to integrate a responsive design that lets your site adapt to whatever device your visitor uses. So whether it’s a smartphone or tablet, your website will adjust to fit the device’s screen automatically.

Ultimately, you’ll be able to provide a better experience for your audience and keep them engaged for longer.

Long-Term Strategies for Web Design Best Practices

The following is a list of strategies you can implement to improve your website design, helping you get better results, albeit in the long run.

Getting the Accessibility Standards Right

Accessibility is critical for every website, so sacrificing it for a beautiful design is one of the biggest mistakes.

Accessibility refers to the practice of making a website usable for everyone, regardless of the hardware, software, language, abilities, and location. When you have an accessible website, you can bring in a network of people, which will help you win more business.

Follow these tips to make your website more accessible:

  • Install and activate the WP Accessibility plugin. This plugin adds several accessibility features, such as a toolbar where users can resize fonts, view your site in high contrast and grayscale, remove title attributes from images inserted into content, and enable skip links (internal pages that let users skip directly to the content).
  • Create keyboard-accessible links and menus for people with disabilities. Design your website to make it navigable for people who can only use the keyboard and not a mouse. For instance, you can assign shortcuts for each drop-down item.
  • Add subtitles or a transcript for audio and video. You should strongly consider adding subtitles or a transcript for your audio, audiobooks, podcasts, and videos to make it easier for deaf or mute people to understand your content, as well as people who cannot consume media in public.
  • Test your website for accessibility. The Web Accessibility initiative endorses a list of tools you can use to audit your efforts.

Making your whole website accessible can be a tedious process, but it can be incredibly helpful to boost your income. It helps foster inclusivity and even awards SEO benefits.

Keep Website Security Super Tight

Contrary to popular belief, even small websites are vulnerable to cyberattacks. This is because hackers don’t actively seek out specific websites to hack. 

So, regardless of your website size, your security levels should always be tight. Plus, users only share their sensitive information with people they can trust.

Here’s what you can do to maintain high website security levels:

Pick a Secure Web Host

You may think your web host doesn’t have anything to do with site security. The reality, however, couldn’t be any more different.

Considering that 41% of attacks occur through a security vulnerability on the hosting platform, you should be extra vigilant when selecting a web hosting provider. Look for options that offer server-side firewalls, encryption, antivirus and anti-malware software, on-site security systems, SSL certificate and CDN availability, and so on.

Keep Your Credentials Secure

You can have a separate/hidden login page to limit the number of login attempts to prevent unauthorized access to your website. 

Alternatively, you can download the Login LockDown plugin that records the IP addresses and timestamp of every field of the login attempt and locks down the login function if the number of failed attempts from the same IP range is reached in a short period.

You must also have a secure password that contains more than six characters and be a mixture of both upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. It should be updated frequently, too. 

You can also use two-factor authentication for extra security.

Regularly Update the WordPress Core, Plugins, and Themes

Don’t blindly download plugins or themes for your website. It’s best to select options that have multiple installations and have been recently updated. You should also read customer reviews to understand whether the theme or plugin is worth it.

Wordfence, Sucuri, and Defender as some of the best WordPress security plugins that can detect malware and keep your website safe.

Get an SSL Certificate

The SSL certificate encrypts information sent over the networks, making it hard for hackers to decode it. Besides, it’s also an industry standard.

Chrome notifies visitors whenever they visit websites that don’t have an SSL certificate and is also deprecating legacy TLS versions and showing additional warnings. Plus, enabling HTTPS, which is a part of installing an SSL certificate, affects your rank in the search engines.

Nail the Web Design Best Practices Standards

When we use the word “standards,” we’re referring to the most common design approaches adopted by websites around the globe.

Here’s a list of some of the most common elements:

Images

  1. Skip graphics or animations in favor of images with human faces. Your visitors are more likely to engage with the image of humans since that’s how we’re wired.
  2. Add ALT text to your images as they cannot be processed while using screen readers. It’s also necessary for SEO reasons.
  3. Add favicons. These are small icons that show up next to the website title and in search results, promoting brand recognition and enhancing your website’s user experience.
  4. Add responsive images to your website that can grow or shrink depending on the browser size. This way, both your site speed and SEO will be optimal.

Navigation

  1. Add a search bar to allow your visitors to find content faster. This is a necessity for websites that have lots of content.
  2. Make your menu titles as descriptive as possible to make it easier for users to find items. Moreover, adding keywords through these distractions can help you gain more organic traffic.
  3. When designing your website, follow the three-click rule. According to this, users should be able to find their content with no more than three mouse clicks. This is because users prefer navigating through a site instead of looking through the search results when possible.
  4. Restrict your menu items by keeping them at a maximum of seven. Not only will this lend a neater appearance to your website, but too many menu items may cause Google crawlers to interpret your website still hasn’t decided on a specific niche.

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