Every business needs a website that showcases their products and services to the end users. It can be a very simple brochure site or a huge ecommerce platform, but most business owners would agree they want their website to look good. But, what does good web design look like. The answer, many will say, is entirely subjective, but if you understand the principles and purpose behind design as whole (not just in web design) then there are key things to look for when it comes to good web design. To unpick what makes for good website design we first need to understand exactly what web design is.
Defining good web design
Design isn’t just about the end result looking slick and clients being happy, it’s about the research undertaken and decisions made along the way to ensure that your website answers the problems it’s intended to solve – and a lot of this design work is done before you even start thinking about the visual aspects of the website.
As a starting point you have to understand both the purpose of the website and the needs of the users.
How to make good web design?
Website purpose and user needs
Good design is often about solving problems. Let’s say that a client has come to you asking for a redesign of a website for climbing centre following a rebrand. Okay, great – a new project, but the first thing you need to understand is what the intent of the website is. Is the primary function to promote the climbing centre, manage bookings, provide information about climbing, sell products related to the climbing centre or something else entirely?
Similarly, you need to know what the user is coming to the website for and where you intend for them to go once they’re there. This is how you ensure they are able to find the content or information they’re looking for.
Understanding these two elements is fundamental to good web design. Without them you can build a flashy website that looks great. But if the purpose of the website isn’t clear or the users can’t find what they came for then you need to question what has really been achieved. Putting users at the centre of a design process is a key principle of good web design.
Hierarchy and Precedence
Moving onto more visual aspects of design, another key principle is hierarchy. In simple terms this mean that it should be obvious to users what the most important information on a page is. This can be done using size, inferring meanings for specific colours (e.g. always using a green button for your call to action), white space or contrast.
Precedence can also help you guide users through a website, picking out the key steps or actions you want them to take. Precedence refers to design patterns that are familiar to your users, which means their response requires less thought and is therefore more predictable. For example, if I ask you to picture a button on a website it would be a fairly safe bet to assume that you’re picturing a rectangle with some text inside of it. So, if your user is looking for a button that’s doesn’t fit their expectations it’s easy for them to miss it, which creates friction in their experience.
Many of these ideas come from exploring the user experience as well as the finished user interface. We talk more about the difference between UX and UI here.
Setting a tone and matching a brand
Okay, so you understand your users and the intent of the website. You’ve used precedence and a hierarchy to layout the information and interactions in a way that’s intuitive for your users. But a website is often part of a wider brand and so any designs need to be reflective of this.
It might be that you’re designing something outside of a brand, or developing the brand alongside the website. Here’s is where you can look at styling for elements such as typography, colour, images and use of space to create a look and feel that sets the tone for your website. Don’t forget, as much as we’re talking about user centred design principles if you’re website doesn’t look the part people aren’t going to buy in to it.
Designing for development
If you lack the necessary technical skills and are working with a developer to bring your design to life it’s really important to understand if what you’ve designed can actually be built. Remember that although design tools such as Sketch and Figma provide you with static designs, the end website will need to work on all manner of screens at all different sizes. This means that it’s really important to think about how your designs can be responsive in this regard.
Measuring good web design
There are a number of ways to measure the success of your design. Obviously, you want your design to look nice, but as we established early, web design is about so much more than just looking good. Often the best method for measuring your design depends on what the intent of the website was in the first place. If we go back to our climbing centre example from earlier and say that through our research we found that the clients primary goal was to sell more visits to the climbing centre, we can measure that by looking for an increase in sales after the website was redesigned. Similarly, if their goal was to ensure that users are spending longer on the site, we could measure bounce rate and session duration.
But sometimes there is more to measuring design that just looking at the data. You might also look at if this has had any impact on the perception of the brand, or want to look more into how happy the users were with their experience. This is where user testing can be used to gauge success and provide objective feedback. Another often used measure of success is how happy the client themselves are with your design. And while it’s great if you’ve got a happy client, this is a risky measure of good design as they are only one person with a subjective opinion.
At the start of this post I mentioned the importance of problem solving in design rather than design simply being about looking nice. The role of designer is often about validating decisions they’ve made by measuring the impact of their work against the problems it was intended to solve. Using that as evidence of the success of a design to evidence the success of their design.
In short good web design should understand the problems it is trying to solve for both the client and the users and can measured against how well it solves those problems.
Do you need good web design?
Looking for a web design company that uses research and data to back up their designs, we are here to help. Call 0345 200 2650 to speak to our Sales Team or email firstname.lastname@example.org.