What is good website design?

How do you know when a website is well designed? Most of the time we just feel it or could list some specific elements we like, but in most cases it is hard to pint point all the elements that distinguishes a good design from an average one.

A friend showed me a website design (which had already been approved and was in development) for a new online furniture shop and I immediately told them about 10 things that needed attention.  The design had a background image, black menu bar and black header boxes for all the other content bits on the site, can you imagine how “hectic” the design felt – and guess what the reply was?  They went with a specific design because they thought black and orange worked well together.

Have people forgotten that when you design a site you should design with the user in mind?  It should not be based on your own preferences or an image you like etc.  A visually appealing site not only builds trust and credibility, but also makes your website stand out from the others.  The sad truth is that even if you have all the SEO and usability in place, but your website design is lacking… your visitors will not be staying on your website for long.

So, I have compiled a design check list based on internet research, other blogs, industry standards etc:

Crisp, clean image quality

Please don’t use old, blurry, or distorted images.  They should be clean, crisp and sharp.

Clean, clutter-less design

This is one of the most common issues I see.  Avoid trying to have so much on your site, keep navigation as well as content areas clear of clutter.

White-space usage

White space is extremely important in any design.  There should always be enough white-space (empty space) in the design so there is space to breathe.

Minimal distractions

Images, animations, ads, links or any other design elements can quickly distract a user.  There should be an easy flow from the top, navigation and to the content of the site.  It is highly recommended that you avoid allot of blocks, or high contrast elements that serve no purpose.

Consistent colours and type

It is surprising how often we see this, not only in web but also in print design, keep the same fonts and colours on all the pages, unless you know what you are doing.

Targets intended audience

It is very important to make sure you are designing with the users in mind.  Like the example I gave at the beginning of this post – don’t choose a design just because it is something you like, test it with your audience or do research to find out what kind of colours, layout and wording your target audience likes.

Consistent page formatting

Use a consistent layout on all your pages so users know where they are and can easily find the items they want.

Avoid text in images

You loose the opportunity for essential keywords when you place text in images.

Font size is adequate

Don’t use very small fonts. Larger fonts increase readability of content.

Font type is friendly

Use web safe fonts.  This way you increase overall usability of the website.

Paragraphs not too wide

I think they say that 1 line of text should never be longer than 600 or so pixels.

Easy to navigate

I am sure there are books written about this, but it is essential. Sitemap and navigation is the first steps in designing a new site.

Good on-page organization

Keep things organised, logical and where its expected to be found.

Descriptive links

These should always accurately describe what you are liking to, for eg. not “click here” but instead “good web design guidelines.”

Visual cues to important elements

Important links and action items should stand out from the rest of the content.

Good overall contrast

Make sure text can be read easily and colors don’t bleed into each other.  There are lots of tools available on the web that can help you with this.

Low usage of animated graphics

You should generally avoid using animated graphics, unless its an integral part of the user experience.

Avoid requiring plugins

Its just not a good idea, you don’t want people to leave the website because it requires them to download something.

Minimize the use of graphics

Don’t overwhelm your users with too many visual elements.

Understandable graphic file names and alt tags

Use logical file names and use the alt tags so that they can be understood if read.  It also helps with SEO.

Non-busy background

Keep the background simple so that it does not take the users eyes away from the content.

Recognizable look and feel

Your site should be distinctive.

Proper image / text padding

Give some space around text, headings and images.

Uses trust symbols

These can be partner logos, better business bureau, security or other symbols that can give your site credibility.

Works on variety of resolutions

Your website should work on a variety of resolutions and if possible have a mobile friendly version of your site.  This will become more important in the years to come.

Works in various browsers and on a variety of screen widths.

Test your site.

I think that is it. I will see if I can find some examples to add to these 🙂

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