Here at Prodo, we have some of the best web designers around working just for us. As much as we think we’re a lucky group of digital marketers, we’ve recently decided that we’ve been a little too greedy keeping them and their specialities a secret! So, for this edition of the Prodo blog, we decided to ask some of our designers to reveal their top design tips! Here goes, enjoy…
1. Guide your users’ eyes through skillful design manipulation
When it comes to a good website design, the user should be led around the screen by you, the designer. However, before you attempt to be the navigator, you should remember the pattern in which users’ eyes move. Generally, their eyes move in an ‘F’ pattern; starting top left (usually with a large set logo), moving down the left-hand side and across.
Your task, as a designer, is to manipulate this pattern by using visual tricks and evaluating how much visual weight different parts of your design hold. You have many design tools at your disposal; including positioning, colour, contrast, size and design elements such as arrows.
Our tips for using these tools are fairly foolproof; use contrasting images but not too much as it dilutes the effect, use colour to differentiate sections and attract attention, use a well-ordered grid to group content in a common-sense order, stick with website fonts where possible, make the design memorable and make sure it correlates with your branding and use text within images.
2. Resist the urge to fill every available space
Design fact: spacing makes things clearer. There are three aspects of space that should be considered; line spacing, padding and white space. The aspect which we tout is white space. White space is so important in well-balanced design! Perhaps budding designers are deterred by its misleading name; white space simply refers to empty space on a page (or negative space) Our designers view white space as giving balance, proportion and contrast to the page. White space is an element of design, and if used properly can give the image of elegance and upmarket.
3. Don’t make the website into a labyrinth
Finding a way around the website can often be extremely frustrating for users; there are two aspects to this: navigation (where can you go?) and orientation (where are you now?). In terms of navigation, it should be clearly positioned, either at the top of the page or down the left-hand side. However, our designers don’t believe in dyed-in-the-wool prescriptivism; common-sense rules here.
4. Think about the user’s journey
The user’s journey depends on the usability of your website and is not soley influenced or dependable on how it looks. Never underestimate the importance of this aspect, as it dictates the users’ experience. When designing a website, think about its purpose or objectives and adhere to the conventions expected. Be consistent and clear. Think about good visual clues i.e. good search functions, clear link text styles, homepage links, landing pages, breadcrumb trails and sitemaps. In terms of error pages, keep them friendly and helpful; include a path back to search the site. A good user experience will encourage a positive perception, return visits, sharing, bookmarking and links.
5. Design to build
Designers should always be aware of their limitations, even if they do think of themselves as making the impossible actually possible! Think about how you are going to set about building the site and can it actually be done? Think about resizing, technical difficulties and any simplifications you could make.
Alignment is extremely important in web design; it is important the alignment is consistent, ordered and polished.
7. Make it clear
We want our sites to be nothing but ‘pixel perfect’ and polished; you must always consider the quality of your images, as they set the tone for the site. Blurred images, text and borders can reduce the clarity of your site, so we make sure you always look clear and professional.
8. Make it consistent
Consistency is crucial. Everything should be coherent both on the home page and internal pages; remember to apply consistency to your heading sizes, colouring, spacing, illustration styles, font choices, button styles and photo choices. Remember, not everyone will enter your website via the homepage. Consistency means echoing key hallmarks of your site throughout all your pages, this simple technique makes users recognise your site/brand and always feel like they are navigating the same site.
9. Keep SEO in mind
Regardless, a well-designed website is worthless if it has no visitors. Although this sounds like quite a subjective thing to say, it is backed up by the search engines, which have a fit of what a “good page” is supposed to be. This is where Search Engine Optimisation comes into play. They must be easy to use, navigate and understand; provide information relevant to the query that gives a call to action; well-designed and accessible to browsers.
Perhaps more importantly than ever, they must deliver high quality, credible content. Timing, source, anchor text and a number of links to websites are all considered when a spider crawls a website. Writing great content in SEO relies on being creative, writing to a high standard and using a range of multimedia or ‘sticky content’. The goal is to have satisfied searchers who have their search queries fulfilled.
10. And finally, things to absolutely avoid in web design
9 points down and we haven’t even touched on the things to avoid in terms of design yet! This is absolutely critical, as bad design can result in looking unprofessional, negative user experience or worse – no visitors to the site. Avoid long, flash animation or introductions; avoid large images on entry point; avoid advertisements; avoid using flags as they’re indicative of countries, not languages!; avoid using the text “click here”; avoid non-standard GUI use and most of all avoid designing by committee!