What is Meant by Web Design?
As more of the world turns to the internet and online resources to do their shopping, pay their bills, and even run appliances inside their homes, web design continues to increase in importance. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about web design?
Basically, web design means creating, planning and updating websites. While that may sound relatively straightforward, many different elements must come together for effective website development such as the site structure, layout, fonts, colors, user interface and imagery (photography and video).
Most people think of web design in purely visual terms. As a result, they tend to believe that good aesthetics naturally leads to good design. However, there are many other factors involved such as user habits, navigation, and ergonomics that contribute to the overall site design.
Essentially, anything that makes the user experience simpler and more comfortable is crucial for successful web design. Ultimately, the goal is to create a site that works well for the people who use it.
Furthermore, your design shapes your users' perception of your brand, directly affects your SEO and your search rankings, and impacts user behavior. Essentially, your choice of layout and your site design influence your entire web presence.
Key Visual Components of Web Design
Many of the visual components of web design are the same terms that are used in nearly all types of design. The following are a few key elements of website design.
The page layout refers to how text, ads and graphics are arranged on a page. A web designer incorporates these elements to help users obtain the information they need as quickly and effortlessly as possible. Typically, an effective layout achieves a balance and a consistency among the elements.
Text refers to the written words on a site. Ideally, it should blend with the other visuals to reinforce the message and the purpose of the site. If content is both relevant and useful to the user, then he or she will remain on the site. For this reason, content should be concise and easy-to-read.
If a site has lots of long-form content, it helps to break it up with shorter paragraphs and bullet points or numbered lists. White space (margins and padding) is as effective in a layout as type because it allows your content room to breathe. Anything that makes it easier for readers to scan and get a sense of the topic improves a site’s usability. Beyond its design, content needs to be optimized, so that the website shows up higher in search engine results.
Graphics are very helpful because they can clarify or visually represent concepts introduced in the text. Graphics include everything from photographs to illustrations, diagrams, pie charts, logos, icons, flowcharts, clip art and other image forms. Essentially, graphics contribute to the overall visual design by working together with the content and colors of a page to impact the user.
The choice of typeface or the font you use and how it works with the layout and color scheme can make a big difference to the look and feel of a website. Because most web browsers can only read a certain number of fonts, often referred to as “web-safe fonts”, web designers usually stay within this category.
The colors on a web page communicate the tone and personality of a brand or an organization. Color choices are essential for logos and graphics because they give the user a feel for the business or organization behind the website.
What is User-Friendly Web Design?
For a successful web design, a developer must keep the user experience in mind. The following factors are key to creating user-friendly web design.
If your website isn’t compatible, you could lose plenty of customers right away resulting in an unusually high bounce rate. Although compatibility presents some of the greatest challenges to web design, many people tend to overlook this part.
Before you can determine whether your website is compatible, however, you need to be clear about what it means. To be compatible, a website’s pages must function across a number of different platforms.
In other words, it should render equally across:
- Operating Systems – Windows, Macintosh, and Linux
- Web Browsers – Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox
- Different Screens and Screen Resolutions
For example, your site may look fine on the latest version of Internet Explorer, but it may not render the same in Safari on a Mac.
Since it can be both difficult and extremely time consuming to test a website on every known browser or operating system, web designers should test their site on specific platforms. In other words, web developers should make sure that their site renders equally on the platforms their target audience typically uses.
Through their analytics, most designers can get an idea of their target audience’s usage preferences. With this knowledge, a designer can avoid incompatibility issues and ensure that his website looks good to all of his users.
Website navigation is akin to having a set of directions for when a user enters a site. The clearer a site’s navigation, the easier it is for users to find out where to go to get what they need. According to Forrester Research, about 50% of potential sales are lost because users have difficulty getting the information they want.
In other words, nearly half of the people who visit your site may leave without looking at your product or services if they can’t find them quickly and easily. Therefore, the structure and labels of your navigation can really affect your results. So designers need to create site architecture and menus according to how users browse and search.
Using descriptive labels in your navigation bar, for instance, is helpful for both visitors and search engines.
- Visitors – because the navigation bar is always visible at the top of the page, it garners instant attention. If it accurately lists your products or services, users will know right away what your business offers and if they’re on the right site.
- Search engines – descriptive labels in your navigation can affect search engine results because they show relevance. Since your navigation menu shows on each page, proper labeling confirms for a search engine that you really are an authority on that topic.
The main navigation bar is the place where you inform both people and search engines about your business and what you offer. For this reason, it helps to use popular phrases and keywords here.
The words you choose and the structure of your navigation make a difference because they affect how much traffic you get from search. In addition, a site's usability also impacts the percentage of visitors who convert into leads and customers.
Adding video or audio to a site design can help users absorb relevant information in a more effective way than text and graphics. For this reason, these elements are a great way to promote your business and to support your customers.
A short instructional video can explain a concept or a process much easier and faster than the corresponding text. For instance, everything from welcome messages to product demonstrations, support guides, or an audio podcast can really add to a user’s experience and may encourage them to spend more time on a page.
Interactive Website Design
For businesses to earn new customers, it's important to interact with them in positive way whether they are a local shop, a big tech company or an eCommerce store. Interactive design uses software on a web page purposely to engage users. In other words, it starts a conversation instead of just talking at someone.
Websites interact with their visitors through calls to action such as clicking a button, watching a video, completing a form, commenting on a post, or voting on something. As a result, people tend to stay on these sites longer, become more engaged and are much more likely to convert
Essentially, interactive design allows for more personal communication and a more customized digital experience for the user by transforming passive visitors into active participants.
Types of Website Design
Ultimately, how a website displays on your device whether it’s a laptop, PC, tablet or smartphone depends on the site's design. In the early days of the internet, web designers usually chose between a fixed and fluid designs. With a fixed design, the page width will not adapt to different screen sizes because it remains the same. Pages that used a horizontal scroll bar on the bottom of the page used fixed website design. With a fluid layout, however, page width is a percentage of the screen size. Therefore, fluid design is scalable because the page content expands or contracts according to the size of the screen.
When other internet accessible devices such as tablets and smartphones arrived, the need for web pages that could scale to fit different devices and sizes grew by leaps and bounds. For this reason, designers gravitated towards adaptive or responsive designs that could accomplish the task more easily.
Responsive vs. Adaptive Web Design
Adaptive design involves creating a separate website for each device that views a site; this design detects the screen size and then loads a layout specific to that device. The advantage is that it allows for more control over content and layouts than responsive design since you are creating for specific devices. In addition, research shows that adaptive sites are typically 2-3 times faster than responsive ones.
Responsive design, on the other hand, adapts to any device, user behavior or orientation. In this case, a designer a creates a single design for use on all screens. The central difference between responsive and adaptive designs is that the former changes the size of a web page to conform to the user’s screen while the latter creates different web pages for different devices.
While responsive design doesn’t offer nearly as much control as adaptive, it is the preferred method these days because it is much easier to create and to maintain. Furthermore, the increasing availability of templates for content management systems such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal has made it much simpler for less experienced designers and developers to get a website up and running.
Why is Web Design Important?
As a business considering designing or redesigning your website, you may wonder how web design impacts your target audience and your bottom line. Here are a few reasons why good web design is important to your business.
It Creates a First Impression
A website is often the first interaction a customer has with your business. In other words, it is where you make that crucial first impression. Within seconds of loading a page, customers will start judging your business. If your site is outdated or unattractive, customers will turn to a competing site right away.
Site design affects how customers see your brand. An intriguing web design keep leads on your page and enables them to learn more about your business. It also builds the kind of trust that will help them decide whether they need your products or services.
It Sets You Apart From the Competition
You may not need another reason besides knowing that your competitors have properly designed websites. The last thing you want is to lose ground to your competition because your site lacks appeal or is tough to navigate.
Your website is your opportunity to show what sets you apart from your competitors. While many businesses have similar services and pricing, good web design can showcase what makes your business unique and why people should choose it over the competition.
It Affects Your SEO
Your design and your layout directly influence the quality of your content which affects how search engines view and index your website. Because web design elements affect your on-page SEO, it’s important to incorporate SEO-friendly design into your website. Otherwise, you will struggle to improve your search rankings. Your web design should boost your search engine visibility and make it easy to implement a successful SEO strategy.
Regardless of what style or look you prefer, you need to think about your target audience before you begin the design process. Once you define what their needs are and how they search online, then it becomes much easier to plan your layout and your content.
At NetLZ Consulting we specialize in user-friendly website design and development that enhances your brand and builds trust with your customers. We create websites that enable users to access the information they need quickly and easily, so they will want to take advantage of your products and services.
From our office in East Hanover, NJ, NetLZ Consulting provides professional, high-quality web design and development to clients in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area in addition to clients around the country and internationally as well.