Long gone are the days where businesses would rely solely on the judgment of a web designer when it comes to making website design decisions. Over the years, a number of website design best practices have emerged by trial and error to illuminate the way for contemporary web design.
The purpose of this article is to cover a number of website design best practices to ensure that you don’t miss the mark with your 2016 website redesign. This article could serve as a website launch checklist. However, it would be much more useful if all the points covered here were addressed in your initial website discovery and planning sessions.
- Page Layout
Designing a website page layout that is more than pretty is a must; in addition to being appealing to your target market, it is important to have a consistent website header, footer, and any call to action “above the fold” –which is little more than an old print design adage brought to the modern web, which simply means that a website visitor need not scroll down to view it.
- Call to Action
The call to action on your website should utilise contrasting colours and be encapsulated within a border or clearly defined over a large visually striking image.
White space is your friend, much unlike print. Ample white space can be used to lead your website visitor’s eye through a landing page and draw focus to areas you’d like them to focus.
Website navigation controls also need to be consistent and organised in a way that makes sense for the website visitor.
Consider organising your businesses website navigation by user type if it is possible they could get lost in large swaths of information, and try to make it easy for website visitors to find exactly what they’re looking for with as few clicks as possible.
A simple example of this I always refer to is how an online toy store might help its website visitors find what they’re looking for. Instead of displaying popular toys on the home page alone, creative web design services may choose to utilise a simple selector tool could be more effective. “I am shopping for a [boy/girl] who is [x years] of age, celebrating [birthday/Christmas/bar mitzvah, etc]” –right from the home page you’ve just removed hours of legwork for a time-poor parent.
Navigation should be helpful, intuitive, and based on a lot of testing to make sure you get it right. In addition to your standard menu it is also advised that your website have a site map in the footer for more granular website navigation.
Lastly, “breadcrumbs” on pages under the home page serve as a “you are here” indicator, explaining the location you are currently on a website.
- Rich Multimedia
Just as each page should have a single clearly defined purpose, so should all forms of multimedia on your website. Nothing should distract your website visitors from your key business objectives, and media for the sake of media is a big no-no.
The use of Adobe Flash and other proprietary media plugins are a huge drawback for a majority of website visitors because they will negatively impact website loading times or render content completely inoperable on older computer terminals and most mobile devices.
Website page loading times and the hardware resources (battery life on mobile devices, random access memory) are also key concerns you will need to address to ensure a pleasurable viewing website viewing experience.
Where plugins are required to view content, it is important to clearly state where and how a website visitor can obtain the correct plugin to render and view rich media content.
- Browser Compatibility
Browser compatibility problems are a primary concern for website developers because all of the hard work that goes into a website can fall short if it won’t display on your website visitor’s device. Creating a responsive web design is more important than ever to address browser and screen size compatibility.
Although most browsers use a common codebase to develop their browser software, website rendering across the devices these browsers run on may still be inconsistent.
Testing your website on each and every one of the most popular browsers doesn’t require a web development company to own every single device on the market for testing. Instead, websites such as Browserling and Browserstack provide virtual devices that can allow one to test a website across all devices quickly and easily.
Now that the web has matured and in many countries has been declared a human right, new standards are being adopted which make it mandatory that your website is “viewable” to those with visual impairments and other handicaps.
This can be facilitated by using alternative text for all images and other media, sufficient colour contrast between textual content and the background it resides on, bread crumbs, and captioning for audio and video. These additions to your website will not only make your website readable by specialised devices for the handicapped; they will also appease Google and other search engines and make content on your website easier to find in search results.
While there are many other considerations to take into account when attempting to comply with website design best practices, these are up there at the top of the list.
Have anything to add? Please have your say in the comments.