Building and running your very own website is easier than ever before. With content management systems (CMS) and blogging platforms, any aspiring web designer can build a professional-looking site even without any real knowledge of coding.
However, the real challenge is setting yourself apart from the mediocre crowd. This requires an adaptive approach when it comes to the latest design trends and strategies.
Whether you like it or not, professional web design is a competition. It should be your goal to outperform your site’s competitors in areas that matter – from search engine rankings to conversion rate. To accomplish this, you need to employ design practices that put user experience first and elevate your authority in your niche.
1. Build for Speed
One of the worst ways to create a website is to load up on useless features that offer little to no value to your target users. Alex Jasin explains that not only will these elements disrupt user experience, but they also slow your site down and put off visitors.
Many advise against using free blogging platforms, because with a modern CMS like WordPress, it’s just as easy to add functionalities such as image sliders, interactive calendars, and contact forms. All you need to do is to look for the right plugin and integrate it directly into your site. Unfortunately, a lot of web design beginners have a nasty habit of installing unnecessary plugins and leaving them to gather virtual dust.
By overloading on plugins, you will not only slow your site down but you will also make your site more vulnerable to crashes and security breaches. Either way, the user experience will suffer – so will your brand as a web designer.
When it comes to plugins, below are two simple things to remember:
- Specify your goals before installing any plugin.
- Remove plugins you don’t need.
To make sure your site is running at its peak performance, always run it through Google PageSpeed Insights after new changes. This tool works by providing you with a list of recommendations along with specific instructions on how to improve speed.
Aside from plugins, visual content also takes a toll in your website’s loading speed. The main problem is that web design beginners don’t know how to optimize images such as backgrounds, site headers, and blog photos. A quick fix is to use an image optimization tool that automatically compresses attachments as well as everything in your library.
2. Make Use of White Space
Another way to improve your website’s loading speed is to pick a minimalistic theme that fully utilizes white space. As a web designer, you need to remember that users need to focus on elements that count – be it a CTA, a post’s takeaways, or a product image. By utilizing white space, you can provide users with a distraction-free experience that will translate to more conversions.
The tricky part is maximizing white space without making your site look too plain. Just remember that it’s all about emphasizing the elements you want readers to focus on. Below are a few tips:
- White space can be in any color. It can be black, bright yellow, light green, or any other color that’s easy on the eyes and makes key elements stand out.
- White space works with plain text. Aside from product images or screenshots, white space can also be used to ease the reading experience. Just take a look at Wikipedia and other websites with an astonishing amount of articles. See how they employ white space to focus your eye’s attention.
- Use subtle details. To avoid making your site too plain, you can include small details such as animations, patterns, and icons.
- Organize. Take advantage of the user’s focus to provide a seamless experience. For example, you can make all sections such as latest blog posts, trending topics, and content sliders accessible from the home page only by scrolling.
3. Focus on a Unique Feature
In today’s world, there are plenty of “doppelgangers” that look like exact copies of popular sites. Over time, practices such as flat design, diagonal sections, hamburger menus, and even the ones that are already discussed in this article become widespread. As a result, it is easy to end up with a generic-looking website that will fail to attract or retain traffic.
To make your website unforgettable, you should focus on developing a feature that’s not only unique, but useful to your audience as well. The idea may not come as you first build your site, but it should always be a priority objective. For example, the content website Metapress adds clear email sign-up forms, which are both functional and unique to its design. A good strategy is to look at certain experience aspects that can be improved such as navigation, readability, and community.
Plugins may help you implement your feature especially if you’re using a CMS, but that won’t help your site attain a unique identity. Instead, you should consider getting help from a web design agency for technical aspects coding, usability, and testing. Just make sure that any web firm you choose has a strong portfolio. Otherwise, you should invest in your design knowledge by through online courses or free online resources.
4. Optimize for Mobile Users
As technology evolves, the future of the internet is with people using mobile devices more than computers for activities such as social media and online searches. This was confirmed by Google back in 2015 and it continues to be the trend in the current year onwards. Since it is your job as a web designer to provide a great experience, you can’t ignore responsive or adaptive design since most of your audience is now using smaller screens.
First of all, remember that there is a difference between responsive and adaptive designs. A responsive website utilizes a single design that adapts to the screen by resizing and repositioning content. On the other hand, an adaptive site has multiple layouts that are configured for a particular type of device.
As a beginner, responsive design is the more reasonable option because it is faster and more flexible. It may be harder to implement because it depends on coding for proper functioning, but if you are using a CMS, you can pick an already-responsive theme and simply build around it. Lastly, you can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to check if your site is ready for the mobile audience.
Designing a website successfully requires creativity and patience in learning the best practices. Of course, you can’t expect to be a master overnight. Take the time to read more guides, learn new tools, and try new ideas to gain experience. And if you have web design tips or resources to share, feel free to leave a comment below.