The Basic Design Principles for an Effective Website

Some basic principles to adhere to for designing an effective website; sparing use of graphics and typefaces, SEO, navigation, loading time and style discussed.

Image for post
Image for post

Conveying your online message with a professional web presence

Almost anyone in business from the one-person operation upwards has some type of web site. At potentially very little cost it’s possible to reach many prospective customers, compared to other advertising and promotional methods, but proper design and presentation is vital.

A poorly designed and badly executed website can actually turn people off, and has the opposite effect than that intended, so it’s important to observe some design basics so as to present an appealing business image to your market.

Good design works

Good design goes beyond how a website looks — it must work effectively and provide a good user experience. Clear text, logical navigation and straightforward checkouts are all vital. Each page should also have a clear CTA (Call To Action), so that visitors know exactly what to do — this is the basic principal behind Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think” guide to web usability.

A clean and clear design helps achieve this and looks good so predisposing your visitors to you and your business. The late founder and CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, memorably said “design is not just what it looks like and feels like; design is how it works”. The appeal of many Apple products isn’t just that they look good aesthetically, but that they work effectively; many people find them easy and intuitive to use — users don’t have to think.

How can you ensure your website contains sound design elements?

Less is more

Avoid the temptation of having lots of activity on each page; flashing animations, scrolling text and picture galleries sweeping past are all very well but can prove distracting if over used, and could hamper your website’s effectiveness in communicating with your visitor.

Resist the temptation of using multiple typefaces on your page. Two or three typefaces is usually enough, and make use of white space to make the page inviting through clean, uncluttered design.

Graphics and images

Visuals on a website can be very effective as opposed to lengthy slabs of text, so see if information can be imparted through methods such as short videos and infographics.

Photos can be very effective but make sure they’re good quality images and not something snapped hurriedly on your smartphone. If you haven’t got any high quality images of your own, then investing in some stock photos from a photo image library is money well spent — some have massive collections so you should find what you want.

Attract visitors to your site

Of course you need people to actually visit your website in the first place, and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is key when relying on people finding you through an online search.

Effective SEO is only partly achieved through site design, so to ensure your website is fully optimized, professional expertise should be sought; in Essex and Suffolk, web professionals Bright Lights Creative web design agency could be of help.


People tend to scan web pages often starting from the top left of the page and work their way down while reading from left to right. Therefore, important information will tend to be displayed in the top left area with subsequent key content nearer the top.

Layout design needs care; it’s usually a case of keeping things simple such as lining up blocks of text, boxes and columns in a grid style to give the page a balanced look.

Ease of navigation

Make it easy for your visitors to find their way around your website through good navigation. Clearly highlighted internal links and clickable buttons along with a logical and well ordered page hierarchy will help, as would sticking to the ‘three click’ principle whereby visitors can find the information they need within three clicks.

Page loading time

People have ever-decreasing patience when it comes to page loading time. With the increase of high speed broadband along with 4G and wi-fi on smartphones and tablets, people have got used (and expect) web pages to load quickly.

If your web pages take too long to load (another reason to go easy on too much activity on each page) visitors may quickly give up and click away.

This is where a good designer makes a big impact; some technical expertise can make a big difference, such as being able to optimise image sizes and code to help pages load faster.

Use an appropriate style

The overall graphical style of your website should of course be appropriate for your business. If you’re an independent financial advisor, then a funky website design using lime greens and yellows with oddball text probably won’t create the right impression.

Conversely, an off the wall fashion designer may not be illustrating their creative intent effectively with a website using classic fonts with sober colours such as dark blues and burgundy.

Put yourself in your visitor’s place

Consider how you behave when visiting websites. Try asking yourself what irritates you and what you like to see, and use these principals as a starting point when designing your own.

Professional web designers can be a great help. A considered and well designed website will offer you a long standing web presence which — save for the occasional revamp or addition of updated content — shouldn’t need much attention for a reasonable time, making it a sound investment in your business.

UK based design agency specialising in brand identity

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store