Whether you're building your own website or working with a professional to create one, it can be a little daunting to think about design if you're not, well, a designer! But no matter what your role in the process, it's a good idea to have some basic understanding of what makes good design and what does not.
Tip #1: Simple is Best
Students in my Build Your Own WordPress Website ecourse are used to hearing me say this, but it's such an essential part of designing a website.
When people visit your website, they're there to learn about you, your services and how you can help them. They aren't there for flashy features and bells and whistles. So, choose a design that allows your content to take centre stage.
Tip #2: Whitespace helps people understand your content
Whitespace is the space between all the other elements on a page: the images, text, navigation bar, and so on. It doesn't have to be white, of course (that's just the term for it), but it should be empty.
It can be tempting to cram in as much stuff as you can into a page, but actually whitespace helps people flow through your content and understand the message you are trying to convey better.
Think of it like this: If you were reading a book and the entire book was just one long, huge paragraph of text, would it be easy to read? Would you have an easy time understanding the storyline? I'm guessing you'd much rather have the text divided into paragraphs, sections and chapters.
Your website is the same way. Things need 'breathing room' between them to be understood.
Tip #3: Stick to one or two fonts (typefaces).
It might be tempting to pick several different fonts for your site, but you don't do yourself any favours by doing this. Changing typefaces all the time can just get confusing for your readers. As well, the more fonts your website has to load, the slower the site will be.
I recommend choosing one font for your headers (titles) and one for your main body text. Make sure the ones you choose are complementary as this will help your design look that much more cohesive.
Tip #4: Go easy on the colors
It's ok to have some color on your website, as after all, that's one way to show your personality and brand. But, like we've been saying, simple is best, and you want people to be able to understand your content!
So, for the most part, you'll want to stick to black or dark grey text on a white background, with some accent colors used for links, your navigation bar, and possibly for a few other things like social media icons. This keeps things minimal and professional without being boring.
Tip #5: Don't overwhelm your audience with a huge navigation bar and tons of pages
It might seem like you need to put every single possible link into your main navigation bar, the one at the top of the screen when you open your website. That way people can find what they need, right?
But, if you cram it full of links, what you're going to find is the opposite happens: people get overwhelmed seeing all the different options and all the different pages and don't know where to start.
I recommend keeping your main navigation bar to a maximum of 8 items. If you have a business that offers a ton of different things, think about how you can organize those items to better help your audience flow through your website. Can you put secondary things into a drop-down menu? Can you combine two pages into a single, cohesive page? Can you even remove some information from your website?
Often people feel they need to put every last bit of information about their business onto their website. But no matter what the topic, most people stop reading after a certain point. So in order to make sure people come to your website and understand who you are, what you have to offer, and how you can help them (as in, why they should give you money!), pare things down to only the information that is truly needed.