The 5 Commandments of Effective Web Design

The 5 Commandments of Effective Web Design

Whether you realize it or not, every time you visit a website you make a split-second decision on whether you like that website or not. Design can either make or break your website.

What constitutes great website design depends on a lot of factors including the target audience and the purpose of the website. However, no matter the situation you find yourself in, the following 5 rules will always prove relevant and worthy of note when building your site.

1. Keep Your Homepage Simple and Free of Clutter

In our modern world where everything moves at light speed, the less people have to do to get where they want on your website the better.

Most people skim through pages, looking for keywords and cues to get what they really want; and the last thing you want to do is to get in the way of that.

Use images, prominent calls-to-action, icons, and legible byte size paragraphs to get your point across and lead the reader toward the action you want them to take.

The jury is still out on how many words are appropriate for a homepage, but nobody in the online community doubts the wisdom in the saying that sometimes less is more. You’re safer using minimalist strategies like images and icons to appeal to the emotions rather than covering your homepage with text an unnecessary clutter.

However, for SEO best practices, it is always advisable to have a minimum of 500 words of content on each page.

2. Make Sure Your Website Content is Easy to Read

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The more thought you put into your content, the easier your visitors will find it to make use of your website and get the information they want. This does not have to be complicated: just make your website content readable.

Readability refers to how easy it is for people to recognize words, phrases, and sentences on your website. The higher your website’s readability, the better.

You can achieve readability by applying the following tips:

  • Emphasize Contrast: Make sure there is enough contrast between your text color and the background on which it is placed. There is no reason why you should not incorporate all the colors you consider important into your website design. Just make sure you don’t sacrifice readability in the process.
  • Make Your Words Easy to See: Back when the first websites emerged and the internet was still finding its way, small fonts were in vogue. However, people quickly realized how difficult it is to read 12pt fonts when a screen is only a few inches from your face. Today, the rule of thumb suggests keeping your word size no lower than 16pt; the exact number depending on the font you choose.
  • Serif or Sans-Serif: These are two large families into which you can group all fonts. Serif fonts are those that have those projecting points and flourishes at the end of the letters like you see with the font Times New Roman, while sans-serif literally means “without serif”. Serif fonts look like handwriting and are the dominant font used in paperbacks, but online they can be a real chore to read. Sans Serif fonts like Arial have been found to be easier on the eyes and preferable for reading online.
  • Don’t Use Too Many Fonts on Your Website: Granted, some projects may require you to get creative with the fonts you choose, but overall your website should show some harmony and consistency in your choice of fonts. Avoid clutter and disorganization at all costs.

3. Pay Attention to Navigation and Visual Hierarchy

Your website should be easy to navigate and explore. Search engines actually use this as a ranking factor. If visitors have to pull up a chair and roll up their sleeves in order to find their way around your website, then they will bounce and go to a more user-friendly competitor.

Ideally, your visitors should be able to get any information they want within 3 clicks of where they are on your website. But that’s  just one rule out of several you can incorporate including:

Link your logo to your homepage.

This is almost standard practice so many visitors will expect it. If you are yet to get a logo, don’t forget to apply this tip when you do get one.

Place your menu at the top of your website.

And place the options in order of importance. You want to lead your visitors by the hand, rather than allow them to guess their way about.

Use vertical navigation to ease movement up and down your website.

Anchor menus can help your visitors go to the top, bottom or other specified sections of your website.

Include important navigation options in your footer.

These are FAQs, About, Terms of Use, Blog, and more. By placing them in the footer you make things easy for your visitors.

Prioritize above-the-fold content.

Keep your most important pieces of content in the top part of your website or “above the fold” so that your visitors don’t have to scroll down in order to find it.

4. Ensure Super Fast Load Time

If your web pages take more than 3 seconds to load then people will leave and never come back. Google and other search engine counterparts will, in turn, bury you deep in the search results, far away from anywhere near the first page.

To increase your page speed, try optimizing your images; combining code into a central Javascript file; and compress your HTML, CSS, and Javascript to speed up load time.

5. Keep It Mobile Friendly

Mobile browsing has long since surpassed desktop, so you had better make sure your website looks good on a mobile screen. Search engines now penalize websites that don’t meet this requirement.

If your website is not yet mobile friendly, there are two ways you can go about fixing that problem:

  • You can solicit the help of web developers to make your website responsive
  • You can build a dedicated mobile website to cater to mobile browsers
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