Form follows function. Or is it function follows form? Perhaps, when it comes to designing for a website, the two need to co-exist.
Good front-end design can make the website more engaging. But the purpose of the website and what the site represents should be understood to the visitor upon arrival. Is this where they want to be?
The aesthetics of the website draws the user in. Then couple good design with the awesome functionality that comes with solid back-end development to keep them there and to build trust and credibility.
Five things that makes a website stand out and what to consider during the design process:
- Images – create immediate interest with compelling images and media. Images can be of various types and serve different purposes. Relevant pictures can make a big splash at the top of the page or use diagrams and illustrations to break up large blocks of text. The introduction of video clips or animated images can add a sense of the motion to the page. Data visualizations can have a visual impact on a website page and at the same time offer a way to make complex data easy to understand. The use of icons can quickly communicate meaning and are a simple way of sparking interest.
- Textual content – the readability for users is key. Avoid huge blocks of text. Make use of headings and subheadings to organize thoughts. The use of certain fonts can help make a statement. But more important is to consider readability and ensure legibility on various screen types. Typical website visitors skim pages quickly and difficult to read fonts can slow the process. Consider a primary font that is prominent and can be used for headings. A secondary font to be used for text and should be easily readable even on the smallest of screens. For call to actions such as buttons or to emphasize certain parts of a page, a third or accent font can be used. This is one that can be more stylized and can complement the other font options.
- Color – choose a palette that fits the narrative of the website and coincides with the company’s identity or brand. Color affects emotion and its use can have a subtle impact in communicating the underlying message of the website. Limit the use of color to two or three with the dominate color being used for over 50 percent of the space on the website. The secondary color at about one-third and an accent color under 10 percent of the space. Use color throughout the website as a page background or to emphasize content. Think about the importance of color contrast, too. Not only as a means of adding emphasis and visual interest, but to be compliant with today’s website accessibility guidelines.
- Consistency – keep all the repeating components of the website the same. Its best when visitors to the website have an immediate, almost intuitive, sense of what to expect when moving from page to page. How images and other media are presented need to be consistent throughout the website. Branding elements such as stylized text and column formats along with color and spacing should be inherently the same. Design elements such as buttons and other call-to-actions should appear and function consistently.
- Navigation – make it easy for visitors to quickly find what they are searching. Website navigation should be predictable as the user should know for certainty what to expect when they choose an option to go to somewhere else within the website. Visitors are there to explore the website and follow through with their curiosities. This is part of the user experience and knowing their way around the website is essential. Good news is there are multiple ways of doing so as not to limit the design appeal of the website. Typical navigation for most websites is clearly shown at the top of the page and often is referred to as the navigation menu. Here other pages or anchor points throughout the website are clearly indicated. Sidebars are a great way to indicate related content found within the website and from there the visitor can find other articles or topics of interest. Footers are a popular method to list other pages or categories that are part of the website and provide links to those resources. Breadcrumbs are an excellent way to show the user where they are in the site and clearly shows how the page is nested within other pages. When it comes to saving space, especially for devices such as mobile, the hamburger menu is an excellent way to handle overflow options that may be too difficult to design for.
Design the website with end-users in mind. Understanding their demographics helps in choosing design elements that give the target market a positive experience. This rewarding experience will yield more traffic and better search engine page results.
Steve Guidas is the Web Development Manager at JP Enterprises. An avid college basketball fan, Steve is now looking for ways to cure his March Madness hangover.