What is Web Design? – An Easy Guide to Designing Websites

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What is Web Design?

What is web design? Are you looking for a simplified guide to designing your own website for your business? Then this guide will help you. Our team at EnspireFX put together this article to help you understand the foundations of web design and how you can build a website that actually works.

In simple terms, web design refers to the design of websites that are displayed on the internet. It usually refers to the design of how internet users interact with websites, as again the software development or programming to web pages.

Web design is the process of planning, conceptualizing, and arranging content online. Today, designing a website goes beyond aesthetics to include the website’s overall functionality. Web design also includes the design of web apps, mobile apps, and the interface design of other web-based applications and tools.

Technology has advanced so fast in the last few years that today, the design of a website has the biggest impact on the search ranking of your website in search engines like Google? This article will give you some helpful insight into how to create a website that not only looks good but functions properly and ranks highly on search engines. 

As a business owner, this article will help you to understand what makes up a professionally designed website and what features should be present on your website.

5 Sites to Find Web Design Inspiration

Where can you find web design inspiration? It’s easy to conceive what you want after seeing some of the best designs out there. Web designers also look for inspiration from the best designs across the internet. 

The following are some web design inspirations sources; 

  1. Behance – Look in the interaction design category or search web design
  2. Dribbble – Dribbble is the leading destination to find & showcase creative work and is home to the world’s best design professionals
  3. Siteinspire – Siteinspire is a showcase of the finest web and interactive design
  4. Brutalist Websites – For a certain type of inspiration.
  5. Design Inspiration 
  6. Awwwards – Look at winners, find elements you like – be wary of getting too obsessed with Awwwards because their stuff tends to bleed too much for most business, and often too horrible for usability).
  7. Web Design Inspiration
What is Web Design?

Web Design Approaches

There are two main approaches to designing your website; you can either use a desktop application and coding, or a website builder. 

The best choice here will depend on your design budget and the type of site you wish to build.

1. Web design with desktop applications & coding

Designing websites with a desktop application would require that you create your design and then convert the design to code. The normal practice is to design the site with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe XD, or Sketch, and then engage a web developer to code your design for you. 

This approach is what most professional web designers use, so it’s safe to say that typically, this is the standard for large and/or complex websites,  and for a good reason. It allows the designer to focus on the overall look and feel, while all the technical challenges are transferred to the development team. 

Truth be told, this process can be expensive and time-consuming mainly because multiple resources and professional skills are required. 

The alternative, however, is to use a website builder to design your website. This has relatively fewer technical requirements. 

2. Website Builders

A website builder is a software os platform that helps you to easily put together your website.

There are many website builders on the market today that offer a wide range of features and services. 

Wix, Squarespace, Webflow, WordPress, WordPress.com and PageCloud, are just a few examples of popular website builders. They all vary in design capabilities, template options, price, limitations, and overall editing experience. 

Take note that the more professional you want your website design to be, the more expensive it quickly becomes. Be sure to do your research, experiment with free trials, and determine which platform best fits your website needs. 

Website builders create either adaptive or responsive websites, which offer different building experiences. We will discuss these concepts in more detail below so that you can best understand which builders will be more suitable for your web design project. 

For anyone who does not know how to code, becoming familiar with the freedoms and limitations of various website design tools is essential. For example, although WordPress is the most used website platform, it’s not popular with many visual designers because of its limited customization options. 

Customizations in a WordPress website often require the services of a web developer, and they hardly come cheap. 

Before you start building a website, it is important to determine your website needs: Are you creating a photo gallery, an online store, a web listing site, or a membership site? How often will you update your site with new content? 

Do you need a contact form or an email subscription form? Choose a website builder that can help you effectively accomplish those goals. 

Web Design Elements

When designing a website it’s important to consider both the site’s appearance and functionality. Integrating these elements will maximize the site’s overall usability and performance, which will help your website to rank well on search engines, for which website usability and performance have become critical web vitals.

Your site’s usability includes elements such as an easy-to-navigate interface, appropriate use of graphics and images, well-written and well-placed text, videos, and a colour scheme. Your site’s performance refers to its page load speed, content searchability, and how well and how long you’re able to engage your audience. 

Website Visual elements

Here’s a quick overview of the elements you should consider while designing your website to make sure everything works well together. Each section will provide tips and tricks to help you get started. 

Website Written Copy

Fundamentally, your website’s appearance and text go hand-in-hand. If you’re not a content writer yourself, then you might have to consider hiring a professional content writer to work with you in creating a cohesive design with balanced elements. 

The focus here should be on content blocks that creatively communicate your website’s message to your audience in a language that promotes your products and services and create a complementary effect with your graphics and images. 

Website Typeface

The font type you choose should complement your overall design and your company’s branding. Font should pair with your colour scheme, graphics, images, and strengthen the overall tone of your website. 

Tools like Google Fonts can help you find a perfect match for your font. Web design tools like PageCloud even include numerous font pairings within their app.

Website Colours

Colours are one of the most important elements to consider when designing a website. Keep in mind there are many misconceptions about the psychology of colour, and it’s more important to focus on colours that are in line with your company’s brand, and compliment the overall design and tone of your website. 

If you’re designing the site for a business, you might be required to align the site’s colour scheme with your brand and the messages you want to convey to the site’s audience. 

The 60-30-10 Rule

A common colour principle used in the design is the 60-30-10 rule. What is the 60-30-10 Rule? It’s a classic design rule that helps create a colour palette for a design. It states that 60% of the design should be a dominant colour, this is often the background; 30% should be the secondary colour, often the body type; and the last 10% should be an accent or headers or call to action buttons.

Classic Colour Rule - What is Web Design?

Website Layout

How you decide to arrange your content will have a dramatic impact on both the usability and functionality of your site. Be sure to consider the needs of your target audience and avoid using an overstimulating layout that might detract from the messages you want to convey. 

For instance, most professionally designed landing pages don’t even have the traditional header and footer. The idea is to achieve that singular goal of conversion, and nothing more. So it is devoid of all distractions as much as possible. Avoid superfluous content, as much as it makes your site unnecessarily buggy, it also degrades your user experience

The Use of Shapes in Web Design

The use of graphic elements in web design can help seamlessly integrate text and images, and help with the site’s overall appearance. Combining beautiful colours and shapes can help direct the attention of your site’s visitors and contribute to your site’s overall flow. 

You see, your website plays the functions of a business development manager; with it set up, your users should have a few unanswered questions for you. The expected result should be conversions and more conversions. You achieve this by aiding the journey of the users from the moment they land on the site until they hopefully convert.

The Use of Whitespaces in Web Design

Spacing is a key element to creating visually pleasing and easy to navigate website content. Every element in your design will incorporate spacing in one way or another. Appropriate use of whitespace is crucial in creating a design that perfectly balances text, photos, and graphics. 

Keeping your spacing consistent can help your users navigate your website with ease. The concept of whitespace is a priority of modern web designers. 

Images & Icons in Web Design

Amazing designs can communicate a lot of information in just a few seconds. This is made possible with the use of powerful images and icons. Choose images and icons that support and strengthen your message. A quick Google search for stock images and icons will generate thousands of options. 

Icons in Web Design - What is Web Design

4 Free images and icons websites

To help simplify your search, here are a few websites for your free images and icons;

  1. Pixabay
  2. Pexels
  3. Unsplash
  4. IconMonstr

3 Premium images and icons

The following sites offer premium stock images and videos

  1. Shutterstock (Getty)
  2. iStock
  3. Adobe Stock

The Use of Videos in Web Design

Integrating videos into web design is becoming increasingly popular amongst designers. Added to the fact that many people prefer a video to a block of text when used properly, videos can help your users experience or understand a message that can’t be properly conveyed through text or image. 

For search engine optimization (SEO), videos are rich content, and they help your pages to rank even higher in the search engine results pages (SERPS).

Keep in mind that like having a TV screen on in a restaurant, visitors’ eyes will be drawn to moving images. Make sure your videos don’t compete with or detract from other important elements. Then also, you risk ruining the user experience for your website’s visitors on low internet speeds; they may not be able to view your videos seamlessly.

Website Functional elements

In designing your website, there are some elements that you must include. Without these, your users will have a hard time interacting with your content, and search engines will not rank your pages well either. You would notice that all popular websites which rank well on search engines have these functional elements.

Site Navigation

You need to give your users the ability to surf from one page to the next in a sensible flow. Your site’s navigation system should be informed by the purpose of your site, and the expected journey of your user. For instance, for an eCommerce store, the navigational system should reflect your customer journey. 

Note also that for a site with a properly set up on-page SEO, your main navigation links would be used as sitelinks on search engines. This means you can control how your site is presented to users by ordering your navigational system accordingly.

Site Search

You can make it easy for users to find what they’re looking for on your site by providing a handly site-wide search system, and this reduces your bounce rate

SiteMap

A site map is used to help users with a bird’s-eye view of your content, but that is mostly not necessary anymore. The purpose of a site map, today, is entirely for the search engine bots to, crawl and index your content. So you need a sitemap alright, but it’s not to be a page, but rather, an XML file that you submit to search engines.

User Interactions 

Give your site’s visitors multiple ways of interacting with your site regardless of their device. A modern web design simplifies user interactions to give the user control as they interact with your content. 

There are a few things you should never do if you want your users to have the best user experience. Here are a few examples and why they won’t help you;

Audio or video auto-play

People visit your site from a different environment and under all sorts of conditions. Imagine a user who visits your page from a hospital ward, only to be greeted with an audio jingle set to auto-play. Users are known to consider such websites as spammy, and a huge blow to your site’s reputation.

Underlining text which are not clickable links

General practice in web design is to underline clickable text, indicating to users that these are links. Underlining text which are not clickable could cause a user to think something is broken on your site as they try assessing your fictitious page via this fake link.

Non-responsive forms

All forms on your site should fit all device sizes. This is a vital practice if you want to encourage as many form conversions as possible.

Excessive use of pop-ups 

This practice hurts your site’s core web vitals in that users generally find such web pages annoying, quickly increasing your bounce rate

Scroll-jacking

This is simply implementing a predefined scroll behaviour on a website, effectively controlling how the page scrolls, thereby taking control from the hands of the user.

Animations and Motion Effects

Animations on your website help you to showcase your brand’s uniqueness, it enhances your website’s design and improve user engagement. There are tons of web animation techniques that can help your design grab visitor’s attention and allow your visitors to interact with your site by giving feedback. If you’re new to web design, we’d recommend keeping your animations simple.

Site Speed

If there’s any one thing that harms your site’s usability, it’s the site’s page load speed. No one likes a slow website. Having to wait more than a few seconds for a page to load can quickly deter a visitor from remaining on or returning to your site. 

Regardless of how beautiful, if your site doesn’t load quickly, it will not perform well in search. This can affect even the profitability of an online business because typically, users who came to your site from ad campaigns would turn right around and visit your competitor’s website. Yes, that’s how serious site speed it to your business.

Modern website builders typically compress your content for faster load times, however, there are no guarantees. This is why you should conduct thorough research before selecting which site builders will work best for the content you will have on your site.

Site structure

Just like functionality, a website’s structure plays an important role in both user experience (UX) and search engine optimization (SEO). A well-designed website aids your users as they navigate through your website without encountering any structural issues. If users are getting lost while attempting to navigate through your site, it will greatly affect your conversion rate. 

Cross-browser & cross-device compatibility

A great design should look polished on all devices and browsers. Internet Explorer is obsolete alright, yet many internet users in many low-income nations would visit your site using devices running Internet Explorer. Always test to make sure your site runs well and looks great on all web browsers.

If you’re building your site from scratch, we’d recommend using a cross-browser testing tool to make this tedious process faster and more efficient. On the other hand, if you’re using a website building platform, the cross-browser testing is typically taken care of by the company’s development team allowing you to focus on design. 

Web Design Styles

Understanding the pros and cons of adaptive and responsive websites will help you determine which website builder will work best for your website design needs. 

You might come across articles online that talk about a whole bunch of different website design styles (fixed, static, fluid, etc.). However, in today’s mobile-centric world, there are only two website styles to use to properly design a website: adaptive and responsive. 

Adaptive websites

Adaptive web design uses two or more versions of a website that are customized for specific screen sizes. Adaptive websites can be split into two main categories based upon how the site detects what size needs to be displayed:

1. Adapts based on device type 

When your browser connects to a website, the HTTP request will include a field called “user-agent” that will inform the server about the type of device attempting to view the page. The adaptive website will know what version of the site to display based on what device is trying to reach it (i.e. desktop, mobile, tablet). Issues will arise if you shrink the browser window on a desktop because the page will continue to display the “desktop version” rather than shrinking to the new size. 

2. Adapts based on browser width 

Instead of using the “user-agent”, the website uses media queries (a CSS feature that enables a webpage to adapt to different screen sizes) and breakpoints (certain width sizes) to switch between versions. So instead of having a desktop, tablet, and mobile version, you will have something like 1080px, 768px, and 480px for device widths. This offers more flexibility when designing, and a better viewing experience as your website will adapt based on screen width.

Advantages of browser width-based web design style
  1. WYSIWYG editing (what you see is what you get) 
  2. Custom designs are faster and easier to build without code 
  3. Cross-browser and cross-device compatibility 
  4. The results are often fast-loading pages 
Disadvantages of browser width-based web design style

Websites that use “device-type” can look weird or broken when viewed in a smaller browser window on a desktop

Responsive Website Design Style

Responsive website design uses flexible grid layouts that are based on the percentage each element takes up in its container. This means that if one element is 25% of its container, that element will stay at 25% no matter the screen size or how much the browser window is resized. 

Responsive website designs also use breakpoints to create a custom look for different screen sizes. Unlike adaptive sites that adapt only when they hit a breakpoint, responsive websites are constantly changing according to the screen size.

Advantages of Responsive Website Design Style

Are you considering using the responsive web design style, the following are a few advantages of responsive website design;

  1. The result is a great experience at every screen size, regardless of the device type
  2. Responsive website builders are typically rigid, and therefore the design hardly “breaks”
  3. There are tons of available templates to start from
Disadvantages of Responsive Website Design Style
  1. If you’re designing your site from scratch with out apge builders, you’ll need extensive testing to make sure that everything is alright and this can be rather tedious.
  2. Custom designs for responsive web design is very challenging

Adaptive Website Builders 

Wix and PageCloud are some of the two best visual website builders on the market today. Both use an adaptive approach, meaning their drag-and-drop and WYSIWYG capabilities are second to none. You can build just about anything without having to write a single line of code. 

Wix has been around since 2006 and has since developed a wide range of features and templates to suit just about every business need. Today, it’s considered one of the easiest tools for beginners. 

Wix has been around since 2006 and has since developed a wide range of features and templates to suit just about every business need. Today, it’s considered one of the easiest tools for beginners. 

Although it’s hard to choose a winner in this category, here are a few things to keep in mind: 

  1. If you’re looking for the most customizable experience, choose PageCloud. 
  2. If you’re looking for something really easy and don’t have much design experience, choose Wix. 
  3. If you’re looking to work with a developer, choose PageCloud. 
  4. If you want many template options, choose Wix. 
  5. If you like shortcuts and the experience found in desktop publishing apps, choose PageCloud.
  6. As both platforms offer free trials, we’d recommend trying them both before deciding. 

Responsive Website Builders 

Tools like Squarespace offer responsive website builders, however, this means your editing experience is more limited. Creating a fluid responsive website is hard, and without knowing how to code, it is nearly impossible to build unique websites using responsive website builders. 

This is where more complex web design tools, like Webflow and Froont, come into play. Here are some of the pros and cons to consider when looking to adopt one of these tools: 

Advantages of Responsive Website Builders 

Ability to create custom responsive sites without having to write code

Unmatched control over every element on the page 

Ability to export code to host elsewhere 

Disadvantages of Responsive Website Builders

  1. Complex tools with steep learning curves
  2. Slower design process than adaptive website builders
  3. E-commerce
  4. E-commerce websites are an important part of website design. Creating an online store that is easy to navigate, informative, and accurately displays your products is crucial to creating the best online shopping experience for your customers. 

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article helped you to better understand the essentials of web design. To review, let’s take a look at some key elements in designing a website that is both beautiful and functional: 

1. User-centric Design: 

User experience should be at the forefront of your design, as your users will ultimately be the ones to determine whether your website is worth visiting. 

2. Website builders:

You must always choose the best website builder which suites your needs. Ask yourself what your website’s major functions will be, and choose a website builder that will ensure those needs are met. 

3. Visual elements: 

It’s important to maintain a balance between your text, graphics, multimedia, and colour scheme to avoid an overstimulating website that detracts from the messages you are trying to convey.

Now that you’ve mastered the basics in website design, be sure to check out more posts to learn more about types of website builders, design trends, design elements, and much more. 

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