When people think about web design, often the first things that come to mind are flashy visuals, stunning animations, and captivating aesthetics. But in reality, a far more intricate science is behind creating a successful and impactful website.
A study conducted by Stanford University has found that 75% of users make judgments about a company's trustworthiness based on how their website looks. This underscores the notion that web design is much more than just appealing graphics. It's about creating a seamless, intuitive user experience that captures and retains a visitor's attention.
So, you can choose to travel the long road of trial and error where you’ll gradually hone your skills and insights over time. Or, you can take a shortcut and leverage these 11 web design tips and guidelines to help you create a stunning and responsive web design.
So, let’s get started!
Responsive Web Design Best Practices for 2023
1. Mobile-First Design Approach
Embracing the mobile-first design approach is no longer an option but a necessity in our increasingly mobile-dominated world. Since a great amount of web traffic is generated from mobile devices, it's clear that businesses must prioritize mobile user experience in their web design strategy.
Mobile-first design involves beginning the design process with mobile devices in mind and scaling up to larger screen sizes. This ensures that the most crucial elements are visible and usable on smaller screens. Designing for smaller screens also forces designers to streamline, simplify and enhance the user experience.
This approach was developed as a response to the limitations of the "Desktop-First" strategy. It has now become a fundamental part of the design process.
Here is how you can implement this approach effectively:
- Prioritize content
- Deliver intuitive navigation
- Avoid disruptive pop-ups
- Test on real devices under real conditions
With the mobile-first approach, you're not just keeping up with the times; you're making way for a more user-friendly digital future.
2. Create Consistency in Design
Consistency is a critical factor that often defines the difference between a good and a great user experience. It gives users a sense of familiarity and ease to reduce their cognitive load as they navigate through your website.
Consistent design includes maintaining a uniform visual language regarding typography, color scheme, layouts, button styles, and imagery across the site. Inconsistency in these elements can lead to confusion and frustration. It may cause users to bounce off the site.
Take, for example, the Yale School of Art's website. The website's design is understandably experimental as an institution that values creativity and originality. However, the lack of consistency in the layout, fonts, and color palette can make the site feel chaotic and difficult to navigate. The user is often left confused trying to find basic information in this cluttered design.
While pushing the boundaries of design is essential, maintaining a consistent design language is crucial for an engaging and user-friendly experience. A user's journey on your website should be smoother than a roller coaster ride. So, while you experiment and innovate, keep your designs consistent.
3. Designing for Accessibility and Inclusion
Web accessibility is about making sure everyone can use your website regardless of any disabilities or limitations. It's an essential aspect of UX design that often goes overlooked, but it's just as important as aesthetics or functionality.
At its core, web accessibility means designing your website in a way that doesn't exclude anyone. This involves everything from the structure and layout of your site to the visuals and content itself.
The guidelines for web accessibility are outlined by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines are pretty straightforward. They recommend that websites be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
To put it in simpler terms:
- Perceivable means making sure users are aware of what's on your site.
- Operable means that the user can navigate the site in different ways.
- Understandable means the content and alerts on the site are clear and easy to comprehend.
- Robust means that your website should work seamlessly across different technologies, devices, and browsers.
4. Establish a Clear Visual Hierarchy
Visual hierarchy is a key principle in web design that organizes and ranks design elements. It guides users through the information layout according to their importance. It's about using visual cues to guide the viewer's eye and intuitively lead them through your site's content.
Here are some methods to establish a clear visual hierarchy:
- Size and Scale: Larger elements attract more attention than smaller ones. Thus, important elements like headings, calls to action, or key images should be bigger to draw users' attention.
- Color and Contrast: Vibrant colors and high contrast attract the eye. Use them strategically for key elements you want to highlight.
- Spacing: Ample space around an element can make it stand out. This is useful for highlighting specific sections or important calls to action.
- Alignment and Position: Our eyes naturally start at the top left of a page and move right, mimicking the pattern of reading. Placing crucial elements along this path can help guide users.
- Typography: Different font weights, styles, and spacing (kerning, leading, and tracking) can help distinguish text elements and guide users through the content hierarchy.
You can build a strong visual hierarchy when you think carefully about these design elements. This guides your users smoothly through your content. As a result, your website becomes more friendly and effective for users.
5. Opt for a Conventional Setup
Web design is about striking the right balance between being unique and meeting user expectations. We all use the internet regularly, and we're used to certain features. These include:
- Having the main navigation at the top or left of a page
- Placing a logo at the top left or center
- Making the logo clickable to return to the homepage
- Links and buttons changing when we hover over them
- Using a shopping cart icon on online stores to see how many items we have
- Buttons for manually changing image sliders
Some designers might want to ignore these standards to be unique. But that's not a good idea. There's still room for creativity while following web standards.
Think of it like architecture. Building rules ensure buildings are safe and comfortable. Architects follow these rules not just because they have to but because they ensure safety and comfort.
The same goes for web design. You can make a memorable website while still meeting user expectations. Users may feel uncomfortable or even frustrated with your site if you don't.
6. Maintain Consistent Branding
When you create a website, it's important to maintain consistent branding. Consistent branding helps build recognition and trust among your audience. Here's what you can do to ensure branding consistency:
- Logo Use: Ensure your logo is placed consistently across all pages, typically in the header. This helps users identify your brand quickly.
- Color Scheme: Stick to a consistent color palette throughout your website that matches your brand's identity. It helps foster a coherent visual experience.
- Typography: Consistently use the same fonts across your website. It not only helps with readability but also contributes to brand recognition.
- Imagery: The style and quality of the images used should align with your brand's personality. Whether it's product images or blog post headers, maintaining a consistent visual style is key.
- Tone of Voice: The language and tone used across your website should reflect your brand's personality. Be it professional, casual, or friendly, consistency is key.
Focusing on these elements helps you provide a seamless experience for your users while strengthening your brand's identity and recognition.
7. Prioritize Smooth User Experience
Visuals can captivate and engage website visitors, but a truly effective user experience (UX) goes beyond aesthetics. It also encompasses functionality, ease of use, and accessibility.
As a web designer, when building user flows, consider the following questions:
- Does the homepage clearly define the website's purpose?
- Is the navigation bar intuitive and easy to use?
- Are essential elements like buttons and contact forms readily accessible?
- Can a first-time visitor navigate your website with ease?
- Is the user journey engaging and enjoyable?
- Does the design guide users efficiently toward achieving their goals (like signing up for a free trial)?
- Is your website accessible to people with disabilities?
If user testing yields positive answers to these questions, you're on your way to providing a seamless UX and a user-friendly User Interface (UI).
8. Focus on Copywriting
Conversion copywriting isn't merely about persuading your readers to buy your product. It's an effective tool that influences every stage of the customer journey—from initial awareness to the final purchase decision.
This style of writing uses action-driven language to educate and motivate simultaneously. You can employ it throughout your website—on the homepage, 'about us' page, blog posts, landing pages, and even the pricing page.
Here's how to excel at conversion copywriting:
- Use powerful action verbs that clarify the benefits users will receive (for example, optimize, streamline, boost).
- Get to the point quickly—avoid lengthy, irrelevant introductions.
- Use an active voice and steer clear of words that denote uncertainty (like 'I think', 'maybe', 'possibly').
- Sprinkle your content with questions ('Why?' 'How?' 'What?'). These prompt readers to seek answers in the text and make the content more engaging.
- Keep your ultimate goal in mind while writing. For instance, if your goal is to get readers to sign up for your newsletter, your entire copy should gradually lead to that call-to-action (CTA).
- Write short sentences and paragraphs using easy-to-understand language to improve readability.
The ultimate measure of your writing efforts is whether visitors are compelled to click your CTA button.
9. Incorporate Effective CTAs (Call to Action)
A crucial yet often overlooked component of web design is the Call to Action (CTA). CTAs guide your visitors toward the intended conversion goal, from signing up for a newsletter to purchasing a product.
Effective CTAs work as the final nudge, inspiring potential customers to take action. A few persuasive examples are:
- Get started for free: Direct and offers immediate value.
- Talk to our team: Encourages personal interaction.
- Sign up for our newsletter: It provides a way to keep your brand top-of-mind.
- Book a demo: Allows users to try before they buy.
- Schedule a meeting or consultation: Promotes a more in-depth conversation.
With the strategic placement of these compelling CTAs throughout your website, you can create opportunities to establish connections with your potential customers. It’ll enhance your customer base and business growth.
10. Focus on Enhancing Page Speed
No matter how stellar your web design may be, it's crucial to ensure that the components you incorporate do not hinder the page's loading speed. When you develop websites to cater to various devices, it's crucial that your code, content, and images are optimized for speed.
So, why does page speed matter so much?
- A study by section.io on the impact of page load time revealed that when a page loaded in 2 seconds, visitors viewed 9.6 pages, whereas they only viewed 3.3 pages if the load time was 8 seconds.
- A quick website load time can significantly enhance conversion rates.
- According to a statistic by Think with Google, Over half of the users (53%) will abandon a page if a responsive website takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Page load speed also influences your SEO performance. Google monitors user experience and bounce rate closely, so if people spend only a few seconds on your site, Google's algorithm may reduce your site's visibility in search results.
In short, you should prioritize optimizing the loading speed for your site's mobile and desktop versions (and every screen size in between). You can use tools like Google Pagespeed Insights, GT Metrix, or Web Page Test to analyze and improve your site's speed.
11. Incorporate A/B testing & feedback
When your website's bounce rate is climbing, and you're unsure why, turn to ruttl for an expert second opinion. ruttl transforms your website design process into an interactive, collaborative experience.
With ruttl, you simply enter your website’s URL onto the platform and generate an interactive version of your site. Share this with your team members, clients, or other reviewers through a unique shareable link or email invite.
Reviewers can dive straight into your site without needing a separate login. They can provide feedback directly on the design elements, fostering a clear, context-based review process that’s easy to implement. This greatly reduces the friction often associated with feedback emails, allowing everyone to focus on identifying and addressing design concerns efficiently.
Once you've identified problem areas, you can use ruttl's real-time editing feature to make changes and test variations of your website design. You can conduct A/B testing and gather relevant metrics to determine which design variant performs the best.
ruttl aims to make the design feedback and testing process as seamless as possible, facilitating faster, more efficient website design refinement.
And there you have it!
Even if you meticulously follow all the web design best practices, you might be caught in a whirlwind of client revisions. It's part of the job, isn't it?
But who says it has to be as complicated as a Rubik's cube?
That's where ruttl steps in!
We've crafted ruttl to make your website review and approval process smoother than a well-oiled machine. Say goodbye to those nerve-racking back-and-forths with clients or your review team. Jump into the world of ruttl and watch as we simplify your web design review process.
Sign up on ruttl and get started!