What causes the large discrepancy between what some WordPress developers charge compared to others? Answering this question requires consideration for the reason behind why you want a website in the first place.

Some developers focus on the literal final product: the combination of code that results in a pleasant enough website design.

But developers with marketing savvy concern themselves with more than just building something that looks nice. They act as consultants to clients who are looking to accomplish specific goals with their websites.

Web design best practices

Web design is strictly connected to your business goals

With this in mind, hiring someone to build a website who doesn’t seem interested in/doesn’t ask questions about your end goals is a red flag. It’s important to call out the fact that even the most beautiful web design may not be ideal when it comes to getting visitors to convert into customers.

That said, 94% of people judge your credibility based on your website’s design.

So, instead, you need to focus on using your design to offer the ideal user experience. You must make it easy for visitors to find the information they sought by visiting your website in the first place while guiding them towards goal conversion activities.

These web design best practices focus on the intersection between creating a beautiful website and one that serves your business.

What Defines Web Design Best Practices?

To be sure, everyone and their mom has opinions about what constitutes a well-designed website.

Web design isn't just about aesthetics. It's a much more complicated world where UX, accessibility, and business goals all should connect. Check out these web design best practices! ✍️🔝Click to Tweet

But let’s rein in everyone’s opinions by deferring to the experts.

According to Orbit Media, you can group web design best practices into these three basic categories of standards:

Let’s look at how to develop web design practices based on each of these standards:

Brand Standards

Websites that lack consistent branding can be stressful to interact with and cause confusion. As such, it should come as no surprise that some 38% of visitors have said that they will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout is unattractive.

Keeping in mind that looks aren’t everything, here are some basic design principles to consider for creating a website that people want to use:

Balance

Balance is the principle of design that prescribes how to effectively distribute visual elements. In general, a balanced design looks clean and natural and has good symmetry (although that’s not necessarily a condition of balance).

You can incorporate balance in web design in terms of the page layout.

Centering text or other elements across the page is an easy way to do so. In general, web pages are built on a grid system, which creates a form of balance. You can use the CSS float property to position elements and balance them across the page.

Balance can be achieved in 3 ways:

1. Symmetrical design

Symmetrical webdesign

Example of symmetrical design

Arranging elements in an even fashion across the web page. For example, if you have a heavy element on the left, you should have a heavy element on the right. As mentioned, centering is the easiest way to achieve symmetry, but it can sometimes come across as flat or boring.

To avoid making the page look monotonous, you can create balance using different elements, such as balancing a large image with a block of text. There is also a type of symmetrical balance called radial balance, where objects radiate from a central point.

2. Asymmetrical design

Asymmetrical design

Example of asymmetrical design

More challenging to do well, asymmetrical design involves the uneven distribution of elements on a page. For example, you may have a large element in the center, which is balanced by a smaller one further away.

You may use other elements of design, such as color or texture, to balance an asymmetrical design.

3. Off-balance

Off-balance design

Example of off-balance design

These types of designs suggest motion and action, which can make people uncomfortable. If your website intends to make people think, then an off-balance design is for you.

Composition

The term composition refers to the placement and organization of design elements.

Composition

Composition

The Rule of Thirds is commonly used to create balanced composition, especially with photos.

Spacing

Elements should be evenly spaced so that users can differentiate sections or blocks.

The importance of spacing in webdesign

The role of spacing in web design

You should also introduce negative space or the space between and around the subject of an image. Negative space can reduce visual noise, increase readability, and bring balance.

You can introduce negative space by adding margins and padding around your design elements.

Focal Point

Draw attention on one element

Draw attention on one element

Create an area of focus where you want to draw attention. It should be the most important part of your page, and ideally, each page should focus on just one major focal point.

Color

Color is an important design element when it comes to branding. Ideally, you’re coming into the web design process with an understanding of the colors you want associated with your brand.

For web design specifically, it helps to start with a mood board for your brand.

Example of Kinsta's color palette

Example of Kinsta’s color palette

Choose a primary and secondary color (the secondary color can complement or contrast the primary color), and a lighter and darker hue for each. Limit your use of color so that various accents don’t become an eyesore.

Adobe Color provides an excellent free tool for testing various combinations of colors to create a working palette for website elements.

Also, when deciding on color, it is important to consider those who are colorblind, which includes up to 4.5% of the world’s population.

Example of how a regular design would look to color blind users

Example of how a regular design would look to color blind users

There are three types of color blindness (total color blindness, two-color vision, and deficient color vision) so make sure that your design is still usable in consideration of those who may not be able to differentiate colors.

Contrast

While choosing color, it’s important to be conscious of color ratios and contrast.

Color contrast refers to the difference in light between the foreground and background. Using sufficiently contrasting colors allows website visibility to be easily distinguished. In general, use high contrast color options — like black text on a white background — to make your site readable.

Bad contrast can be problematic

Bad contrast can be problematic

The contrast ratio is the numerical value assigned to the difference in contrast between page elements.

The World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 recommends a contrast ratio of 4.5:1 for normal text. WebAIM shares a few predetermined combinations that fit the ideal contrast ratio to help you visualize this web design best practice.

To help navigate using this ratio, make sure that when you design your website, you’re envisioning all audiences (including those with accessibility issues). It’s easier to do this versus planning to address these issues after the fact.

Consider all aspects of the website people will be interacting with, including headers, footers, menus — all of which need to be easily visible to be usable.

Some tools you can use to check color contrast ratios include:

Typography

Site typography is another important branding consideration.

While there are many different sources for finding potential fonts to use on your website, you’ll want to first consider the options that will display consistently regardless of what fonts the end user has installed on their computer.

Google Fonts offers a wide variety of free web-safe fonts that you can count on to display properly, regardless of the user’s installed fonts/programs. Make sure you include fonts in your mood board to see if they match your color aesthetic.

If you’re having trouble coming up with combinations, Google Fonts can suggest popular pairings. You can also use a site like FontPair to get suggestions.

Try to limit the font weights you use, as having to load too many files can contribute to slow page speed. On that note, consider hosting Google Fonts locally to introduce additional performance benefits.

Ideal typography stack vs poor typology stack

Poor typography vs ideal typography

When it comes to selecting typographic elements based on web design best practices, as a general rule of thumb, use sans-serif fonts for headings and serif fonts for content. At a minimum, don’t use decorative fonts for body content, as it will be difficult to read.

Also, don’t be tempted to use a wide variety of different fonts on your website. A good rule of thumb is to use one font for your logo, another for your menus/headings, and one more for body content. On that note, try pairing fonts that complement each other, such as those from the same font family.

Element Hierarchy

Hierarchy refers to the arrangement of design elements that showcase relative importance. This is achieved by manipulating elements such as visual contrast, size, and placements to call attention.

Web Design Best Practices

Example of element hierarchy

For instance, content must be broken down into logical blocks so that users can distinguish sections from each other.

You can do this through the use of content headers, which not only make it easy for users to skip to the parts that they want to read, but also break large amounts of text into readable chunks so that screen readers are able to determine the context of each section.

If you’re looking for some helpful visual illustrations of these design concepts and more, The Tilda Publishing blog covers some of the most common web page design mistakes and how to fix them.

Web Best Design/Formatting Practices

According to research by Orbit Media, there are some common web design standards observed in the top 50 marketing websites.

Best Practices for Web Design

Web design standards

By ‘standards’, they mean 80% of websites use a similar design approach:

Here are some web design best practices for common site elements:

Images

Web design best practices for using images could inspire many volumes of advice but let’s focus on the bare minimum in this discussion of web design best practices:

Website Navigation

Users expect to be able to easily find the content they’re seeking on a site. Thus, it is important for website navigation to be simple and straightforward.

Website navigation is a general term that refers to the internal link architecture of a website. Don’t forget that the main purpose of navigation is to help users easily find relevant content on your website.

Your site’s internal link architecture forms the basis of your sitemap, which helps search engines access your content easier. It’s been found that having a well-designed site where content is easy to find positively affects the website traffic you’ll get from search engines (along with a higher chance of getting Google sitelinks).

Menu Navigation

There are several aspects that make up website navigation, but your top/main menu should be a primary focus as it will be one of the first things users interact with when they visit your website.

There are different website menu design heuristics but the most popular ones include:

Navigational menu

Ideally, this is located at the front and center of a website. This might involve the use of a dropdown menu if there are several categories. However, dropdown menus are not recommended, especially when it comes to technical SEO (they’re harder to crawl). Additionally, it has been found that most people dislike dropdown menus.

This is because the human eye works faster than the hand, and so people find it annoying when they’ve already decided what to click on and something else drops down — which can lead to a decrease in visits to pages.

Hamburger menu

Primarily used for a mobile-optimized design, a hamburger menu is usually located at the top left or right side of the page. It appears as a square with three lines that can be expanded with a click. However, many designers despise the hamburger menu, which has inspired web developers to consider new ways to make mobile website navigation fun and functional.

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Here are a few tips for designing navigation based on web design best practices:

For a more convenient format, here’s a handy infographic:

Web design best practices

Web design best practices for menu navigation

Coding Standards

With so many websites created and consumed globally, there certainly is a need for a standardized set of coding principles. Some aspects of these web standards include:

SEO

SEO can be used to increase the number of visitors to your site organically (without the use of ads). Since it’s too complicated to adequately dig into SEO in one small subsection of an article, check out our SEO checklist and our tips for the best SEO plugins for WordPress to familiarize yourself with this aspect of web design best practices.

Note that the following coding standards tips work hand-in-hand with SEO.

Mobile Responsiveness

Responsive design is concerned with creating a great user experience, regardless of what device or browser is used to access your website.

It is more important today than ever to design your website to be responsive, as more than 60% of internet users access the internet via their mobile phones, and half of ecommerce transactions are done through mobile platforms. Adding to that, Google’s new search algorithm also prioritizes mobile-friendly sites.

Responsive design

Example of responsive design

Having a responsive site not only helps users navigate your site easier, but also contributes to increased engagement and conversions. Users recommend brands with whom they have a positive mobile-responsive site experience, and conversely, would not only stop purchasing from brands with a bad mobile site experience but will also actively discourage others from doing so.

However, despite the demand for a responsive site, an estimated 91% of small businesses don’t have one. They should — as designing a mobile-responsive website certainly pays off. 62% of companies have reported an increase in sales after designing a mobile-responsive site.

Read up on Kinsta’s resource on how to make your site more mobile-friendly, which includes a list of the best WordPress mobile plugins to download, and make sure to check out this curated list of the best WordPress themes, where you could browse through plenty of responsive themes.

Google also offers some tips for how to design a responsive website.

Website Security

Another important coding practice? Creating secure programs and websites that users can trust with their sensitive personal information. Contrary to popular belief, hackers don’t actively seek out specific websites to hack, which is why even small websites are vulnerable to attack.

Info

Kinsta offers a security guarantee with each plan and, in case something bad happens, security specialists will fix your site.

As a whole, WordPress is generally secure, but it helps to take extra precautions to keep your website secure against attacks.

Here are some of the best website security practices:

For more information about WordPress security, check out our comprehensive resource about how to keep your WordPress site secure.

Page Speed

About half of users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and if it takes longer than that, 40% of people won’t hesitate to bounce from the page, (likely) never to return.

Besides website visits, page speed is important as it also affects conversion and revenue. For every second of added page load speed, sales will drop by up to 27%. Increasing website speed can prevent the loss of 7% of possible conversions.

Here are some ways to make your web pages load faster:

Check out our comprehensive resource for website speed optimization.

Accessibility Standards

The internet was designed to work for all people, regardless of the specific hardware, software, language they use, their ability or location. However, many sacrifice accessibility for a beautiful design.

Accessibility standards

Accessibility is key for every website

Accessibility refers to the practice of making your website usable by everyone.

Besides those with disabilities that affect access, W3 says that website accessibility is also beneficial for:

Accessibility should be everyone’s concern, as we’re all affected by it in some way.

Reasons to Make Your Site Accessible

Still not sure it’s worth spending your time on accessibility in this discussion of web design best practices?

Consider these reasons:

How to Make Your Website More Accessible

An easy way to make your website more accessible is to install the WP Accessibility plugin, which adds  accessibility features including:

A few additional steps to take:

Final Thoughts: Web Design Best Practices For Your Next Website Project

Good websites shouldn’t be defined by objectively good design. Just as important is site usability, ease of navigation, and accessibility. Armed with these web design best practices, you have everything you need to create something that looks and functions well.

Web design isn't just about aesthetics. It's a much more complicated world where UX, accessibility, and business goals all should connect. Check out these web design best practices! ✍️🔝Click to Tweet

Just keep in mind that these are web design best practices. It’s likely that you won’t be able to follow each one exactly, depending on the nature of your website. But before you can break the rules, it helps to at least be aware of why they exist.

Did we miss anything important? Share your web design best practices in the comments below!


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