8 Website Design Guidelines to Enhance User Experience

While it’s simple to start a website these days with all of the no-code tools available to us, creating a great website that is both usable and has a great user experience does take time and planning.

In this article, we’ll discuss eight key website design guidelines that will help set your website apart from the rest:

  1. Start with a goal
  2. Clean navigation and structure
  3. Design consistency
  4. Use of colors and fonts
  5. Integrating multimedia thoughtfully
  6. Keep load times to a minimum
  7. Create mobile friendly pages
  8. Use white space effectively

Website design guidelines

Start with a goal

Before starting your web project, consider taking the time to plan out the website’s actual objective. Without this simple task, you can build the most beautiful full of content but won’t actually achieve any business goal.

Even if you are creating a space to host your portfolio, it’s still worth taking the time to map out the golden path of your visitors.

Here are some ideas of what a meaningful goal could be for your website

  • to build your email list
  • to clarify your thoughts through writing
  • to sell a product or service

While each page on the website will have its own objective, understanding the main objective of the website will help you make design decisions down the line on what features to remove or keep.

Clean navigation and structure

Effective navigation is the backbone of a user-friendly website. It guides your visitors, helping them understand where they are and where they can go next. A logical flow can be achieved by using a clear and hierarchical structure that reflects the contents of your website.

This way, visitors can intuitively find what they’re looking for, effortlessly transitioning from one page to another. Whether exploring your services, reading your blog, or looking for your contact information, every click should bring them closer to their desired destination.

There are various types of website navigation options to consider:

  • Navigation menus provide a bird’s eye view of your website
  • Sidebars – helpful for supplemental information
  • Footers – additional navigation and helps keep the main navigation less cluttered
  • Breadcrumbs – show the user’s current page hierarchy, so they know how deep in your pages they are
  • Hamburger menus (mobile) – offer a clean, uncluttered interface for mobile users.

Love and Lemons uses a simple top bar navigation and a sidebar to introduce themselves as a personal brand.

loveandlemons.com homepage
credit: loveandlemons.com

A well-designed website doesn’t need all of these options but should have features that make sense for the overall objective of the website. When applied thoughtfully, these design decisions can significantly enhance the user experience.

Design consistency

A consistent design throughout your website makes your site look more professional and trustworthy and provides a sense of familiarity and ease of use for your visitors.

Keeping elements such as backgrounds, color schemes, typefaces, and the overall writing tone consistent creates a seamless, enjoyable experience that encourages users to stay longer, interact more, and ultimately convert.

Design consistency goes beyond aesthetics. It aids in usability by creating predictability, helping users understand how to interact with your website, and reducing the learning curve. For instance, if all buttons across your site look similar, users will intuitively understand that these elements are interactive.

However, consistency doesn’t imply boring designs. Different layouts can be employed for specific types of pages, like landing pages or informational pages. The key lies in maintaining a balance – diverse enough to cater to different content types yet uniform enough to provide a coherent visual language. A well-implemented consistent design can subtly guide your visitors, providing a comfortable and satisfying browsing experience.

Take this example from Exploding Topics. Notice how the design is consistent as you navigate through their website. The main navigation doesn’t change, and they have a “graphing” theme on many of their pages. Colors are also consistent with this design.

Use of colors and fonts

Crown Royal website as an example of color meaning for purple
credit: crownroyal.com

The colors you choose for your website design enhance readability and user engagement. They serve many purposes, including reinforcing brand identity, creating a pleasant aesthetic that draws visitors in, and stimulating specific emotional responses.

The strategic use of primary colors can draw attention to important elements on your site. This is crucial to consider as colors have a deep psychological impact on users, capable of subtly swaying their decision-making process. For instance, a well-selected color scheme can bolster website traffic, increase sales, and strengthen your target audience’s bond.

There are two important concepts to understand when choosing colors: the color wheel and color models. The color wheel is a collection of 12 colors, including primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. Color models, on the other hand, such as RGB (Red, Green, Blue) for screens and CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) for print, are systems for creating a broad spectrum of colors. Utilizing these tools allows for a more informed choice in your website’s color palette.

Techniques like complementary, analogous, diad, split-complementary, triad, tetradic, and square can be employed to select harmonious colors that work cohesively on your site. Understanding the psychology of colors allows you to use specific colors to evoke particular emotions and create associations.

triad color technique
Credit: uxdesign.cc

For instance, blue is often associated with trust and reliability, making it a popular choice in branding. In conclusion, the strategic use of color schemes plays a pivotal role in website design, capable of influencing your audience’s feelings and behaviors and, ultimately, their interaction with your site.

ColorColor Meanings
BluePeaceful, calm, steady, trustful, smart
RedExcitement, passion, urgent, hungry
GreenCalm, natural, jealous, balanced
YellowHappy, noticeable, fresh, energetic
OrangeJoyful, appealing, wealthy, thirsty
PinkKind, loving, emotional, gentle, sensitive
PurpleFancy, royal, proud, sad
BlackStrong, powerful, stylish, bold

Integrating multimedia thoughtfully

Multimedia integration is important in enriching the user experience on any website. Images, videos, and infographics are visually engaging and serve as tools for conveying complex information in a digestible manner. However, you want to incorporate them tactfully. It’s important to remember that each multimedia piece should add value to your content and align with the overall narrative of your site.

Images should be high-quality and relevant to the context. Optimizing images for faster load times is crucial, as slow-loading images can negatively impact the user experience and affect SEO. Conversely, videos can breathe life into your content, making it interactive and dynamic. However, for videos, avoid autoplay as it can be intrusive and annoying to users. Consider using video subtitles to make them accessible to all users, including those with audio impairments or those browsing without sound.

Infographics are brilliant at breaking down complex data into visually appealing and understandable pieces of information. They can help convey a lot of data in a small space and are more likely to be shared, enhancing your site’s visibility. When creating infographics, focus on a harmonious blend of data and design elements, ensuring the colors, fonts, and graphics align with your overall site aesthetics. Remember, multimedia isn’t just an accessory but a significant component in fostering a superior user experience in the digital world.

a sample of the infographic produced by visual capitalist around how famous tech brands got started
credit: visualcapitalist.com

Consider this infographic by Visual Capitalist. Typically recalling tech company history is dry and repetitive, but you can spice things up with graphics as part of a well-designed infographic to give these stories life again.

Keep load times to a minimum

official PageSpeed Insights page by Google Developers

Page speed is critical to user experience and search engine optimization (SEO). It refers to the time a specific web page takes to load fully. Several factors influence page speed, including the number of media files on the page, installed themes and plugins, and coding and server-side scripts.

Slow-loading pages can increase bounce rates and create a negative perception of your brand. If you’ve ever sat there waiting for a blank page to load, you know firsthand how annoying this can be.

One way to gauge your page speed is using tools like Google PageSpeed Insights. It measures page speed and provides suggestions for improvement. There are also two key metrics to be aware of: page load time and time to first byte (TTFB). Page load time is how long it takes for all the content on your page to load, while TTFB measures the time between a client’s request and the server’s response.

Google considers page speed a ranking factor, so optimizing your page speed can improve your website’s crawl rate and encourage Google to crawl more pages.

Here are nine practical ways to enhance your page loading speed:

  1. Choose a performance-optimized hosting solution: The choice of hosting company and package can directly impact your site speed.
  2. Compress and optimize images: Image size and format can significantly affect page load time. Make sure to optimize them appropriately. Have a look at this round-up post of must-have plugins.
  3. Reduce redirects: Redirects can create additional HTTP requests and slow down your page speed.
  4. Cache web pages: Caching can drastically reduce load time for returning visitors and provide a better user experience.
  5. Enable browser caching: This allows static files to be stored in the visitor’s browser to load quicker upon subsequent visits.
  6. Use asynchronous and defer loading for CSS and JavaScript files: This will prevent them from render blocking (slowing down) the rest of your page from loading.
  7. Minify CSS, JavaScript, and HTML: Minification can reduce the size of your code and the file’s download time.
  8. Leverage a content delivery network (CDN): A CDN delivers your web content to people more quickly and efficiently based on their geographical location. Some hosting services provide this as part of their package already.
  9. Eliminate unnecessary plugins: Plugins can clutter your website and slow performance.

You can also check your page speed on these websites

Create mobile friendly pages

UI of BrowserStack's landscap mobile testing
Credit: browserstack.com

Since 2017, mobile traffic has surpassed desktop traffic, and it hasn’t slowed down since then. This highlights the importance of mobile-friendly website design.

Implementing a responsive layout, optimizing website speed, using subtle pop-up implementation, and incorporating viewport meta tags can enhance mobile user experience. A clutter-free design and compatibility with landscape and portrait orientations are also key.

If you have the resources, regular cross-device mobile testing ensures a consistent user experience across different screen sizes and device types. Emphasizing mobile-friendly design is essential for maintaining SEO rankings and catering to increasing mobile internet usage.

If you’re using a modern page builder, it will usually have mobile responsive designs built right into their templates.

Use white space effectively

White space, often called negative space, is not just an empty space on a website but a powerful design tool that can greatly enhance user experience. It’s important to note that white space is not always white – it can encompass any color, texture, pattern, or background image. Its primary function is to create a balance between design elements and effectively organize content for improved visual communication, ensuring a seamless flow of information to the user.

There are two main types of white space to consider in web design: micro and macro white space. Micro white space refers to the small gaps between design elements, such as text lines or buttons, which help to make the page appear organized and easy to digest.

On the other hand, macro white space is the larger expanse of space between major layout components, which can give the design a fresh, airy feel and help to emphasize certain elements. The effective use of both types of white space depends on various factors, including the nature of your content, your design style, user research, and the specific branding message you wish to convey.

an example of macro vs micro white space

Whether passive or active, white space is important to your website’s overall look and feel. Passive white space improves legibility, making content easier to read and understand, while active white space is more strategic, guiding focus and attention to certain design elements. It’s crucial to remember your design tone, branding, and where you want your audience to focus when determining how much and where to use white space. Done correctly, it can improve readability, elevate user experience, and significantly enhance the overall aesthetics of your design.

Time to Design

Creating an outstanding user experience in website design is an art that requires careful consideration and strategic implementation of various factors. Starting with a clear goal for your website sets the foundation for a design that meets your users’ needs.

Clean navigation and a logical structure pave the way for user-friendly browsing while maintaining design consistency, offers a seamless experience throughout your site. The strategic use of colors and fonts enhances engagement, and the thoughtful multimedia integration, and optimized load times, add value to your content.

Considering the increasing mobile traffic, designing mobile-friendly pages is essential to ensure accessibility. Lastly, effectively utilizing white space can significantly improve your site’s readability and overall aesthetics. Each of these elements, when executed correctly, contributes to an enhanced user experience that can set your website apart in the digital landscape.

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