How to Design a Great Website: 8 Dos and Don’ts of Web Design

Want to know how to design a winning website? Here are the key dos and don'ts of web design.

How to Design a Great Website: 8 Dos and Don’ts of Web Design
Portrait for Vanja MaganjicBy Vanja Maganjic  |  Updated November 28, 2022

With so many new web design trends popping up daily, it’s hard to know which to try and which to avoid. If you want to design a winning website that reflects your brand, converts customers, and stands out amongst your competitors, it’s vital to know what to do, and – just as importantly – what not to do.

This guide will cover the most common mistakes web designers make, as well as the must-have features of every great website.

What is Web Design?

Web design is the overall look and feel of a website. It’s the process of planning, building and creating the elements of your website, from structure and layout to images, colors, fonts and graphics.

Many crafts and components work together to form web design, including graphic design, UX design, UI design, SEO, and content creation.

The Dos of Web Design

Let’s start with the positives! There are a couple of key characteristics you should incorporate into your website. These features will be not only appreciated, but expected by your website visitors. 

1. Seamless Website Navigation

Site navigation is an integral pillar of excellent web design. Visitors who can’t easily find the information they need are more likely to click off quickly. In fact, research shows that 94% of visitors chose easy navigation as their most valued website quality. 

As a rule, designers should ensure visitors can assess any page or CTA in three clicks or less. Your product or service listing, email signup page, pricing, and blog should be accessible from every page on your site. 

Mailchimp's navigation menu, which is simple and easy to understand

The easier you make it for your visitors and potential customers to find the right content on your site, the better your chances are of converting them. 

Remember, not all visitors will follow the same path of starting on your homepage and moving linearly through your site, so ensure your navigation is intuitive, straightforward, and without hurdles. 

Here are a few tips for setting up your site navigation:

  • Headers: use your menu navigation for essential links only. For example, it could link to your pricing page, blog, products, or contact page. 
  • Footers: this is where you can list less relevant links. Many sites list less popular pages in the footer, such as Press or About Us pages, in addition to the links in their header.
  • Mobile optimized: as 53% of web traffic now comes from mobile users, optimizing your site for desktop and mobile versions is essential. 
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel: use well-established labels for site navigation. Using unfamiliar words and phrases will slow down your visitors and negatively impact their user experience. 

2. Create Valuable Content

While SEO, PPC ads, and social media might attract visitors to your site, your content is what keeps them coming back. The importance of content can not be understated. 

Ensure your home page content is short and easy to understand – digestible content will help you move leads through your sales pipeline more efficiently. 

On the other hand, blogs and FAQ pages should contain detailed, lengthy content that brings value to your customers and potential clients. Written content makes up 95% of information on the web, so the content you create will play an essential role in keeping your visitors’ attention. 

Ben & Jerry's website copy is short, succinct, and easy to understand.

When creating content for your website, follow the rule of writing while drunk and editing sober. In other words, write your content freely without re-reading, and edit the entirety of your content once it’s complete. 

While editing, keep only relevant content. Remove fluff or sentences that don’t serve a purpose – be respectful of your visitor’s time, and save them from reading large blocks of copy that add no value. 

Another tip is to avoid using jargon or complicated words. Your content should be easy to understand, even for readers that aren’t fluent in your language or familiar with your industry. Your content should be accessible to everyone – regardless of their technical knowledge or vocabulary. 

3. Engage Visitors to Scroll 

The concept of scrolling is pretty simple – the more your visitors scroll, the more time they’ll spend on your site, and the better chance you’ll have of converting them. Scrolling increases the likelihood of your visitors investing in your solution. 

The more they learn about your products, services, features, benefits, and customer success stories, the more inclined they’ll be to buy from you. 

Basecamp's website engages users to scroll

Utilize a variety of content types throughout your site. Include customer reviews, quotes, how-to videos, links, and more. Your content should encourage visitors to stay on your website and read more about your solution. 

Include customer reviews, quotes, how-to videos, links to other pages, and more. You should engage your visitors to click through your pages and read more about your solution. 

4. Make Your Site Responsive

Responsiveness is a key pillar of website design. Not only do most visitors prefer mobile over desktop, but so does Google. The search engine’s algorithm prioritizes mobile-friendly sites first in their indexing and ranking. Your goal should be to provide an amazing customer experience for your visitors across all devices. Your content should look great on all screens and be easy to read and navigate. 

Don’t just assume that the user journey will be consistent across all devices without testing it first. Make sure to test your design across all relevant devices to ensure it’s responsive – the more devices you try it out on, the better. Envato Elements has plenty of responsive website templates to ensure a seamless user experience across devices. 

The Don’ts of Web Design

Now that we’ve covered everything you should do when designing your website let’s look over the things to avoid. Here are some of the most common mistakes made in web design. 

1. Don’t Go Overboard with Colors and Fonts

The cleaner your design is, the better. Your design should work with your site goals, not against them – while necessary, your site design should always come secondary to its function. If you go overboard with colors and fonts, you’ll create a site that is hard to look at and complicated to navigate. Visitors should be able to navigate around your site and follow CTAs without jumping through hoops. 

Choose a typeface and color scheme and stick to it. Once you’ve decided on your brand guidelines, utilize them in your web design, social media, brochures, email marketing, or wherever your brand is visible to generate recognition. 

An example of an overcomplicated, busy website design

Regarding website fonts, try to avoid capital letters and use the rule of threes – choose no more than three fonts for your website to keep it looking simple and clean. Also, invest in high-quality photos of your products and team to enhance your authenticity and professionalism. 

2. Don’t Overuse Pop-Ups

Pop-ups can be a valuable marketing tool for your website. You can use pop-ups to inform your website visitors of a sale or discount or prompt them to subscribe to your newsletter. Pop-ups can help to engage your audience, but if you overdo them, they can be annoying or disruptive.

Limit your pop-ups so to not annoy visitors

First, ask for only a small amount of information. The less hassle it is to subscribe to your newsletter, the more likely visitors will sign up. Also, limit the number of pop-ups on your site. If you have a pop-up on every landing page, you’ll experience a high bounce rate, so be selective with where and when you use them to make them less distracting. 

3. Don’t prioritize design over function

There’s no doubt that creating a beautifully designed website is important. However, your design shouldn’t interfere with the user experience. If your website is confusing or hindering your visitors’ ability to engage with your site, it’s time to make a change. 

This simple, straightforward design from Function of Beauty prioritizes function

Here are a few things to look out for: 

  • Avoid text colors that are hard to read, and choose shades that are accessible for sight-impaired people. 
  • Create simple, clean backgrounds that aren’t too busy
  • Make CTAs easy to find
  • Utilize a vertical scroll rather than horizontal
  • Limit the number of ads featured on your site

Also, while SEO is important, integrations like Google Tag Manager can slow down your website. Always prioritize your visitor’s experience over design choices or marketing needs. 

4. Don’t follow every trend

While it can be great to keep up with the latest trends, try not to jump on every web design fad. If you’re looking to build a sustainable brand, basing your whole website or visual identity around a passing trend can be a big mistake. Consider current trends, but create a site design that’s still authentic to you and your audience. 

Most of the time, people don’t know what they want from a site’s design –but they do know what information they want to find. While new and trendy website features can be fun to experiment with, always prioritize practicality and user experience. 

To wrap up… 

We hope this article has given you a good understanding of the dos and don’ts of custom web design. Avoid going overboard with your design, and keep your focus on the customer. 

Design your site with your audience in mind, create content that’s easy to understand, and make your website easy to navigate, and you’ll have a winning website in no time. 

Guest Author: Vanja Maganjić

Vanja Maganjić is an experienced writer at Better Proposals. She believes in brands that stand up to the man and thinks that storytelling is an essential part of what makes us human. Her long term goal is to become the cool auntie that gives out family-sized Kit Kats on Halloween.

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