Web Design Principles of Successful Websites

© Shutterstock.com | Georgejmclittle

In this article, we will learn various web design principles to be considered to create a technically as well as visually good website. We will also learn the various elements that can help come up with an effective overall design. In order to do so, the article is divided into two parts: 1) a brief introduction to web design and 2) web design principles.


What is Web Design?

Web design is a concept of planning, creating, and maintaining websites. The very process of using creativity to design and construct a website and updating it regularly to incorporate changes is also referred to as web designing. Besides the creation and updating, this concept also involves taking care of the user interface, the architecture of information present, the layout, the colors, content, navigation ergonomics, as well as the designs of the various icons. Some other areas in web design include search engine optimization, user experience designs, standardized codes, graphic design, as well as interface design.

Web designing is a process that can be done by anyone who has the right knowledge of the various disciplines involved but is usually best handled by professionals known as web designers. The term ‘web design’ may also point to the visual aspect of a website but in truth it also overlaps with the process of web development in a more broad sense. The process not only includes front end designing but also the process of writing the markup.

Basic elements of a good web design

In order to come up with a good web design and an effective visual and technical appeal of a website, there are some elements that must be incorporated. To know more about these elements, you can go through the following given points:

  • Shape – On most websites and webpages, the shapes used are squares or rectangular but they don’t necessarily have to be. Shapes are responsible for the creation of an enclosed boundary in the overall design, and you can experiment with any shape you seem suitable. It can either be a geometric shape or any other abstract shape that fits in the design.
  • Texture – Texture is one element that can help provide your website with a feeling of a surface beneath. There are several types of textures that you can incorporate, and some of them include natural textures and artificial textures. This element must be used in such a way that it brings out the content given on the website and makes it look more appealing.
  • Direction – Direction is the element of a web design which is responsible for lending it movement or motion. A good web design is one which automatically makes our eyes move from one corner or content of the website to another, according to relevance or hierarchy.
  • Color – Another basic element of a good website is the use of color. A black and white website may work for certain niches like photography websites, but it is always better to raise the appeal of a website using colors in a creative way. The colors are added in the later stage and not during the designing.


Web design is not only about how the website looks and feels but is also a lot about how it works and responds. When web designers work on a website, they incorporate not just those elements that add a visual appeal to it but also try to make it highly responsive, functional, quick and useful. In order to create a highly usable and effective website, designers follow certain principles that act as thumb rules or standard points to keep in mind. The following are the various principles of an effective web design:

Web design principle #1.   Highly intuitive structure

The first law or principle of usability of a website says that a web page must have a highly intuitive structure and should be simple to understand so that users would not have to think which way to go. It must be self-explanatory in an obvious kind of way. Don’t let any question marks or queries come up and make the navigation intuitive and simple. This helps to increase the usability of the website and also makes it much more engaging. The structure must be free from lots of cognitive load so that visitors don’t have to wonder how to move from point A to point B.

Web design principle #2.   Visual hierarchy

The next principle that contributes to creating a successful and effective website is a visual hierarchy. Visual hierarchy is the order or sequence in which our eye moves and perceives the things it sees. When it comes to a web page, the visual hierarchy can be referred to the sequence in which our eye moves from one topic/content/block to another. When designing a web page, a designer first need to identify the order of importance of the various topics and then place them in such a way that the visitors first view what is most important and then move onto the others in a hierarchical manner.

There are two ways to create a visual hierarchy, and they are given as follows:

  • Size hierarchy – As the name suggests, size hierarchy is the kind of hierarchy in which the most important content or image is of the largest size on a webpage, followed by the second most important content or image in the second largest size and so on. The distinction in sizes should be such that a visitor would view the items in the order of importance, and the pecking order of things is obvious.
  • Content hierarchy – Besides the hierarchy of size, which is one of the best ways to create the order of importance, another way you can incorporate this principle is by creating a hierarchy of content. You can place content in such a way that the human eye first travels to the content that is most important, for example, the business’s objective or purpose and then moves to the less important content blocks in a hierarchical order.

Web design principle #3.   Accessibility

Another highly important principle that must not be ignored when designing a web page or website is the accessibility of it. When a visitor enters the website, he/she must be able to access each bit of information in the easiest manner. This means that the text must be legible, the colors must not be harsh on the eyes and the background must not overpower the content, etc. To make the website accessible to everyone, you can follow some of the following points:

  • Typefaces – Make sure you select a font type and font size which is readable to all and is not too fancy for some to access or understand. For example, Fonts like Verdana, Times New Roman, Arial, etc. are simple fonts that almost everyone can easily read online. Similarly, the font size that works the best is 16 px but you can be a little flexible with it.
  • Colors – As far as the user experience is concerned, your color scheme and contrast must be well thought of and should be able to create visual harmony and balance. It is always better to choose contrasting colors for the background and written content so that it can be easily read. Choose a darker text color and a lighter background shade so that the result is easy to the eyes. Extra bright colors must be used sparingly.
  • Images – Do you know that the human mind perceives and processes images a lot faster than text? Well, it is thus a good idea to choose and place the right images on your web pages to communicate with the audiences in a better way. Make sure they are high-quality images and are suitable for your purpose.

Web design principle #4.   Hick’s law

Hick’s law states that ‘with every additional choice increases the time required to take a decision.‘ This law does not only hold true for web design but also in a number of other situations and settings. For example, if you visit a restaurant and are provided with too many food items to pick from, you will take a longer time to take a decision. As far as web designing is concerned, the more options you offer to your visitors, the more difficult will the website become to use and browse through. This means that we need to reduce the number of choices in order to provide a better user experience. Distracting options have to be eliminated to aid increased sales and better overall profit.

Hick’s law can also be translated to ‘More options mean less sales’ In order to incorporate this law without having to sacrifice giving all product or service options that you have, you can organize the products in a hierarchy with the main categories shown in the sidebar and all the products of that category in a separate list.

Web design principle #5.   Fitt’s Law

Another law that acts as a major principle in web design is Fitt’s law. According to this law, the time needed to move to a target is dependent upon the size of the target as well as the distance to the target. This means that the larger the object or target and the closer it is in the distance, the easier would it be to move to it or reach it. This law can effectively be incorporated in web design and is something that can enhance your web design by leaps and bounds. However, this does not mean that the bigger, the better but means that usability factor of a target runs as a curve and not as a straight line. When you apply this law to your web design, then users may be more motivated and encouraged to press the button that you want them to press.

If you want your website visitors to take actions like order a product, read about a service or click on something, then you must make sure that they can reach the ‘click here’ more easily and quickly. Thus, it is a good idea to consider this law and use it well.

Web design principle #6.   Communication and content

Everyone who visits your website is looking for some or the other kind of information or content, and thus it is very important for you to communicate with them clearly and in an engaging manner. Your information must be compelling, easy to read and easy to process. Communication is not just about providing written information but also about offering images, infographics and another form of media such as videos and audio pieces. Web design takes into consideration a concept called ‘Visible language’. According to this concept, visible language is the content people see on the screen and involves three fundamental principles. They are given as follows:

  • Organize – The first principle of visible language or effective communication is to provide the visitors of your website a clear and highly consistent layout or structure. Some important parts of the organization of concept include the layout involving the division of content, consistency, navigation, as well as visual appeal. In order to make your website communicate effectively, you need to organize and place your blocks of information in an easy to process manner.
  • Economize – This principle involves achieving more by utilizing less. This means that you must try to deliver the most information by taking helping of less visual elements. The design or layout must be free of clutter, should be simple and must have a high degree of clarity. It must throw emphasis on what is important and create distinctiveness between different elements.
  • Communicate – The user interface of the web design must be such that users are able to understand everything in the most convenient way. There must be a balance between readability, legibility, color, texture, and views.

Besides this, the content given on the website must be appropriate, well written, and easy to understand and should be written keeping in mind the concept of search engine optimization. It is important that you adjust the style of writing according to the preference of the target audience and avoid promotional writing. The writing must pull visitors and must leave them intrigued and wanting for more. It must clearly spell out what you do and what you aim to achieve.

Web design principle #7.   White space and simple design

A simple design is an effective design. Complexity is just not something that a visitor wants to see on your web page, and one of the most important aspects of a simple design is white space. White space is something that web designers must not be afraid of. White space not only helps to take the cognitive load off the website but also makes it easier for users to perceive the information provided on the website. White space helps to divide the web page into several distinct parts or areas which makes it simpler to process information. It is always better to have a whitespace solution to the problem of complex hierarchical structures. The following are some of the other things that can be considered as a part of a simple design:

  • Grid-based layout – To avoid a messy structure or appearance of the website, you must opt for a grid-based layout in which content is divided into columns, boxes, and different sections.
  • F-pattern design – It is a fact that the human eye scans screens in an ‘F’ pattern. Thus, it is a good idea to design a web page or website in a way that complements the natural reading behavior of the visitors.
  • Conventional designs – Conventional designs are not always boring and rather work well as far as visitor response or likeability is concerned. They add a hint of trust, reliability as well as brand credibility.

Web design principle #8.   Regular testing

Test Early and Test Often or ‘TETO’ is another web design principle that all designers and website owners must consider. Conducting usability tests every now and then provide important results and insights into many kinds of problems and complications related to a website layout or aspects of design. What happens is that websites often tend to get into certain issues and by not testing them often, they may create issues that could be driving visitors away. Websites constantly need upgrades and updates so as to maintain the visitor footsteps and customer interest.

The following are some points you must keep in mind to test your webpage or website:

  • Testing one user at the beginning of a project is better than testing 50 users towards the end as it makes way for improvements that could prove important for driving traffic and increasing sales. Also solving errors during process is least expensive rather than later.
  • Another point to be kept in mind is that testing is an iterative process which means that designers must first design, then test, then fix and then test again. There is a strong chance that there may be some problems that were not solved the first time because of diversion of attention to other major issues.

Comments are closed.