What makes a website outstanding?
Beyond surface-level aesthetics, the magic lies in blending functionality with user-centric design. Crafting a great website doesn't happen by chance; it's a product of strategic thinking, user-focused design, and up-to-date technological insights.
A website can make or break your brand's perception, and here at RCCO, we have the expertise to guide you on the path to excellence.
In this article, we'll share the 15 essential best practices for websites in 2023.
Forget about the jargon-heavy tech talk. Our guide will provide clear, actionable advice that's relevant to help you create outstanding websites.
So, let's dive in.
Why Are Web Design Best Practices So Important?
A website serves as your brand's digital personality. It represents what and who you are as a business. It's not just about looks but also the ease of use, consistency, and adaptability that come into play.
That's why we'd advise abiding by web design best practices. It enables you to create a user-centric platform that is visually compelling, facilitates smooth navigation, enhances the user experience, and stays relevant amidst changing trends.
Take Ad-Lib as an example of successful web design. Starting from brand identity to sales assets, website design, and animation, RCCO took the Ad-Lib.io brand from start-up to scale-up.
With a clear, unified message and a flexible design that could grow with the company, the Ad-Lib.io website exemplifies the importance of design best practices.
- The site strikes a balance between being user-friendly and visually appealing.
- It was built with adaptability in mind using Webflow as the CMS. The CMS empowered the Ad-Lib.io team to easily create and update content.
The end results ensured the brand's consistency and relevance while mitigating extra costs and turnaround times.
15 Essential Best Practices for Web Design
Greg Faulkner, our Webflow lead expert describes the key to creating an outstanding website “When you start on a website design journey, it is essential to begin with discovery calls to understand the client’s requirements and objectives. It is crucial to determine how the client intends to use and manage the website, as it greatly influences the design and development process.”
When you start on a website design journey, it can seem like there are infinite considerations to make. In some ways, there are, but certain practices are more crucial than others:
1. Prioritise User-Centric Design
Clients often forget about the users. UX is the most difficult thing to highlight as important when starting a new project, as a lot of clients expect a landing page to be made in a day or two. But the page is just the tip of the iceberg; underneath is UI - it's fundamental to visualise and understand how to make the product easy to use and navigate.
A user-centric web design puts the user's needs, skills, and viewpoints at the forefront. It's about creating a website with an optimal user experience, leading to higher engagement and conversion rates. This strategy focuses on two main aspects:
2. Choose Typography That's Easy to Read and Skim
Typography is one of the key visual elements in creating an accessible and aesthetically pleasing website. It can guide the user through your site, highlight important information and enhance readability.
Choose a font that's clean, straightforward, and large enough to read comfortably across various devices' screen sizes. Consider using different font sizes and styles (bold, italics) to create a visual hierarchy. It’ll make your content easy to skim and understand.
RCCO created Simplestream's, a video streaming platform, website and incorporated this principle effectively with their rebrand strategy. They adopted a bold and bespoke logotype, which represents the brand's reliability and confidence. This strategic choice in typography reflected their market-leading solution's sophistication and maturity.
3. Make Your Website a Breeze to Navigate
Ease of navigation is a fundamental aspect of user-centric web design. A confusing navigation structure can lead to frustration and prompt users to leave your site.
For instance, Amazon's website exemplifies seamless navigation. The website has labelled categories at the top, an effective search bar, and a user-friendly drop-down menu that helps visitors find what they're looking for.
The key is to design a clear, intuitive, and consistent navigation scheme that helps users find what they're looking for with minimal effort. This could mean a simple and accessible menu, a logical page hierarchy, and prominent call-to-action buttons. Making your website easy to navigate improves the user experience and helps with SEO rankings.
3. Optimise for Readability and Usability
People's attention span has reduced over the years, and it currently stands at 8 seconds. That's why readability and usability are vital for engaging and retaining website visitors.
Enhancing readability and usability involves presenting your content clearly and logically to make it easy for users to understand and interact with your website. Optimising for mobile devices is also a must in our increasingly mobile-centric world.
4. Organise Your Content in a Clear and Logical Manner
A website cluttered with information can overwhelm users and make it difficult for them to find what they're looking for. Organise your content in a way that makes sense to your visitors. Use headers, subheaders, bullet points, and whitespace strategically to break up blocks of text, making it easier to skim and digest.
Consider your site's information architecture:
- How is information divided among pages?
- How are these pages linked together?
- Do you have a search bar that makes it easy to look for content?
The goal is to create a clear, logical flow of information that guides users effortlessly through your site.
5. Optimise for Mobile
Ensuring that your website looks good and functions well on mobile devices is more important than ever. Mobile optimisation involves achieving a responsive design (a layout that adjusts to fit any screen size).
Your website should provide easy navigation and fast loading times and ensure all content and features are accessible and functional on mobile devices. In addition, mobile optimisation is a crucial factor in search engine rankings. Google's mobile-first indexing prioritises the mobile version of your site. It highlights the importance of mobile optimisation for better rankings.
6. Emphasise Visual Hierarchy
The visual hierarchy in your website’s design guides the viewer's eye to the most important website elements. You can manipulate other elements such as size, colour, contrast and alignment to influence what people see first and what information they perceive as most important.
Effective visual hierarchy enhances the usability and accessibility of your site and helps guide visitors to take the actions you want them to take.
Prioritise Content with a Visual Hierarchy
When arranging content on your website, it's essential to prioritise information through the visual hierarchy. The most important information should be the most visually dominant.
For example, if you want your users to read specific information first, you might make it larger, bolder, or a different colour. Doing this guides the visitor's attention to the key points you want to communicate.
7. Make Your CTAs Stand Out
Your calls to action (CTAs) should be the most attention-grabbing element on your web pages. If you want to encourage visitors to take a particular action like, "Buy Now," "Subscribe," or "Contact Us," your CTAs should stand out visually.
Use colours that contrast with the rest of your websites colour scheme, choose a readable font that stands out, and consider the size and positioning of your CTAs. This way, you can effectively guide your visitors towards the desired action.
8. Maintain Consistent Branding
Clients can often get carried away with trends, new tech and designs, and many consider throwing out the brand guidelines for the latest thing. This would be a mistake... Consistent branding across all your channels creates a cohesive image of your company that stays with your customers. This strengthens your brand identity, reinforces your market position, and increases customer loyalty.
For instance, RCCO created the Optable website, which illustrates a successful website design that maintained consistency while focusing on being fresh and approachable.
Use Consistent Branding Elements
All your branding elements - logo, typography, icons and images - should remain consistent throughout your website. This helps build recognition, trust, and familiarity with your brand.
The Optable website is a prime example of a website that revolves around its original logo to create a more sophisticated version that works harmoniously with the logotype. All the brand elements, including the new illustrative style and colour palette, contribute to the cohesiveness and recognizability of the Optable brand.
9. Choose a colour Scheme That Suits Your Brand
Colour can significantly influence how people perceive your brand. Therefore, choose a colour scheme that reflects your brand's personality and stick to it across your website.
The expanded colour palette we used in Optable's rebrand allowed for a variety of purposes, from dark to light backgrounds and illustrations. It maintained consistency while adding depth and interest to the website.
10. Ensure Accessibility and SEO
The best website designs cater to all users, no matter their browser, device, or any disabilities they may have. Additionally, your website should be easy for search engines to discover and index. Implementing both accessibility and SEO practises into your design process ensures a wider reach and a better user experience.
11. Optimise Your Website for Search Engines
Search engine optimisation (SEO) involves making your website discoverable and understandable by search engines. It is crucial to how search engines discover, understand, and rank your website. Some of the key SEO practices include:
- Incorporate relevant keywords for better visibility in search results.
- Optimise meta descriptions and title tags with compelling and keyword-rich summaries.
- Speed up your website for an improved user experience and better ranking.
- Implement HTTPS to secure your website and gain search engines' trust.
- Consistently create high-quality content that aligns with user intent.
Implementing SEO best practices ensures the broadest possible audience sees your website and can significantly boost organic traffic.
Creating a website that's accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, is crucial. This is where the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines help web designers. Here are some simple, effective ways you can make your site more accessible:
- Add text descriptions or captions to images, buttons, or videos. This helps people who can't see the content understand what it's about.
- Provide a text transcript or sign language interpretation for any audio or video content.
- Make your content easy to read and distinguish. You can do this by using high-contrast colours, ensuring that text remains clear when resized, and providing volume control for audio content.
- Ensure your site can be navigated using a keyboard. Some people may not be able to use a mouse to browse your website.
- Avoid using flashes or blinking content that could trigger seizures.
- Organise your pages logically and label them clearly. This makes your site easier to navigate.
For more detailed advice, you can always check out the full web content accessibility guidelines.
13. Stay up to Date
Maintaining an outstanding website is critical to staying current with the latest trends and technologies. Your website is a living entity that requires constant nurturing, updates, and evolution. This includes monitoring performance metrics, implementing new functionalities, and keeping your content fresh and relevant.
14. Monitor Site Speed
Website speed is a critical factor in the user experience. A slow-loading site can frustrate users and lead them to abandon your site. A fast site can keep visitors engaged and encourage them to interact more.
Monitoring your site speed allows you to identify any issues that may slow down your websites, such as unoptimised images, bloated code, or slow server response times. Tools like Google's PageSpeed Insights can provide valuable insights into your site's performance and offer recommendations for improvement.
Heatmaps are a powerful tool for understanding how users interact with your website. They visually represent where users click, scroll, or move their mouse on a webpage.
Heatmap data can help you understand what elements of your website attract attention and which parts might be overlooked. By analysing this information, you can optimise your website layout, content, and design to better cater to your users needs and preferences. Tools such as Hotjar and Crazy Egg offer heatmap functionalities that can provide these valuable insights.
Creating an outstanding website in 2023 involves more than just an appealing design. It demands a deep understanding of your user's needs, careful attention to detail, and an ongoing commitment to refinement and improvement.
Remember that your website is a living entity. Like any thriving organism, it requires nurturing, evolution, and regular checks to ensure it continues to serve its purpose. Don't be afraid to experiment, measure, learn, and iterate.
To see how these best practices are employed in real-world scenarios, explore the RCCO Work page. Here, you'll discover a wide range of projects where we've utilised these principles to create engaging, user-friendly, and effective websites for our clients. Embrace these strategies to create a website that stands out and achieves your business goals.