Website Design Best Practices for 2021

People decide whether they hate or adore your website very quickly, and design has a lot to do with it.

The design of your website is largely responsible for how visitors engage with your business and how many of them convert to customers. 

According to a study conducted by Adobe, 66% of visitors prefer beautiful, rich designs to simple and plain designs. They also discovered that if the layout or imagery of the website is unattractive, 35% of visitors would switch between their devices, while 38% of visitors would leave. Additionally, 30% of visitors would switch between their devices and 38% would leave the website if the content on the page is too long.

When it comes to website design, even the smallest improvements can change visitors’ behavior and make an impact in the sales department.

With that being said, we wrote this article to bring your attention to the importance of website design and how crucial it is for the success of your business.

Take the following guidelines on the best website design practices into account to optimize the benefits they can yield for your business.

Keep Words at a Minimum.

Homepages, landing pages, and even product pages shouldn’t be overrun by text. Before diving into the details, visitors want a quick introduction of the key aspects of your business, its products, and its services. 

So, keep your sentences short. You can tell a lot in just four words. For example, if you sell email marketing software, instead of writing “Our email marketing software will bring you closer to closing more deals” go for “Sell with every email”. The essence of the first sentence remains, and, at the same time, the second sentence stands out as more memorable.

Implement the same technique with your paragraphs. Keep them short and concise, composed of only a few short sentences. Use breaks as often as you can and make each paragraph a separate point. Visitors often scan a website to gather the most important points, so using breaks is crucial for better readability. 

Use bullet points. Condensing your most important information into short lists improves scannability.

Furthermore, ensure that your texts are short enough so that your CTAs (calls to action) won’t get lost along the lines. Placing a CTA with no distractions around it will improve its visibility and make it more impactful.

Long-form content is only needed when you want your visitors to find out more about your offers. It’s best to keep such content (blog posts, reports, white papers, case studies, etc.) on separate pages.

Visualize Before You Speak.

If you want to sell us a phone, we’d like to see it first. Take a look at Apple’s homepage. It only features necessary text and some immediate-conversion links on the page. If you want to learn more, they’ll take you to a separate page, or you can immediately jump to checkout. But before all that, they’ll give you a glance at their iPhones and the colors they’re offered in. 

Visitors love it when you don’t take much of their time explaining, so your design should focus largely on visual presentation. 

Employ Color Science for Brand Consistency.

What’s easy on the eyes is a pleasure for the soul. 

Colors can make or break the appeal of your website design. Combining colors that go well together is one of the most crucial ways to make your visitors fall in love with your design and stick around on your website.

What’s more, you need to choose a color scheme that goes best with your logo and brand colors. If you’ve already established two or three colors for your branding, make sure to use the same ones (or their closest shades) for consistent visuals across your website. 

If your logo is a single color, do your best to mix together one or two more colors that will complement the logo. Take a look at these cool color combinations to draw inspiration and make a good decision.

Never go with more than four colors altogether. Having a full spectrum of colors will overwhelm your visitors and scare them away. 

Intel implements color science the way it should be. Ocean blue is at the forefront, followed by a dark shade of turquoise, making the design very pleasant for the eye.

Spores does a great job of choosing very neutral colors with their design. This keeps you focused on the messaging, which is clearly the goal with their design.

On the other hand, the Colorado Ranger Horse Association website is just a big no! There’s brown, on more brown, on some more brown. Completely unacceptable.

CTAs Should Be Central.

Your goal is to make your visitors take action. So, don’t hide the CTAs. They need to be eye-catching and easily noticeable.

It is detrimental for a website to have CTAs in order to drive conversions. Yet, 70% of businesses don’t have any CTA buttons.

A call to action is most effective if implemented into a button. Determining where you should place your CTA buttons depends on the type of the page. A good standard is to place CTA buttons high on the homepage – preferably under your opening and in the corner of your main navigation. For an article page, the CTA buttons should be placed before and after the main text.

Additionally, you should place your CTA button where it would get noticed in under 3 seconds after the page loads. The practices that we discussed above are solid examples of the 3-second rule because if the CTA button is placed on the first screen when the page loads, it will be quickly noticed by the visitor.

Another requirement that all of your CTA buttons should satisfy is consistency. You need to make them all display the same text in order to reinforce familiarity. The above image of AWeber’s homepage is not a good example of that, as they used two different texts for the same CTA which aims to convince visitors to create an account. So, avoid using different CTAs across your website, because that confuses site visitors and can be a liability for conversion.

The Navigation Principles.

Have you ever taken the time to think how accustomed you are to a certain way of browsing a website? 

When you access a site, where do you expect the navigation bar to appear? That’s right, you’ll look for it at the very top of every page, displayed on a horizontal line.

So, ask yourself. Do you want your visitors to follow their intuition and access your navigation bar immediately, or do you want to be innovative and place the menu bar somewhere else? Being original can cost you dearly, while following a proven formula can help you improve conversion rates.

On another note, try to offer as few choices as possible. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe pioneered the concept of modern minimalism in architecture and coined the phrase “less is more”. His sentiment remains relevant today, as most of us adore a clean design where everything is evident. 

Offering too many choices will clutter your pages and confuse your visitors. Instead, offer them less so they’ll know more about what to choose. 

Have only four to five menu options. Eliminate the “home” tab by incorporating it in the logo. The rest can be about your most important aspects: who you are, what your products and services are, how people can reach you, and a tab for your blog (if you have one). If you have more pages, you can combine them in subcategories or place some of them in the footer.

In fact, it’s a good practice to have the footer house the privacy policy and the terms & conditions agreement pages.

Ultimately, if there are tons of products and resources on your website, a search bar should always be there to assist site visitors.

Focus on a Mobile-Friendly Design.

It is expected that by 2025, about 72.6% of internet users will only use their smartphones to access the internet. That’s a good enough reason to consider making your website design applicable for mobile phones.

Having a responsive website means that the desktop version of your web pages looks just as attractive on other devices such as smartphones, tablets, or TVs. However, as we mentioned, you should focus mostly on how your website will appear on mobile phones. Ensure that the mobile web design of your website is stunning, since three-quarters of your visitors will view it on their smartphone screens.

So, what are the best practices for mobile web design? Take note of the following:

  • Position Everything Into a Single Column.

There’s absolutely no room for splitting the elements between two or three columns. Plus, you remember that we encourage taking a minimalistic approach.

  • Redesign the Navigation Bar.

Implement “the burger” menu. It’s an already recognizable element of many websites’ mobile versions, it makes the design more minimalistic, and it leaves room for other elements such as a CTA.

  • Take the Search Function More Seriously.

Finding what you’re looking for is harder when on a smartphone, especially if your website is home to many products, features, or blog posts. Placing the search function in a central position, preferably at the top of every page, improves user experience considerably.

  • Consider the Thumb Rule.

Most of us use our thumbs to navigate through websites on our phones, especially the right-hand thumb since 90% of people are right-handed. Leverage this fact and design everything within the reach of a thumb movement, meaning make buttons and CTAs large enough to be comfortably tappable and avoid placing anything within the corners where it would be far to interact with. Of course, text and imagery can stretch across the entire screen.

  • Choose Your Theme/Template Wisely.

If you’re using a CMS platform such as WordPress, Weebly, Joomla, Wix, etc. to build your website, you’re probably not bothering with the coding part of it. And, you’re probably working with a theme or template that’s already optimized to be mobile-responsive. In any case, before you decide on a theme/template, make sure to check out the mobile demo version of it. Many templates look great on desktop browsers, but not so much on mobile. Remember, mobile web design should be your priority.

  • Take a Look Into AMP.

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is a framework for designing websites that look smooth, elegant, and load almost instantaneously. They are a great option to strengthen your Google ranking because the search engine backs the project and rewards websites that use the AMP technology.

Design With SEO in Mind.

Optimizing your website in order to rank higher on search engines has little to do with the visual aspect of website design, and more to do with the structure of your website and its content.

The design of your website plays a key role when aiming to rank higher on search engines. However, here you’ll need to focus more on properly structuring the content and the elements that surround it, rather than the visual aspect of the site’s design. Remember that Google doesn’t know if your images are beautiful or not. It ranks your web pages based on how valuable your content is to visitors.

While website design is less obvious when it comes to SEO, these two areas are deeply interwoven – you can’t have a good design if you disregard SEO.

To capitalize on SEO, you should follow some key practices when designing your website. Take a look at the most important ones:

  • Content structure.
    You remember the drill: short sentences broken into many paragraphs, lots of media, bullet points, appropriate style. But that’s not all:

    • You’d need to put tremendous effort into targeting the right keywords. Discovering the correct long-tail keywords and properly implementing them in your content is an area of SEO where you can seriously shine.
    • Structure everything with the right HTML tags. Search engines will rank you higher when they have a better idea of what you’re talking about and from what location. So, put your main headline in a <title> tag and assign the right H tags to your subheadings. Meta descriptions and alt tags for your images also help boost your ranking.
  • Linking.
    Internal linking is very important when it comes to proving your credibility to search engines. When you link to other pages and elements on your website, search engines get a better idea of your site structure and reward the effort. What’s more important is backlinking. Ensuring that you regularly post original content and offer quality products and services will result in other websites and social networks regularly linking back to you, boosting your credibility and building the authority of your website.
  • User experience.
    We’ve talked about how important it is to have a simple design with a clear layout of each element and a compact navigation system. All of that will grant your visitors a friendly and effortless experience. Search engines like it when every destination on your website is only two clicks away.
  • XML sitemaps.
    Simplifying the work needed to be done by search engine crawlers doesn’t go unnoticed. Showing bots where everything is located on your website and how frequently you update it with new posts is another way to get acknowledgment from search engines. A properly configured XML map also serves to show that there’s no duplicate content on your website.

Regularly Test and Tweak Your Design.

Learning from past mistakes and always implementing innovative design solutions is a way to show your visitors that you care about their experience. They’ll always come back to your website for more of what you offer because you constantly make them feel welcomed. Plus, learning how to improve their experience can be very beneficial for your business.

To focus on converting as much as possible you should constantly perform testing on your website design. Many services, such as HubSpot, Unbounce, and Google Optimize, offer A/B testing with which you can determine which version of your designs to go for.

Our recommendation is to always test individual elements. That way, you’ll know which part of your design is working well and which is ready to be tossed away. For example, you have fifty images of the same product and you don’t know which one would convert the best. So, go with the exact same design and only change the images that you want to test.

Another great way to discover what to improve and what to completely ditch is by using a heatmap testing tool. Instapage allows you to analyze which parts of your website visitors interact with the most, and which parts are mostly ignored. Use the gathered data to decide what works best, tweak your design, and increase your ROI.

Extra Website Design Tips & Tricks.

In this section, we’ll explore some additional ways that will allow you to enhance your website design further. Implementing these “hacks” will not only bring more customers to your business but will also open the doors to more fresh marketing ideas.

  • Use breadcrumbs: Letting your visitors know where they are at the moment and how they got there is one way to refine the user experience. Breadcrumbs are especially important for online stores where there are tons of categories and it’s easy to get lost.
  • Try image compression: Your search engine ranking heavily relies on how fast your website is loading. Using large-sized images is one of the main culprits behind a slow-loading website. So, make sure your images are properly optimized for internet usage before you upload them. If you’re using a CMS tool, there are wonderful apps and plugins that will take care of this for you. You can try Smush for WordPress and explore its wonderful image optimization features.

  • Depict humans throughout your design: This one is more of a psychological hack. When visitors see humans and human faces alongside your products and services they receive an emotional stimulation that your product or service is necessary for people, hence valuable and useful. It works the same way even when they’re drawn or animated. And while you’re at it, embrace diversity and differences. A business that accepts all is accepted by all.

  • Don’t bother with SEO when you advertise: What’s the point in designing a page for organic ranking when you plan to place it as a paid ad? There’s no need to tackle SEO if you’re paying Google to show your landing page at the top of their SERPs.
  • Consider using a quiz. Quizzes that are engaging and interactive are great at boosting conversions for lead generation. Survey Anyplace has a great case study that’s worth reviewing if you want to try a quiz out.
  • Sliders are already outdated: It seems like people have had enough of these. Yes, a carousel does look attractive and, sure, they offer you a chance to showcase your business, but in reality, a very small percentage of visitors click on them. So give up on this dying fad and instead use a hero banner or a video background. A great example to look at of video done well is on the Bay Alarm Medical homepage. The video clearly shows the use cases for the product and instantly captures the viewer’s attention.

Conclusion

It’s about time we wrap things up. We hope that the website design practices we shared in this article will help you convert more customers and generate more sales.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the long list. You don’t have to focus on everything at once. As a matter of fact, you’ll do much better if you start implementing these practices one at a time. You know, quality over quantity always wins.

If you’re still undecided on where to begin, go with this short list of the key standards for successful website design:

  • Your website’s top left corner should always be reserved for your logo. For the mobile version, place the menu icon in this position.
  • Choose one of the following for the top right corner: contact page, cart, or a CTA. It all depends on the type of page.
  • The navigation bar is always horizontal, across the top.
  • Include a search function if you’re building an eCommerce store or a big site with lots of content.
  • Follow up with a hero banner.
  • Decorate it with your top tagline and a CTA.
  • Continue with other elements that showcase your features and make sure to leave a decent amount of white space between each of them. Visibility is a must in user-friendly design.
  • The footer is always reserved for housing the policies that regulate the usage of your website and the operations of your business (privacy policy, terms & conditions agreement, disclaimers, cookie policy, etc.).
  • Finish off by placing your social media icons in the bottom right corner.

We’d like to wish you lots of luck in your designing endeavors. And remember: website design is never final. You should constantly stay informed on the latest trends and practices and tweak and improve your web design to stay on top of your game and maintain a healthy turnover.