While modern design trends are ever-evolving, consistently introducing new and creative ways to make a digital impact, there are a handful of elements that are considered the cornerstones of an effective website design. From delivering a memorable visual experience to making user navigation as intuitive as possible, these key elements can make a world of difference. And a website that falls short of a solid design? Let’s just say that it can make a serious impact of a different kind – one that you definitely won’t be happy about.

In today’s always-online world, users have come to expect websites that not only function flawlessly, but also provide a distinct browsing experience. While the everyday website user might not have the web design lingo to explain exactly why they like a particular website, a successful site nearly always incorporates what web designers know to be essential elements of a quality website design. If you’re facing a web design project in the near future, here’s a handy breakdown of the nine necessities that you’ll need to chart a path to a winning website.

Color Palette

color palette

Even if you’ve never ventured into the world of web design, you probably already know a thing or two about the value of a strong color palette. Too many colors, or a competing combination of garish shades, can create a markedly unpleasant viewing experience. On the other end of the spectrum – we couldn’t resist the web designer pun there – a consistent, harmonious color scheme establishes a sense of cohesiveness.

Your company’s branding will play a role in selecting a color palette for your website, as will the overall “feel” you want to create. Two to three colors across your major design elements are a good guideline for a color scheme that’s interesting but not distracting, with many modern designs opting for a very minimalist approach. If you find yourself craving a bit more variety, try experimenting with various shades and tints of the colors in your selected palette. This approach can create just enough visual interest to avoid repetitive design, but still maintain a united sense of style.

Fonts and Typography

Typography is one of the most-often forgotten elements of a great website, but choosing the right fonts and typography can have a surprisingly significant effect on your overall design. Ideally, your company’s brand identity should already include a particular font or typography style that’s consistently used across all digital and print materials. If not, it’s time to establish that now.

Typography and font choice can not only contribute to your company’s branding, but can also serve to lead users through your website successfully. Whether you choose to go eclectic and modern or keep things classic, remember that compatibility across all web browsers and devices is of the utmost importance.

Simple Navigation

Your navigation menu doesn’t need to be overly complex, and in fact, it absolutely shouldn’t be. We’ve all visited websites with too-complicated navigation menus, and most people would agree that it’s easily one of the most serious crimes a site can commit. Don’t let your website be the one that inspires annoyance and frustration in users; instead, make a dedicated effort to keep navigation simple and user-friendly.

Depending on your site and its structure, a good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to about five to ten navigation items at most. Integrating supportive elements, like directional arrows for sites with parallax scrolling, is a smart way to extend the time users spend on your site. Remember that users typically have a few non-negotiables when it comes to site navigation: a clear understanding of their present location, a clear path to the home page, and directions (if necessary). The aptly-named “hamburger menu” (three stacked lines that resemble an ultra-modern depiction of a burger) is one option for avoiding an overly busy design while still preserving easy user navigation.

Photography

website photography

It likely goes without saying that excellent photography can be a fantastic way to make your website come alive for users. For this essential element, it’s more about quality than quantity – you don’t need a huge array of photos to make an impact, you just need a curated selection of high-quality images.

Avoid relying too heavily on stock photographs, because today’s online users are smart enough to recognize the often overly-generic images. Instead, make a wise investment in a solid set of custom images for your website and enjoy the significant payoff.

Hero Images

Despite the name, a hero image isn’t a picture of your favorite superhero – but it can be just as powerful. Instead, a hero image is a large, banner-style image placed in a prominent location on a webpage. Its goal is to call attention to your website’s most important content, telling a visual story without building in a wall of text.

Your hero image might depict your brand’s most unique selling points or a specific call to action, but the key is that it does so in a dynamic way that adds value to your page. Be mindful of too-large images that take too long to load, and make sure that the hero image is effectively viewable on all devices and browsers.

Videos

There’s no shortage of impressive stats when it comes to the value that high-quality videos can add to a website. From boosting conversion rates to increasing your organic search engine traffic by over 150 percent, there’s no question that video is worth its weight in gold. A significant percentage of consumers report that they’d much prefer watching a video about a specific product than simply reading about it, with many saying that video is an invaluable tool for comparison shopping and making purchasing decisions.

With numbers like those, if you aren’t already using video on your website, there’s clearly no time like the present. Not only can videos serve as the perfect medium for communicating your brand’s personality and distinct characteristics, but they also deliver a considerable amount of information in a short amount of time. By placing videos in strategic locations throughout your website, you can add an element of dynamism that sets you apart from the competition.

Space

white space

As important as all of the “stuff” on your website may be, equally critical is what’s not there – that is, the strategic use of space. For a web designer, space is a valuable design tool that, when used effectively, shapes the entire user experience. In recent years, there has been a major shift in how space is used in website design, as more designers lean towards using it with a heavier hand. Many of today’s most effective modern website designs feature vast open spaces, delivering a high-impact visual experience for the user.

Because space influences everything from the flow of your website to its overall readability, it’s important that it be implemented thoughtfully. Keep spacing consistent among similar elements; for example, the lines in a paragraph should always be spaced equally. Use space to highlight the importance of specific images, text, or even buttons, adding a generous amount of open space to those you want to emphasize most. Finally, remember that “white space” isn’t necessarily limited to a plain, white background – the concept is defined by the simple lack of elements.

Calls to Action

The majority of companies intend their websites to serve as a clearly guided path to user action. Whether that’s contacting the company for a quote, making a purchase, supplying their contact information, or any one of a multitude of other steps, your site should have a clear goal in mind.

Once you’ve established what you want online users to “do” after arriving at your site, you can do everything in your power to make sure they get there. A “call to action” is the element that prompts users to follow through on your desired action, and can take many forms, such as a contact form or clearly-labeled button. However you choose to frame your call to action, utilize design to make it highly visible and very obvious to the user, increasing your odds for success.

Clean Backend Coding

A stunning, expertly designed website is all well and good, but if the site doesn’t actually function, it’s virtually worthless. Behind every highly effective website is pristine backend coding, ensuring that every aspect of the site works to perfection. Overly cluttered code not only increases your odds of an unexpected issue, but it makes resolving the problem far more difficult as well. While clean coding does require a bit more time and effort, it’s more than worth it in the end.

Trust Your Next Website to the Sacramento Web Design Team at Page Design

Finding the balance between essential website design elements and your company’s unique branding can be a challenge, but the result can be an exceptional online experience for new and existing users alike. Odds are, you have a variety of goals in mind when considering a web design project – from expanding brand awareness to increasing your conversion rate – and with a well-designed site, it’s possible to achieve all those and more.

At Page Design, our talented team of web designers knows their way around an expertly-crafted website, and have both the expertise and creativity to craft a knock-out site that checks all your most important boxes. We’re proud to be known as one of the best design firms Sacramento has to offer and take our roles as your resident design masterminds very seriously. For a winning website design that takes your company’s digital presence to the next level, reach out to the Page Design team today.