Good website design has never been more important. We all take beautifully conceived, designed and user-friendly websites for granted. It’s become an expectation whenever we use the internet to shop, socialise or find out information.

Long gone are the early days of mass internet use when slow, often poorly designed and rarely user-friendly websites dominated. User expectation is now much higher and if your website isn’t easy to use as well as great to look at, it can be overlooked.

Website designers have to work harder to get their websites noticed. As well as changing user expectations, if you want to rank in search results, then good website design is essential.

What is web design, how do you do it, and what can you do to improve the look and usability of your website?

What is web design?

Web design is the entire process of generating ideas, conceptualising, planning and designing online content. It’s much more than just how the website looks. A primary focus is how the website functions. Without good functionality the website will be off-putting to users as well as difficult to find.

Web designers will work on the layout and appearance of the website. They will pay attention to the colours, font and any images that are used. They will ensure that the information presented on the site is properly structured and categorised for easy use.

Increasingly, website design will have simplicity as a guiding principle. The aim is to create a website that is easy to navigate and doesn’t include any unnecessary information. The aim throughout should be to meet the needs of the target audience, gain their trust and ensure that any potentially frustrating aspects are removed.

By the end of the web design process a working website should meet both the priorities of the owner and the needs of its users.

What are the basics of web design?

When you’re designing a website there are a number of different factors that will impact how successful it is. A good website design should be optimised for usability and functionality. To achieve this there are some key things you need to keep in mind:

What is the purpose of the website?

Why are you creating your website and what do you want it to achieve?

Perhaps you’re using it as a vehicle to describe your expertise and build your reputation. It might be about generating leads which can then be followed up. Or it might be the place where you sell goods directly to your customers and offer after sales support.

The purpose of your website should be as clearly focused as possible. Everyone wants to promote their business through their website, so identify some clear, measurable objectives.

Simplicity

Simplicity is a basic principle of good website design. The majority of people access the internet via mobile devices which has made simple, clean design and clear navigation even more important.

When it comes to design, simplicity is achieved through careful choice of colour, type and any imagery used. Colours should be complementary, the typeface should be legible across devices and suited for your business, and imagery should be expressive but used carefully for maximum effect.

Navigation

As much as the initial visual impact the website makes, good navigation is essential when it comes to retaining visitors. If the navigation is confusing, or difficult to find, visitors will all too frequently give up and look elsewhere. It’s important therefore to keep navigation as clear and consistent as possible. In fact, it should be intuitive, not requiring too much effort on the part of the visitor.

Layout

The layout of the website will also have an impact on the impression that visitors have of your website, how long they stay and whether they are converted from casual browser to customer.

A F-Shaped pattern for your text, reflecting the way that most people read a website according to studies, should be used. A clear visual hierarchy should be in place, arranging the elements of the page in order of their importance. Making use of a grid helps to order the contents of the website, making it feel balanced, ordered and aesthetically pleasing.

Content

You can have the slickest looking website in the world but if the content is irrelevant, non-existent or poorly written, then it won’t make a world of difference. Good website design includes quality, relevant content that helps to engage and encourage both at website launch and as an ongoing strategy.

Loading Time

As internet speeds have increased, the patience of users has decreased. Studies repeatedly show that should a website take more than a couple of seconds to load, visitors will begin to lose patience. With every second that passes the greater the drop-off rate. Only the very determined will wait beyond five or six seconds. So, ensuring a quick loading time is essential.

Mobile friendly

It used to be an afterthought, but now making sure your website is mobile friendly has to be hardwired into the whole design process. Increasingly, people are accessing the internet via mobile devices so your website needs to reflect that.

It may seem like an impossible task attempting to juggle all of these components. How on earth do you do it and where do you begin?

What is the website design process?

A website design process contains a number of different steps, which eventually come together to create a working, usable and useful website. The first step is to define your goals. Identify the objectives for your website, the problems it will solve and the target audience for your site. What intended benefit will users get from your website?

Secondly, a website developer will want to formulate a strategy for the web design process. This will involve choosing the programming language and technology stack. This will be based on the website goals that you’ve already outlined.

Next, you’ll need to build a sitemap prior to beginning the actual design phase. Wireframing provides a framework for the visual design of the website overall, acting as a building block for the final website. You should then map out your content strategy, paying attention to SEO and the questions your target audience are asking.

The fourth step is the design and development stage. The design elements of the website will then be added. These might reflect existing branding, or it could be more creative and experimental.

Good design tends to go unnoticed, in that when it works it’s largely remarked upon, when it doesn’t it’s all too obvious. After the design elements have been taken care of, the coding process is undertaken by the development. This process will take account of the content to be added, design, navigation and overall objectives.

The fifth step of website design is testing. This isn’t merely undertaken at the end of the design process before the website is signed off. It takes place concurrently throughout the development process and will involve a series of different tests including functionality, usability and security.

Finally, it’s time to launch the website and then keep it maintained, updated and relevant.

How to get started with web design

As websites have become more complex and the field more crowded, website design has become more involved and complicated. It used to be the case that web design was relatively easy to pick up, perhaps using a popular platform with templates that made the task easier. These days, those basic DIY websites look dated and amateur compared to professional bespoke websites.

If you’re serious about web design then you’ll need to undertake a design course. Some are available online, but for a more comprehensive training in web design principles, you’ll need to invest time and money.

Can I teach myself?

If you’re well motivated, have time to spare and are good at self-directed learning it may be possible to teach yourself web design. As web design gets more complicated and involved, this task has grown even more difficult.

If you’re running a business, it’s likely that you already have enough pressure on your time meaning it would be incredibly difficult to teach yourself web design to a high enough standard to create your own website.

With that in mind, what is the best alternative?

Why choose a website design agency?

Using the services of a website design agency is the most sensible approach for most business owners. An agency has the skills, experience and insig ht to deliver real results for your business. They will develop a website that reflects your brand, utilises the latest technology, and hits your SEO targets.

A professionally designed website will always have the edge over a DIY site.

Dawn Creative can design a website that provides the best platform for your business. Call 0161 711 0910 or email wakeup@dawncreative.co.uk to find out more.