The Ultimate Guide To Website Design

Web design is the process of planning, conceptualizing, and arranging content intended for the Internet. Modern web design goes beyond how things look (aesthetics) to include how things work (functionality). Web design is not limited to websites as it includes other uses such as web apps, mobile apps, and user interface design.

Web design is the process of planning, conceptualizing, and arranging content intended for the Internet. Modern web design goes beyond how things look (aesthetics) to include how things work (functionality). Web design is not limited to websites as it includes other uses such as web apps, mobile apps, and user interface design.

Web design elements

When designing a website, it’s imperative to consider both the look and the functionality of the site. Integrating these elements into the design will help maximize the performance of the site, regardless of how performance is measured. For example, did you know that, because of search engine optimization, web design can have a huge impact on your performance in search engines like Google?

Visual elements

Here’s a quick overview of the elements you need to consider in your design to make sure everything looks good!

Written copy

Fundamentally, the look of a website and its words go hand in hand. The two should never really be considered separate. Having your designers and content writers work together, instead of in sequence, can enable a more powerful design.

Fonts

When designing a website, it’s imperative to choose easy-to-read font pairings that complement the design. Tools like Canva’s Font Combinator can help you find the perfect match for your font. Web design tools like PageCloud even include numerous font pairings within their app.

Colors

Colors are one of the most important elements to consider when designing a website. Keep in mind that here are a lot of misconceptions about the psychology of color. When choosing colors for your site, it’s important to focus on aligning your colors with your brand and the message you are trying to convey.

English physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton discovered in the 1660’s that by passing light through a prism he could identify the 7 colors that make up the visible spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. He invented the color wheel, to show the progression of colors.

And you better thank your lucky phone case he did, because the color wheel is exactly the tool you need to make smart choices about putting colors together for your website.

Layout

How you decide to arrange your content will have a dramatic impact on both the appearance and functionality of your site. Although there aren’t any specific rules when it comes to website layouts, there are definitely some principles you should follow. If you don’t know how to write code, it becomes essential to understand the limitations of different website design tools so you don’t get stuck halfway through your design.

Shapes

The use of graphical elements in web design has really taken off over the past few years. Combining beautiful colors and shapes can be used to accomplish many things, such as directing the attention of your site visitors. The biggest challenge with this trend are the complications that arise when looking to implement the design without having to rely on code.

Spacing

There is a space that exists between every element within your design: the images, the paragraphs, the lines… even the letters have spacing! As a rule of thumb, having too much space is better than having things crammed together. The concept of whitespace is definitely top of mind with modern web designers.

Images & Icons

Amazing designs can communicate a lot of information in just a few seconds. One of the ways to accomplish this is through the use of powerful images and icons. A quick Google search for stock images or icons will produce thousands of options. To help simplify your search, here are a few of our favorites:

Free images and icons

Premium images and icons

Videos

Videos are an increasing trend amongst web designers. When used properly, they can help your website visitors experience something that simply can’t be described with words or images. One thing to keep in mind is that eye-catching videos can be distracting and should never compete with your content.

Related: How to use Video Background on Your Website – The Right Way!

Functional elements

Navigation

Navigation is one of the main components that determines if your website actually “works”. Depending on the audience, your nav can serve multiple purposes. It helps first time visitors discover what you have to offer while guiding returning visitors to specific sections within your site. In both cases, there are a few best practices you’ll want to follow.

Speed

No one likes slow websites. Regardless of how nice your design is, if it doesn’t load within a reasonable time, it will not perform in search, and it will not accomplish your goals. Although the top site builders typically compress your content to maximize load times, there are no guarantees; do your homework to ensure the tool you choose provides optimum performance.

Related: Google’s Page Speed Test

Animations

There are tons of web animation techniques that can help your design accomplish a wide range of tasks, from grabbing a user’s attention to giving feedback on certain interactions with content like buttons or forms. If you’re new to web design, we’d recommend sticking to simple animations at first. Complex animations typically require developer intervention.

User interactions

Your site visitors have multiple ways of interacting with your site depending on their device (scrolling, clicking, typing). The best designs always simplify these interactions giving the user the impression they are in complete control. Here are just a few examples:

Site structure

A website’s structure plays an important role in both user experience and SEO. If people are getting lost navigating through your site, chances are, crawlers will too. Although there are some free sitemap builders available online, for small sites sometimes the best approach is to lay out your pages on a whiteboard or on a piece of paper.

Related: How to Create a Site Structure That Will Enhance SEO

Cross-browser & cross-device compatibility

A great design will look good on all devices and browsers (including Internet Explorer). If you’re building your site from scratch, we’d recommend using a cross browser testing tool to make this tedious process faster and more efficient. On the other hand, if you’re using a website building platform, the cross browser testing is typically taken care of by the company’s development team, which lets you focus on the design. 

Types of website design

Although you might come across articles online that talk about a whole bunch of website design styles (fixed, static, fluid, etc), in today’s mobile first world, there are only two ways to properly design a website: adaptive and responsive websites.

The best part is that with modern design tools, you don’t need to know how to code to build out stunning websites that look great on all devices.

Understanding the pros and cons of adaptive and responsive websites will help you determine what’s best for you.

Adaptive websites

Adaptive web design uses two or more versions of a website that are customized for different screen sizes. Adaptive websites can be split in two main categories based upon how the site detects what “version” needs to be displayed. 

Adapts based on device type

When your browser (aka client) connects to a website, the HTTP request will include a field called “user-agent” that informs the server about the type of device attempting to view the page.

Basically, this means the site knows what version to display (ex: desktop or mobile). The only problem with this approach is that if you shrink the browser window on a desktop, the page will not adapt because it continues to show the full “desktop version”.

Adapts based on browser width

Instead of using the “user-agent”, the website uses media-queries and breakpoints to switch between versions. So instead of having a desktop, tablet, and mobile versions, you’d have 1080px, 768px, and 480px width versions. On top of offering more flexibility when designing, this approach offers a more “responsive” look when changing the size of your browser on a large screen.

Responsive websites

Responsive websites use a combination of flexible grids (based on percentages) with breakpoints (using media queries) to create a custom look at every screen size. Unlike adaptive sites that adapt only when they hit a breakpoint, responsive websites are constantly changing according to the screen size.

Website design tools

There are two main ways to design a website: using a desktop app or using a website builder. The tool you decide to use will vary greatly based upon your team size, your budget, the type of site, and its technical requirements. 

Desktop apps

The most popular desktop apps for designing a website are Photoshop and Sketch. This process requires designers to build out a design before sending it to a development team to convert the design to code.

Typically, this is the de facto standard for large or complex websites because it allows the designer to focus on the look and feel while transferring all the technical challenges to the dev team.

Unfortunately, this process can be expensive and time-consuming as multiple resources and specific skills are involved.

To avoid involving a developer, it may be beneficial to use a website builder to design a website with fewer technical requirements.

Related: Sketch vs. Photoshop: Is It Time To Switch From Photoshop To Sketch?

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