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7 Golden Web Design Rules

From your website layout to typography rules of web design - learn about the essential web design rules and principles that will help you design high-performing sites!

Web design
June 5, 2023
8
min

There’s no way you can create a powerful online presence without a good website. But how to create a website that both search engines and website visitors will love? Here are 7 web design rules you should follow!

Are you just dipping your toes into the world of web design?  Or a designer looking for a refresher on what makes a good website?

Here are a few golden web design rules you should never break.

1. Keep it simple

We're bombarded with visuals and ads every day, which has significantly shortened our attention span. So you should use as few design elements as possible, and ensure each element serves a purpose. 

Keeping options to a minimum will increase the odds of your audience revisiting and staying on your website. 

This principle is also called Hick’s Law. It’s the simple idea that the more choices you present someone with, the longer it will take them to reach a decision.

ETQ_KeepItSimple.jpg

Above is an example of web design kept simple. ETQ. is an Amsterdam-based shoe brand embracing all things minimalistic, valuing quality over quantity. 

With minimal options in their menu bar, it’s instantly clear where you should click and why.

2. Select the right website typography

Although 94% of first impressions of a website are design-related, it’s website text that converts visitors into customers.

Choosing the right typography in web design is almost as important as the content itself. If the text is difficult to read people won’t give you their attention.

Here are some of the most important typography rules of web design to follow:

  • Choose the right font size. It goes without saying that the body text font should be big enough to allow easy reading. But you should also pay attention to using the right font sizes for heading and subheadings, to ensure the page layout is sensible and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Split the body text into manageable chunks. Whether it’s your home page or a blog post, you should limit the paragraph and line length to ensure the text is easy to read and skim.
  • Pick website typography that suits all screen sizes. An intricate script font might look awesome on a large screen, but there’s a good chance it will be completely illegible on mobile devices.
  • Consider using system fonts to increase page speed. Web fonts need to be downloaded by the user's browser before they can be displayed to the user. On the other hand, system fonts are fonts available to common operating systems (e.g. Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, etc.). So, if you’re worried about website speed, use system fonts instead of a custom one.

3. Apply visual hierarchy

Each visitor comes to your page with a purpose. While one visitor is looking for your location, another wants to get in on your sale. A visual hierarchy will help visitors navigate your page, guiding them through the design elements. 

Visual hierarchy is the order in which a visitor processes information on a web page. You can apply visual hierarchy in numerous ways, with the most common ones being;

  • Typography - Perhaps the most straightforward way to apply visual hierarchy is by making some text bigger than others and using spacing in between. Or by making some words bold, italic, or underlined. 
  • Color - Choose website colors based on the 60-30-10 web design rule. This means that your primary color (usually a neutral like black or white) takes up 60% of the design. A secondary color (e.g. text color) takes up 30%, while the 10% is reserved for contrast color, typically used for CTA buttons and other elements you want to draw attention.
  • Repetition - Repeating a particular style suggests that content is similar or related. Think about a blog page showing all entries similarly. Each entry’s design contains a banner, a title, and a snippet of text, ensuring visitors understand these are all blog entries. 
  • Proximity - When placing certain elements in a group or in close proximity, most people will quickly establish them as related. This is also known as the gestalt law of proximity
  • White space - The opposite also rings true. Rather than placing elements in close proximity, adding white space will visualize that the elements differ from one another. White space is a crucial element in web design and a valuable tool in the toolbox of web designers. 
  • Texture and style - If you want a particular message to stand out, adding texture or a slightly different style will do the trick. This is called the Von Restorff Effect, stating that humans take note of unique things much quicker.

Slack_VisualHierarchy.jpg

Slack’s website is a prime example of a visual hierarchy done right. 

Their web designers opted for various headings to divide their content in order of importance. Slack’s call-to-action buttons have a different color, and repetition and proximity are used to explain who their service is for. White space surrounds their central message, and lastly, the text block below the main message has a slightly different style with an illustration. 

4. Focus attention above fold

This is one of the most important homepage design principles. Keeping information above the fold means that all the most important elements are visible to the users without the need to scroll. 

The area above the fold gets the most attention and readership. The parts available after clicking on an element are described as “after the jump.”

Let’s look at this MailChimp page, where you can find multiple web design rules applied. They use a high-quality graphic, legible typography and the 60:30:10 website design principle is applied for the color scheme. It's instantly clear what MailChimp is all about and where you can sign up!

MailChimp_AboveTheFold.jpg

5. Be consistent

Just as it’s crucial for branding, one of the major rules of good web design is consistency. However, in web design this doesn’t just help to create a lasting brand image. Consistency is also a critical factor in creating a good user experience.

There are three major elements when it comes to consistency in web designing:

  1. Visual consistency - All of your design elements should have some form of consistency throughout your web design.
  2. Functional consistency - Makes things predictable for the user. For example, you should place menu bars in the same spot on each page.
  3. Internal consistency - The combination of both visual and functional consistency is called internal consistency. This has to do with uploading content to your website and adding on to your existing pages. The additions should align with the existing design's visual and functional consistency. 

Here are two parts of the ManyPixels website. Although the pages serve different purposes, you can clearly tell the web designers applied consistency throughout the design. The menu is in the same spot, the color usage is similar, and the buttons remain in the same place. 

ManyPixels1_Consistency.jpg
ManyPixels2_Consistency.jpg

6. Go for responsive design

Your visitors see your design on a variety of devices. In addition to devices, they use different browsers and operating systems. 

Fortunately for website users, there is such a thing as responsive design. This means the web design adapts to the type of device and browser you view the page from. Try it for yourself; open a website on your desktop and drag the corners in and out to alter the size of your window. Chances are, the design will change accordingly.

7. Put your user first

This is one of the most important rules of good web design and, incidentally, the starting point for creating a good user experience design.

A study by Amazon Web Services indicates that 88% of visitors are less likely to revisit a website after a poor experience. So you better make sure the experience is top-notch and catered to the wants and needs of your visitors!

Here are a few basic rules of user-friendly web design:

  • Create simple navigation: Aside from using as few options as possible, utilize visual cues (e.g. icons) to help users navigate through the site quickly and easily.
  • Prevent errors: Errors will happen, so you should ensure users are always aware of the issues, and how they can fix them (e.g. a 404 page, and the “return home” button).
  • Give feedback: Each action a user takes should be followed by feedback. It can be a simple loading bar, or a message like “Are you sure you want to close this window without saving?”
  • Make actions reversible: Another way to avoid errors are reversible actions. A back or undo buttons have become an indispensable part of digital user experience, so this is the bare minimum you should include.

Final thoughts 

Now that you know about the most important rules of good web design, you might be tempted to try and create your own website using a popular website building software, or even an existing website template.

Well, don’t forget that either way, the web design process is going to take a lot of time and effort. More importantly, you might end up with a website that’s not SEO-friendly, or doesn’t fit your brand identity. So, you’ll end up hiring a website designer, and spend more time and money in the long run.

How about a simpler alternative? Discover our flat-rate website design services starting at just $549 a month! Get unlimited requests and revisions for your new website, social media graphics, landing pages and everything else in between!

Get in touch to learn more!

Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.

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