9 Principles of Good Web Design

We’re here to break down this often intimidating topic into simple, practical tips that everyone (not just designers!) can understand and use.

Principles of Good Web Design - Clay

Web Design and Why It Matters

Web design is the design process of creating a website that looks aesthetically pleasing and functions in an efficient and user-friendly way. It encompasses many key elements of a website's design, including layout, navigation, content structure, typography, and visual elements. The goal is to create an online experience that is both visually attractive and intuitively navigable. This can be accomplished through the thoughtful use of color schemes, fonts, images, videos, and other components in an organized fashion.

A web designer's salary averages an impressive $57,000 annually — around $8,000 more than the average junior web developer. Unsurprisingly, web designers are generously rewarded for their incredible work; they are essential in ensuring today’s websites look and function great.

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A new lead's initial interaction with your website sets the tone for future interactions and establishes a lasting opinion of your brand. You can use your website design to showcase your company's identity, brand values, objectives, and competitive edge. To encourage visitors with countless rivals offering similar products in this market, ensuring visitors are astounded by what they see on your site will set you apart from others while enhancing the recognition of yourself and your brand.

Moreover, a powerful website can support your SEO initiatives. Search engines take into account user satisfaction when assessing websites for search results rankings. If people respond positively to your site and frequently visit multiple pages, the search engine will likely rank you higher than a rival with an undesirable site performance or bounce rate.

It is essential to consider technical SEO (search engine optimization) when creating a website. Well-crafted titles, page structures, relevant keywords, and links make the site more accessible for search engines and customers - an invaluable advantage that cannot be overlooked!

Website design is important because it helps create an engaging and effective user experience on a website. The website design should be tailored to meet both the needs of the business or organization behind the site and its users. If done properly, web design can lead to increased traffic and conversions for a website. It can also help build trust with site visitors by conveying professionalism and expertise through consistent branding elements throughout the site.

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Ultimately, good web and mobile design also should make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily — leading to more satisfied customers who are more likely to convert into paying customers or advocates for the brand. When designed well, it can drive user engagement and success. However, when done poorly, it can confuse and overwhelm users and lead to poor experiences, costing businesses potential sales or leads.

9 Core Web Design Principles

Content Is King

A recent study showed that if a website's content does not meet the user's needs, more than half of them (50%) will never revisit it.

Regarding web design, one thing is clear: content is king. Sure, web design features and principles like usability, colors, font sizes, and white space all play a major role in helping viewers better understand what’s on the page. But high-quality content must be central to your website design and strategy if you want your web page to stand out.

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a typewriter

Undoubtedly, having thoughtful and well-written content is the difference between a good web page and a great one. After all, web pages are meant to provide information and engage users somehow – and when you have great content that does just that, web design becomes less about adornment and more about emphasizing what makes your page truly unique.

Navigation Should Be Simple

Studies have revealed that nearly all people (94%) agree that simple navigation is an essential website feature.

Navigation can be one of the most important website design principles to get right. Users who visit your website should intuitively understand how to find what they're looking for in a few clicks or taps. The trick is to create a navigation system that is not only simple but also efficient and intuitive.

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Complex navigation systems can lead visitors into an endless loop of tabs, drop-down menus, and links with no final destination in sight - and of course, this should be avoided at all costs! Good web design should always aim at making the navigation process as smooth as possible, so visitors have a pleasant experience while exploring your web pages.

Responsive Design Is Necessary

In web design, one universal truth holds: responsive design is necessary. Responsiveness refers to web pages that display properly and optimally on various devices, like monitors, tablets, and smartphones. And because web surfers worldwide access web pages regardless of platform, it’s never been more true that following web design principles allows a page to respond seamlessly on mobile devices.

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a web page

Responsive design often includes resizing images, adjusting buttons according to device type, and other interactive features, to accommodate various screens. And while this may be tedious work, taking the time to ensure a website is properly responsive is worth it. After all, we don’t want our web pages failing us at a crucial moment — especially with many web design principles designed specifically for optimal user experience!

Keep a Web Page Balanced

In web design, achieving a balanced look is one of the most important principles you should strive for. Think about how all web design elements work together; are some getting too much attention or none? It's easy to overlook this principle when working in web design. Still, if you pay attention to the finer details and focus on making a balanced overall look of web pages, your efforts will be rewarded, and visitors will be more inclined to stay longer. Paying proper attention to balance in web design can make your product aesthetically pleasing and drive more traffic toward your website!

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a web page

Use Colors Wisely

With web design, color can make all the difference. After all, it’s the first thing a visitor notices about your web page! To ensure your web design stands out for the right reasons and remains visually appealing, using color wisely is one of the nine core web design principles. Think carefully about combinations; consider which colors complement each other and how people process visual information.

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a color palette

Try experimenting with different shades to see what color scheme works best, and remember: less is often more. A few well-placed hues complementing each other make for a much more effective web design page than an array of clashing colors!

Fonts Matter

Fonts aren't just for adding decoration to web pages - they can make or break all your efforts in web design. When selecting a font, we must remember that web design principles are at play. We must consider readability, style, size, and overall aesthetic appeal. It's easy to pick a font that looks good on the surface only to find it unreadable on screens of any size. So take the time to pick a font that looks and works great - your web audience will thank you!

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handwritten fonts

Negative Space for Visual Hierarchy

Negative space plays an important role in web design, as it helps to create a sense of balance and clarity on the page. Setting aside certain areas of the page that are empty or contain fewer elements helps to emphasize the more important content areas and draw attention to them. Additionally, negative space can be used to create a visual hierarchy - that is, it can help organize visuals into groups or sections according to important topics.

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Furthermore, negative space can also act as a tool for creating breathing room between different pieces of content, which helps visitors focus on one topic at a time without getting overwhelmed by too much information. Finally, negative space makes web pages look more aesthetically pleasing and inviting, encouraging visitors to stay longer and explore further. When used judiciously and effectively, negative space can significantly impact user experience and make website navigation easier for visitors.

Follow Important Laws

Over sixty-eight years ago, psychologist Paul Fitts constructed a theory and design concept still applicable to web design today - Fitt's Law. The law highlights how the size of an element greatly impacts users' ability to target it swiftly. In other words, larger buttons or CTAs will be easier and take less time for users to click than smaller ones. Therefore, if you want your website visitors to access calls-to-action easily (CTA), make those buttons highly visible by enlarging them substantially!

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According to Hick's Law, developed by British psychologist William Edmund Hick and American psychologist Ray Hyman, people face exhaustion when making decisions. Put differently, the more choices website visitors are presented with, the higher their probability of becoming overwhelmed and giving up on a task altogether. This is a great example of why "easy" should be placed at a premium; it will reduce decision fatigue among your target audience while boosting completion rates!

Choose a Pattern

Having researched more than 500 individuals over the span of 13 years, Nielsen Norman Group (NN Group) used human eye-tracking to comprehend how people interact with content. This enabled them to develop the F pattern, which claims that when reading a page online, users first scan vertically and then continue by skimming horizontally from left to right - like this:

You can use this F pattern on your website either directly or in an equivalent format. Doing so should amplify user engagement significantly!

Source: Instapage
F pattern web page

Evernote has ingeniously adopted a Z-shaped pattern for its homepage, allowing your gaze to effortlessly flow from the "Evernote" logo, down towards the "login" button, onto the image on the left side of the page, and eventually arrive at the all-important sections. This intuitive navigation technique ensures that visitors are given a clear pathway to registering or logging in to the great website immediately upon arriving.

Source: Evernote
Z-pattern web page

Wrapping Up: Creating a Visually Appealing Website

All of these principles should be kept in mind when considering web design. They are powerful tools that will help make the visual design of any website aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly. When used correctly, they have the power to create something both beautiful and functional. It's important to remember that more isn't always better; often, the simplest solutions work best. As a web designer, it's your job to determine the exact balance for any web design project you tackle properly!

About Clay

Clay is a UI/UX design & branding agency in San Francisco. We team up with startups and leading brands to create transformative digital experience. Clients: Facebook, Slack, Google, Amazon, Credit Karma, Zenefits, etc.

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About Clay

Clay is a UI/UX design & branding agency in San Francisco. We team up with startups and leading brands to create transformative digital experience. Clients: Facebook, Slack, Google, Amazon, Credit Karma, Zenefits, etc.

Learn more

Share this article

Link copied