7 Tips for Solid, Effective Web Design

There are many different rules to remember when designing a website. You have to make sure that all the elements come together into a streamlined design that works well for the user. Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks for effective web design that can help make sure your site attracts and keeps visitors.

1. Stop with Annoying Features

What annoys visitors more than about anything else online? Features that are hard to turn off. I’ve limited most of the sites I build to only have one or two popups per session because they’re not the most enjoyable web features.

Think about the last time you visited a site and had to deal with a bunch of popups. Not only are they annoying, but if the visitor can’t turn them off or get rid of them easily, they become even more irksome.

In addition, Google’s latest algorithms may punish sites that have annoying popups, which could cause your client’s site to rank lower in search results.

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For this example, we’re going to look at how annoying popups can be. Obviously, you want to do the opposite of this and reduce or eliminate your popups. Mischief Makers Manual is a pranking site that has funny diagrams and notes. It also has so many annoying popups that you’re almost ready to scream before they end. (Take a look if you dare.) Trust me, don’t do this on your own site.

2. Put the Login in the Correct Position

There are some unwritten rules when it comes to web design. If you have an area of your site where visitors login, then the login box should be in the upper right corner of your site. Take note of how often you see logins in this position. Big name sites, such as Amazon, Groupon and Google all feature the login section in the upper right corner. I’ve found that by keeping my web designs in a similar fashion, the user is able to navigate around the site a lot easier.

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Above is an example of the login location for Sears. Note that it’s in the upper right. You’ll see this again and again. Web designers have trained users to go to the upper right to login to a website. Put the button elsewhere, and you’ll likely increase your bounce rates and receive frustrated emails (take my word for it).

3. Say Goodbye to Lorem Ipsum

Have you ever visited a website and realized it’s still under construction because the designer left the default Lorem ipsum dummy text in place? One thing I learned years ago was to request text from the client early in the design process. This allows me to plug the text in and avoid the problem of a visitor stumbling onto a site that is obviously unfinished. It also allows me to see how to space the other elements on the page.

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Consider the site Tilde. The entire site is set up on an invisible axis that runs down the center of the screen. The text, images and layout all balance around this invisible dividing line. However, if the designer didn’t have the text that goes there, the entire thing might not be as symmetrical. Creating a site with good symmetry requires knowing the elements that will make up that page.

4. Testimonials Are a Must!

One of the best ways to show that a business is reliable is with customer testimonials. Getting a direct referral from a current customer lends a lot of credibility to a website. Testimonials offer a personalized point of view to the site visitor that they might not get from just reading info on the features and about pages. This has an impact on the audience because it makes the business seem more reliable and trustworthy.

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Consider the 12 Keys Rehab testimonial page. By offering testimonials of clients who’ve found success through their programs, they add a level of trust that wouldn’t be there otherwise. Testimonials are your best word-of-mouth marketing tool online.

5. Finding Home Base

Don’t forget to add a home button to your site’s navigation pane. When visitors follow a link and land on one of your interior pages, they need a way to navigate back to your site’s main page. The home button should be easy to find, clearly identifiable — i.e., say “home” — and located in the main navigation bar on every page of your site.

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The site above is for a cover band. Note how the navigation is at the top and the home button is very easy to find. No matter which page you navigate to, that home button stays in the same spot. Your readers should be able to rely on that button remaining in the same spot throughout the site. (Note that this is generally true for all your navigations buttons: they should have consistent placement.)

6. Logo Goes Left

Although people try different layouts from time to time, another good rule of thumb is to place the brand logo in the top left corner. Just as people expect to see a login on the top right, they also expect to see the logo on the top left of a page. If you place it on the right, then site visitors might grow confused and think it’s an ad rather than the brand name and image.

I once designed a site, left out the top navigation and put the logo top center. I was trying to do something cutting-edge, but my bounce rates went from about 35% to around 80%. Well shucks. So I moved that navigation and logo right back to where people expected it and the bounce rates came back in line.

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The site above takes the logo and puts it right where you’d expect to find it. This puts the focus on the brand. It’s there on each and every page of the site. No matter where a visitor lands, they’ll see the branding.

7. Contact Info in Last Place

It’s smart to include contact info. Your site visitors aren’t likely to trust you if they don’t know how to get in touch with you. However, you don’t want to put this info front and center, as the majority of people won’t be looking for it. Instead, the rule of thumb is to put it in the last position in the navigation bar. Some sites choose to put the contact link in the navigation in the footer. That is acceptable as well.

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Note how Vahalla Golf Club keeps their design and navigation fairly simple. The “Contact” button is at the bottom of the page and last in the line of links. While it’s important to include contact info, it’s equally important to know where to put the navigation to that page.

When you were learning design, professors likely told you to watch your color palettes, fonts and contrast. However, these tips and tricks are equally important if you want to give your clients the designs they want. Sometimes, the simplest thing, such as a button placement, can make all the difference in whether or not a design is successful.

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About Lexie Lu

Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She enjoys researching the latest design trends and always has a cup of coffee nearby. She manages Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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