In this modern age, it would seem that everyone has their own website of some sort. From large international companies to small start-up businesses to even individuals who want to spread a certain message – there is now an influx of dedicated websites, the likes of which were not even conceivable not too long ago.

Back when the Internet was still in its infancy, there were only a handful of websites that people knew about. Big name businesses had not yet realized the scope of what the information superhighway had to offer. In those days, websites were excruciatingly stark with minimal designs and flourishes. Of course that was because technology at the time could hardly support high resolution images or animations. In fact, most people – viewers and web designers – did not really think much about what the web page looked like as long as it did its job right. There was hardly any competition so visitors were not prone to click away at the first signs of a subpar website.

Nowadays, not only do web developers have to be able to create a fully functioning website, they have to be able to design it as appealingly as possible. People are now (consciously or not) aware of what a good website should look like. A web design that is not easy to look at or understand instinctively will undoubtedly push visitors away. And why would not they when there are hundreds of thousands of similar websites that are most likely much better designed?

Moreover, even those without any type of web development background will know a website is badly designed when navigating it is difficult or when the layout seemingly makes no sense. Not to mention the aesthetic quality of a website can make or break the page.

The rapid rise of technology and digitization has definitely made it a lot more difficult for web designers. Now more than ever, web designers are challenged to construct a page that will not only communicate to the visitor the company’s message and brand, but also package it in a way that will leave positive lasting impression on the visitor. And because more clicks means higher engagement, web designers also have to encourage the visitor to keep on scrolling.

Gone are the days of awkward, clunky, and pixelated websites. People are now used to and expect nothing but visually attractive websites and, this is especially true for businesses big and small, companies need to value appealing and effective web design if they want visitors to keep coming back to the site.

You might feel a little daunted at the prospect of such a complex task. You might not know how and where to start, especially if this is your first foray into anything involving designing a web site. And that is exactly why we are here to help. Optimizing your personal or professional website will take a lot of work and effort so we will lend you a helping hand on how to begin. In this article, we will not only give you tips on how to design a beautiful and optimal website but also show you examples of successful websites to give you a little bit of inspiration.

Back to Basics: Core Concepts of Web Design

First things first, let us cover the basics of web design It is always good to learn about or, for those already adept with the subject, review the fundamentals first before diving into more complex methods.

Color Palette

This deserves an article in itself because of how massive the subject is and how important colors are on a website. This topic covers a multitude of concepts and design applications but in this article we will only tackle the most basic definition.

For the everyday person, implementing the right color scheme might seem mysterious and complex but it is actually quite simple. Understanding color theory, for one thing, requires studying and constant practice. Any designer can learn the basics of finding the best color palette by studying why certain colors and hues work and why others do not. There are color combinations that go well together and others that do not. You should also take into consideration the emotion your website aims to evoke. Certain colors represent certain emotions and ideas, you need to remember that.

Though there are countless of unofficial rules (which you can break as long as you have a good reason for it or you know how to make up for it) when it comes to selecting a website’s color palette, there is one rule that all designers and artists alike would do best to abide to: do not overdo it. This means do not use too many colors on your page. Two or three colors ought to do it. Any more and you risk confusing the website’s visitors. Additionally, these colors need to resonate with your host’s branding.

Choosing the right color palette is very important since most people have an inherent sense of which color schemes “look right” even if they are not aware of it.

Images

You might have noticed a recent trend in web design. A lot of new websites now feature large images on the homepage. This is mostly thanks to faster internet speed and better screen resolutions. And, like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Having a nice, evocative photo greeting your visitors can be both minimalistic and effective.

That being said, there are still some things you need to keep in mind when it comes to including images on your website. First, you need to choose your images wisely. Images can take up a lot of space so you the ones that you select must convey useful information or express your website’s message accurately. If you are not careful, visitors might be put off by the images and get frustrated at the lack of content on the page.

Another thing, it is generally a good idea to avoid moving images. They might be flashy but it is better not to use them, unless of course you have a justifiable reason for it. GIFs might look fun but they require a certain skill to handle correctly. High quality GIFs are quite file heavy too so they might cause lag.

Speaking of which, you should also keep your image file sizes small. Images can usually take up more than half of web page’s loading time so it will be incredibly efficient if you make sure your file sizes are as low as possible.

Finally, and this is very important, you need to always be aware of your selected images’ licensing restrictions. While there are resources where you can get high quality images for free, a lot of images are copyrighted, meaning you need to pay in order to use them. You need to always abide license restrictions of all stock images otherwise you could find yourself in a spot of trouble.

Visual Hierarchy

How people read a certain page – be it on screen or on paper – follows a more complex set of rules than one would realize. Reading behaviour is important to keep in mind when you are designing a web page. Visual hierarchy will help cue your readers what part of your page needs to be read first and what needs to be read next. It is the designer’s job to arrange the web content clearly so visitors will know immediately what the website is all about. Page visitors usually have short attention spans and do not focus on every little detail of the page so if you do not organize the content properly, they might get confused and leave the page.

Most people read left to right and top to bottom however, on the internet, people do not read the page so much as scan them. There are a few page scanning patterns you can look into to base where to put the important elements of your website. For text-heavy pages (articles, blogs, etc), you can apply the F-pattern which assumes that the reader will start from the left then stop at the right and again and again until they reach the bottom of the page. The Z-pattern is for other pages and websites that do not have content presented in blocks. This pattern assumes that the reader will read the top of the page for the crucial information, scan the middle of the page diagonally, then reads the lower part for additional information on the website.

Spacing is also important to signal visual hierarchy. Giving certain content space to breathe will draw more attention to it. You audience will be able to read content much easier if there is ample negative space surrounding it.

Grid Systems

The grid, or how text is arranged in rows and columns, determines how we read. Regardless of the medium, designers abide by the basic structure of the grid since it is the best way for people to easily read the text. Many web designers have tried to forego the grid for a more artistic design but they ultimately failed since visitors do not read the accompanying text.

There are several grid systems that you can use in your design and each one has their own pros and cons. It is generally a good idea to choose a grid system that will complement your website’s content and theme. There are simple grids and complicated grids to choose from but you can also design your own grid for a truly unique web design. A word to the wise though, unless you are really adept at how grids work in the first place, it is better to go for a standard design than risk it with an intricate but unreadable design.

Additionally, grid systems should also be applied to smaller screens. Nowadays, people browse the internet on their phone, more often than not. It is vital that your website will still be as appealing and readable on a phone’s screen or tablet’s screen. Naturally, designers need to know how to translate the grid system on a mobile-sized screen.

Fonts

Selecting the most appropriate font is important though sometimes some people take this for granted. Designers know that the face of a web page can look drastically different with just a change of font.

Years ago, in the earlier days of the internet, browsers were not capable of supporting that many fonts. Most fonts that could be used on a webpage were the ones installed on the word processing software. If designers used any other type of font, the website would not be able to show the text properly. These days, however, browsers have definitely expanded their list of supported fonts. Modern browsers have adapted font-face embedding that allow for more web-safe font options.

While it is always good to have more options to choose from, designers can sometimes get stuck on deciding which font to choose. With such a wide array of fonts, it can seem nearly impossible to decide on just one or two. There are a lot of nice free fonts too so it can get quite confusing.

To give you an idea on how to choose, here are a few rules to consider. First, make sure that you use only two or three fonts. The more different types of fonts on a website, the more cluttered it is going to look. Just like with color, your selected fonts need to harmonize with each other. You can’t just choose two types of completely different fonts and think they are going to work. Not all font types go well with one another. It might take some trial and error to get the right pair but it is important that you do so.

Next, serif fonts (fonts with a small line at the end of a stroke) are usually for headlines and titles. Like with every rule, there are exceptions but typically serif fonts make for better headlines since they will be bigger in size. Smaller size serif fonts are harder to read which is why sans-serif fonts are reserved for body text.

Lastly, you should always keep in mind the size of the font files. Do not take up too much space otherwise you might just slow the loading time of your site.

10 Beautiful and Inventive Websites

The quality of websites these days have definitely gone up. Designers have more resources now and more competition to encourage them to go the extra mile to stand out. We have compiled a short list of jaw-dropping websites that are both visually appealing but also extremely functional and clever.

Heliom (heliom.ca)

Unsurprisingly, this website for a web design company is quite breathtaking. Compared to other websites on this list, heliom is minimalistic, relying more on shapes and lines instead of images and illustrations. Because of this as well as its black-and-white theme, the website has an avant-garde quality to it that makes it a delight to explore.

Alchemy Digital (alchemy.digital)

Another web design agency with a superb website. Alchemy Digital has an extraordinary web design that utilizes organic shapes, gorgeous photography, and subtle motion. As you scroll down, the background color changes to reveal new information about the agency. The website is clever yet still simple enough to convey its message as concisely as possible. It is clean and appears deceptively effortless. Alchemy Digital’s web design demonstrates to its visitors exactly what potential clients should expect from the agency.

Superfine Bakery (superfinebakery.com)

When you are in the business of selling a luxury product or service, the best way to attract customers or clients is to show them the best of what you can offer. Superfine Bakery is a custom cake boutique that does exactly that on its website. The emphasis on the stunning photos of their artisan cakes reassures customers of the bakery’s commitment to the craft. The user interface is also easy enough to navigate so anyone – even those who do not frequent the internet as much – can explore the website and place an order.

Distance to Mars (distancetomars.com)

This particular website is quite interesting and unique in this list. It does not appear to be a company website nor a personal blog. Simply put, this website simply informs the visitor how far Mars is if we use pixels to measure the distance. The design and concept is incredibly clever. The small illustrations and pervasive interaction makes this website a real treat for those who love outer space and for web designers. There is not much content or color on the page but it still succeeds in immersing the visitor in its central theme. The way this website executes its message is really creative and could inspire designers to do the same.

Crypton Trading (crypton.trading)

This cryptocurrency trading hub will warm any tech-savvy visitor’s heart with its inventive design. Crypton Trading’s homepage might seem brutally minimalistic (all black background with white text) however the page’s greeting appears on the screen one letter at a time, seemingly as though it was typed by Crypton. Then a small animated arrow pointing down directs you to keep scrolling where you will learn more about the website’s services, accentuated by sharp and colourful illustrations that move the farther down you go. Crypton Trading is highly lauded for its web design and development and anyone who visits the page can see why.

Mad Rouge (madrougebeauty.com)

With so many e-commerce websites, companies (especially small businesses) have to fight to be noticed in the market. There are plenty of beauty product companies as well as kids’ entertainment services but Mad Rouge is an interesting combination of the two. The company offers to teach kids (and adults) the science of make-up at any kind of party. The mostly image-heavy page gives visitors a pretty good idea on what the company. The photos highlight the fun process of learning how to create make-up and entice the visitor to learn more.

Boat Studio (boat-studio.com)

This advertising and web design company’s website has an ingenious way of showing visitors how they can add color to any kind of product. Boat Studio has an arrangement of monochrome images displayed and when the visitor hovers over a certain image, it slowly changes into a colored image. The message is pretty literal enough to understand. It is a simple method but quite effective. The photos themselves are quite artistic and well-executed. Moreover, you learn more about the company as you scroll down, ending with a bright blue footer that tells those interested who to contact and other pertinent information.

Built by Buffalo (builtbybuffalo.com)

Yet another web design and development company with a beautiful website. Built by Buffalo has a modest web design, utilizing a flat design with hexagons to display its recent clientele. The color palette is quite pleasing to the eyes as well with its subdued blues and reds. Additionally, the way the website presents its statistics is creative. The circular data panels that are animated once you scroll down is reminiscent of a car’s dashboard where you can see how fast you are driving and so on. It is little touches like that that give websites an extra punch that leaves any visitor impressed.

Lorenzo Verzini (lorenzoverzini.com)

Another website with a stunning flat design. Lorenzo Verzini is an Italian designer and his website showcases his artistic skill in a different medium. The bright colors blend beautifully, each section is clean, elegant, and creative all at once, and, most importantly, the website is easy to explore. A particularly charming detail added was the small animated eye on the About section of the page. The way the eye blink and peers around gives the otherwise static page life. Scroll further down to the Contact Information section and you will find another small animated illustration, a cheeky bird that also doubles as a locator icon.

JOHO’s Bean (johos.at)

Lastly, we have this gorgeous and interactive website by JOHO’s Bean. The page is a combination of video and sound engineering, each section telling you every step of the coffee bean’s journey. The website is quite immersive and emotional. Anyone would be incredibly impressed by the way this website manages to unravel a compelling story from a simple coffee bean.

Final Thoughts

Web design is undoubtedly very important for any kind of website to succeed. No matter how big your company is or how unique and important your message is, people simply will not think twice about your website if you do not put that much thought on the page’s design. People value a good website so you need to be creative and inventive to earn your audience’s approval.

It may be a complicated task but a well designed website is worth it.

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