The art of web design is but a couple of decades old, and with ever changing technology, it is an art that is constantly evolving. With over a billion websites online across the world, the question of what is good web design can be a daunting question to answer.

Ultimately the overall visual look of a website should be appropriate for the client. The colours, style and images that work best on a luxury goods website for instance, will be very different to what looks best on a website selling childrens books.

However, there are perhaps three golden design rules which can be applied to every website;


Make it easy to navigate

Customers visit your website because they need information, and your webpages should be designed to help them find exactly what they need as quickly and easily as possible. Good, clear and effective navigation is absolutely essential for any website.

  • Don’t hide away menus. The menu bar is the primary tool visitors will use to find their way around your site. They will expect to find it across the top of every webpage, or maybe down the right hand side and will be frustrated if they can’t find it quickly.
  • Don’t defy conventions. There are certain design conventions that can be found on almost every website in the world. A search window in the top right corner of a webpage, a logo in the top left corner which leads back to the main homepage, contact details or social media links in the top header section and / or at the bottom footer section of a page. Web users expect to see them on a website and to deliberately not follow them would run the risk of frustrating and confusing visitors to your site.
  • Clearly highlight links and calls-to-action. Visitors reading your webpages will constantly be looking for where they should click next; to find more information, make contact or buy a product. Use different colours, design features and logical placement to make clickable buttons and navigation tools really stand out and be distinctive. There should be no doubt in customers minds as to where they need to click and ideally should change appearance when clicked or hovered over. Likewise any clickable links in your webpage text should be distinguished with a complementary accent colour.
  • Be consistent. Wherever you place the navigation tools, there should be a consistent look and overall structure across all pages of your website.


Make it easy to read

Reading is the primary activity of any web user and your website should be designed to make reading as easy as possible for the visitor. Yet despite huge advances in screen technology, studies consistently show that reading text on a monitor, tablet or smartphone is considerably harder and slower than reading printed text. Good readability therefore, is absolutely essential for good web design.

  • The text should contrast well against the background. There is a reason so many websites feature black (or dark) text on a white (or pale) background – it works! Pale text on a dark background is considerably harder to for visitors read, and if you are considering this as a design feature, please compensate by making the point size of the text larger than you would normally. Pale text on a dark background can work well for banners and buttons however, where the text is minimal (just a few words) and is set with a much larger point size.
  • Make the typeface big enough. In the early days of web design, designers could only use standard web fonts at standard point sizes which were not quite big enough for comfortable reading. Web designers today don’t have that excuse any more, but sadly too many websites still feature text in an unnecessarily tiny point size, making their content difficult and tiring to read.
  • Be clear, be brief be immediate. Writing copy for websites is a skill in its own right. Compared to writing for the printed page, online “content” should be written with much greater brevity, clarity and immediacy. Say what you need to say in as few words as possible. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short and snappy.
  • Structure the text clearly. Web users typically scan text for the information they need rather than reading every word. So make it easy for them to do this. Break your content into small chunks of information. Use headings and sub-headings to clearly give a summary of the content. Use bullet points to keep individual ideas / facts distinct.
  • Keep the line length short. Columns of text should not be too wide. Even when reading on a larger desktop monitor, it becomes tiring and difficult to read text online across a wide column.


Make it clean

The core purpose of your website is to communicate with your customers. And in any communication, what you decide to leave out is as important as what you put in.

So many poorly designed websites are the result of companies wanting to bombard visitors with an endless barrage of different messages, options and offers. Likewise, inexperienced or badly-trained web designers can be so keen to display their technical prowess, that their websites become an endless assault of clever animated gifs, flashing buttons, pop-up windows and banners all competing for the visitors attention. As a result, the visitor experiences information overload and quickly becomes irritated with the unnecessary visual bells and whistles.

As with so many things in life, less is often more. A well-designed website should aim to give the visitor the information they need as clearly and quickly as possible, and as such, effective web design is clean, simple and uncluttered with the absolute minimum of distraction.

The team at Essex Web Design Studio are highly skilled at creating websites that combine stunning visual appeal with superb practical usability. We also have experts at creating engaging and highly readable content too.