What is Good Website Design?

Good website design fosters a positive image and awareness of an organization. Good website design invites visitors to purchase, donate or get involved with an organization such as businesses, non-profits and personal sites. Good website design provides a visitor with the impression that the visit was time well spent. Good website design utilizes multiple disciplines in an approach that is integrated with the organization's entity and overall marketing plan. It is not the site owner or the designer that defines good design, it is the website visitor. This is because when a visitor has a positive website experience, they'll have a positive opinion of the organization.

It Starts Here! - Visitor Focused Design

On average, a website visitor spends less than four seconds in determining if a website has what they want. In those scant few evaluating seconds, they'll scroll vertically less than a full screen. For the first-time site visitor, the homepage scope and value of the entire website content must be made obvious within this limited space. For the returning site visitor to the homepage, content updates and navigation to desired information, again, must be made obvious. This means that if any single content element (e.g., images, self promotion, corporate history, etc.) dominates the homepage, other content of potential interest can be easily missed. The same holds true for internal site pages in that content of the page must be made immediately obvious. The key is to let the visitor be able to tell with a quick glance if the page they arrived at potentially has what they want.

A pleasant visitor experience of the website encapsulates site content with a visual design that accentuates the value of the business or organization. It is not any individual element that defines good design. It is the sum-total of elements that contribute to a good design. Website content is by far the most important element of the visitor experience. Content must be relevant, accurate, current, concise, well written and sufficiently detailed to satisfy the visitor (see our writing essay for more information.) Intuitive website navigation and format consistency between pages sets the framework for other details to contribute positively. Other elements such as menu animations, printer-friendly pages, favorite icons and custom error pages all contribute to good design. Each less than optimal element, inconsistent text style, misspelled word, inaccuracy and more gives the visitor a reason to click away from the website.

Great Looks — Bad Design?

A great looking website means nothing if nobody can find it from a search. A great looking website means nothing if it is difficult for people find what they want. Good looks mean nothing unless built well.

Standards and Good Design Practice

There is a significant amount of science in the visual skins of websites. It spans from application in the use of color, navigation menus, content arrangement and more that directly and measurably affects visitor interaction with the website. Psychological and marketing studies frames how website visitors use and react to various website elements and how they differ from other media such as television and print. Savvy developers integrate this knowledge into their designs.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional

Valid CSS!

Standards Compliant Coded Page
as defined by: W3C

The coding of a website allows visitors to see your web pages. Visitors do not see the actual coding, just the results. The actual coding of a website can involve several software languages. Each language has standards that should be followed. Many designers either ignore standards or are ignorant about them claiming that they don't make a difference in website performance. The simple fact is that following standards allows easier website maintenance, improved cross-browser compatibility, increased website features and, better indexing of pages by the major search engines.

Frequently overlooked in the coding of websites is page loading times. Many designers, apart from minimizing the size of images, are unaware of techniques that can reduce page loading times. Even the ordering of code within a page can cause a page to appear to load more slowly. The use of Content Delivery Networks (CDN), compression and cache control web server directives and code minification can significantly reduce page loading times. This allows a page to utilize a significant amount of content, features and complexity with only a trivial increase in load time when compared to the same page without these techniques applied. This also has the immediate benefit of reducing web server bandwidth. Though for very small websites, the amount of savings can be minor but, design with these techniques in use allows for growth of a website without the equal growth in page load times and web server bandwidth.

The philosophy to an organization's website design must be inclusive of its marketing approach. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an on-going process for a website that utilizes several techniques to maximize visitor traffic to a website from search engines. This assumes that the core design of the website maximizes the use of various elements that are part of a web page. These include items that are as simple as the pages' title to as complex as the writing style of the pages' content. From SEO management analyses, the content may change over time but though a solid design core mindful of search engines, change effectiveness will realize its greatest potential.

This article briefly touches upon many issues relating to good website design. For the new and current website owner, it is intended to introduce one to what goes into good design besides an attractive website skin. Regardless of the cost, most designers focus on the website skin with little or no focus on good design practice. This lack of focus will result is a lower performance website. Good website design need not be expensive to create but, through loss of business, it is expensive to own.