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This is the first part of our short series on the basics of web design. To learn more, check back in with us for more articles in this series!
Web design is not an easy field to step into. Whether you’re trying to get started yourself or just evaluating work that you’re having done for your company, it can be hard to put everything in perspective. Design on the web is not the same as design for print, which leads many people to make mistakes. You also can’t allow your personal preferences to overshadow important design principles (Comic Sans, for example, will never be a good professional font).
So how can you get a handle on web design? In this series, we’ll break down some of the most important principles of web design into three, simple mantras that you can apply to all of your design work: simple, standard and compatible.
“Simple” is an evocative word. In web design, simplicity means that you should focus on clean, intuitive sites, valuing functionality and a clear conveyance of your message over fancy graphics and tricks.
In an article on ConversionXL, Peep Laja gives an example of the application of simplicity in web design through the use of Occam’s razor, where “the simplest solution is usually best.” He notes the experience of the company Pipedrive, where they “removed 80% of the content, and left one sign-up button and one Learn More link on the home page.” The result? “Conversion to sign up increased by 300%.” Your company can have an incredible amount of impressive services and credentials, but shoving them all onto the main page will only serve to make it messy instead of impressing potential customers. A simple page finds a way to get the message across (“We’re a highly respected and successful company with the best products in our industry.”) without having to write a dissertation on it.
A simple web page should get your message across immediately. There should be no extra steps, like automatically playing animation and flash video or a landing/splash page. When a user arrives at your site, they shouldn’t have to think: everything should be obvious, from navigation to your company’s purpose and product. Anything else adds steps in between a user arriving and that same user converting to a paying customer. No one likes to jump through hoops to get things done, so you should make your website as accessible as possible.
To help maintain a simple, professional design, limit how many fonts and colors you use. Adding too many will make the page appear busy and distract visitors with visual clutter. Treat your graphics in the same way and only add things that complement the design. You should also avoid pop-ups, since they obscure the rest of your website and can annoy guests.
Simplicity is about making a functional site that gets the job done with streamlined good looks. A web designer does not have the same mission as an artist: they are designing something for a functional purpose such that the average user both likes and easily understands it. So when you’re looking for a successful website design, keep it simple.