As it has long been established that the Internet is here to stay, it is vital that companies and individuals establish a presence for themselves on the World Wide Web. Not only does it establish that you are a person living in the modern world—hip to the trends and staying current—but it also allows your audience to easily access information about your company and contact you.
And it’s not enough to just have a website. Anyone can have a website. Your 10-year-old cousin might have a website. You want a clean, modern, easy-to-use, but stylish website that reflects your mission—whether you’re a company serving customers, an artist showcasing a portfolio, or a writer with something to say. When considering web design, businesses should keep several important elements in mind:
As the Internet has grown, so has the technology with which to create a website. Your most basic option is a text editor, but without a strong knowledge of HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Spread Sheets), you’ll have a hard time making your page very complex. Other options include Dreamweaver, Flash, WordPress, and free websites available online like Weebly and Wix. Once you have weighed the pros and cons, choose an option and find a host for your website (such as GoDaddy.com or Bluehost). The host provides space on a server that will make your website accessible to users worldwide. With a host and means of creation, you can move on to the more fun, creative part of the process.
Now that you have a website, it’s important that you spend time getting the design details just right so that your style shines through. By adjusting the colors, typography, navigation, images, and content, you can play with the website’s personality. Will it be conservative and professional? Hip and casual? Streamlined and modern? Kitschy and cute? Your options are bound only by the extent of your imagination and the limits of a standard computer screen. Use your creativity and an artistic eye to create web design viewers will notice. If the flexibility makes you nervous, however, there are a few simple design techniques you should keep in mind.
- Simplicity. Keep it simple. Simplicity is clean, elegant, and efficient. Don’t clutter up your website with things you don’t need and don’t go crazy with design features. Simplicity is also a strong trend at the moment and many examples of great web design viewers love often incorporates it: think of Apple, Google, and Pinterest. Minimalism is in. If you keep it simple, it’s hard to go wrong.
- Contrast. Without contrast, the eye struggles to make sense of a design. This is especially important with typography. Keep your background light and use contrasting text color, so that the type is comfortable to read. If you want to use a lighter or brighter color for a logo or tab, that’s fine, but big blocks of text are best kept to dark shades like black and charcoal gray.
- Hierarchy. As you start assigning font sizes and weights, remember to think about the elements of your page and how they relate to one another. Your title or logo will almost certainly be the king of the castle, so to speak, so it should be dominant and stand out in relation to the other elements. Section titles might be the next most important element, followed by headings, and finally body text (just as an example). Utilize H1, H2, H3, etc. tags to classify which pieces are most important.
- Restraint. As tempting as it may be, just because you have millions of fonts and colors and images at your disposal, you should not use them all. Keep a tight rein on your design, using maybe 3-4 fonts at the most, a simple color palette, and clean graphics. Don’t be afraid of white space, which can add dimension that keeps the eye moving. It is better to have a simple design that is easy to understand than a complex one that leaves viewers befuddled. Website viewers most enjoy can be clearly comprehended.
As you create your website, it will slowly expand from a single page to multiple pages that point to one another. The amount of content you have and how you want readers to view it will help you decide the structure of the website. Designers need to think about the pathway that viewers will use to navigate the site. The navigation should be intuitive and obvious. As a designer, you should anticipate your users’ wants and needs and plan for them. How can a user easily click back to the homepage? How will they know how to contact you? Where will they find this content or that content? What will they want to do once they’ve found it? And if you want more traffic on a specific page, link to it on related pages. Create the map based on what your viewers need and then whittle in your own objectives.
Even if you have the most beautiful website in the world, it won’t be effective unless it can communicate. Communication requires fresh, engaging content that grabs the reader and makes them want to listen. In today’s world of constant clicking and scrolling and skimming, you need to fight against the white noise. Write simply, using dynamic words that have weight and movement. Also consider how your website will show up in search results on search engines like Google and Bing. Identify keywords that fit your website’s mission and use them often, but only when they make sense and have meaning. Using this Search Engine Optimization (SEO) technique, your website is more likely to show up at the top of search results when a user searches for those keywords. Sometimes what users will find and enjoy is dependent more on dynamic content and SEO than flashy pictures and graphics.
Finally, consider how many people have smart phones and will be accessing your website on their phone or another mobile device. It is important that you test out your website on these devices and fix any bugs. If your website has a lot of traffic and you want to devote more time to it, you could also create a mobile version that reads completely differently but is better suited for small screens. With responsive web design, designers can achieve just this. Using a fluid structure based on proportions, percentages, and flexible images, responsive websites easily adjust to provide an optimal viewing experience no matter what the screen size. You could also create an app that makes the user experience even more convenient.