The principles of good website design

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While every website is a brand new project, some golden rules forever apply. Discover these ten north stars of web design.

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Designing a good website is all about striking the perfect balance between aesthetics and usability. A well-designed site builds trust and guides visitors to take action, all the while creating an enjoyable user experience.

So what makes for good website design? Read on to find out the most important principles for effective website design, why they matter, and relevant points on getting them right for your next project.

10 principles of good website design

  1. Seamless Navigation

  2. Responsive design

  3. Across the board consistency

  4. Smooth performance

  5. Frictionless conversion

  6. Clear communication

  7. Effective visual language

  8. Hierarchical content structure

  9. Familiar web conventions

  10. A reliable, transparent interface

1. Seamless navigation

Great navigation allows visitors to easily locate information and find what they’re looking for. Without it, it can be hard for users to understand what to do when landing on your page. For that reason, it’s important to structure your website in a meaningful and logical way that feels predictable and understandable. Many sites use a combination of methods to help visitors find their way around, including structured menus, keyword searches, and internal linking.

The use of clear labels, intuitive categories, and consistent placement of elements can help visitors easily access information on your site. Keeping navigation simple, intuitive, and consistent are key to a seamless navigation experience.

A collection of web navigation elements including menus, a search bar, and an anchor link

2. Responsive design

Responsive web design fluidly adjusts to accommodate your visitor’s device or browser, taking into account factors such as screen width, resolution, and screen orientation. Responsive design allows visitors to experience your site just as you intended on any device type or screen size.

A successful website is one that works equally well on all viewports, no matter its size or aspect ratio, from mobile to desktop and anything in between. Responsive design achieves this result by resizing images and rearranging content rearranges to accommodate various screen sizes and browsers.

A responsive website design shown on desktop, tablet and mobile

3. Across the board consistency

A cohesive look and functionality throughout a website makes it feel whole, while also improving usability and learnability. This includes anything from the use of color and typography, to the placement of icons and buttons, to the functionality of your site. A consistent design ensures that visitors who learn how to use one part of your site can transfer that knowledge to other parts of your site, resulting in a positive and familiar experience.

Creating a style guide or design system with reusable elements and components is a great way to ensure consistency when designing your website.

There are a few categories to keep in mind when designing for consistency:

  • Visual consistency ensures that your site maintains a coherent look and feel throughout, using mechanisms such as colors, typography, and imagery.

  • Functional consistency ensures that similar components of your site work in the same way.

  • Content consistency ensures that the voice and quality of your site’s content remains steady throughout your entire site.

4. Smooth performance

A good website design should load quickly, work properly, and give informative feedback when there’s an issue or delay. There are a variety of tools available to measure how quickly content loads on your site, such as