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What is good web design?

We all have our favourite websites that look cool and trendy – but what does it really take to create a well-designed website?

Well the first thing to say about a well-designed website is that it’s not all about looking cool! The key principle to good web design is to improve the usability of a website and not to create a piece of meaningless online art. Good visual design can significantly improve the usability and appeal of a website – by engaging with the user, setting the right tone of voice, leading them on a journey through the website – and finally to ensure that the visitor achieves what they intended when they first arrived at the site. A click-of-the-mouse relies on user-friendliness, which is why good visual design is vital for a successful website.

Here are a five guiding principles for effective website design:

1. Don’t make website visitors think too much!

It might sound obvious but most people don’t like to think too much… they want everything to be easy for them, which is why a successful website will present information in a clear and expected way.

2. Tell your visitors what you want them to do…

A journey through a website needs to be intuitive and should guide a visitor to where they want to go. Understanding the target audience is imperative – but good web design will create those compelling ‘calls to action’ to create conversions from a website.

3. Look and feel

Good creative can make all the difference to whether a visitor stays on a website or leaves to look elsewhere. Good design projects tone of voice through the clever use of layout, images, headlines, calls to action, colours and fonts. It’s a complicated mix – but get it right and a website will be sticky. Get it wrong and a website will fail.

4. Negative space is the designer’s best friend

Empty space in a design layout is good. It can be tempting to get as much information onto a web page as possible, but it does’t work. The human brain can’t cope with cognitive load. When a web visitor arrives on a web page the brain scans the page and looks for what stands out. Good design will give information room to breathe. Truly; less is more.

5. Review and improve

In the old days of print the design of a company brochure would have a shelf life of perhaps 2–3 years. In today’s online space a website design must continually change and adapt. This process of continuous improvement – through testing and refinement – will ensure that the creative style of the website is optimised to meet the needs of the website visitor and the business objectives of the website owner.

Good, creative web design is about so many things – and websites that deliver good user experience to achieve the objectives of the website owner and the needs of the target audience will always be successful. Design is a true ‘investment’ in a website – and done properly can make all the difference in the world.

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Simon Verrall

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