With thanks to our guest blogger, Monica Plunkett of Halibut Creative

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Steve Jobs

Contrary to popular belief, we designers are not just about making things look pretty. Whether it’s a brochure, poster or website, great design is actually about communicating effectively. Design should make something work so well that the user doesn’t even question it.

So as far as websites go, what makes for good design?

We’ve listed 10 basic principles below, that will not only make your website look fantastic, but will ensure it is easy to use, engaging, and effective.

1. Your website’s PURPOSE should be clear

Good web design should always be focused on the target market and their requirements. Are they looking for information? Are they shopping? Or do they want entertainment?

2. COMMUNICATE clearly

These days people are used to getting information quickly. Your website should contain information that is easy to read and easy to understand.

3. Make it easy to NAVIGATE

Use a logical page hierarchy, breadcrumbs (which show the pages that have led the user to where they are now), and clickable buttons to help people find their way!

4. Make it easy to NAVIGATE VISUALLY

As far as the layout and design goes, it’s important to consider where the user will look first, and where the logical place is for their eye to move to next.

Eye tracking studies have identified that people scan computer screens in an “F” pattern. Most of what they look at is in the top and left of the screen, while the right side of the screen is rarely seen. Work with a reader’s natural behaviour and display information in order of importance (left to right, and top to bottom).

5. Get your LAYOUT right

Much like designing a brochure, placing content randomly on your web page can result in a messy appearance that is hard to understand and might actually deter the viewer from looking further. ‘Grid’ based layouts are much more effective (and better looking), and work to arrange content into sections, columns and boxes that line up and feel balanced.

6. Find a FONT that fits

In general, sans serif fonts (such as Arial) are easier to read than serif fonts (like Times) for online reading. There are some great ‘web fonts’ out there that are clean and easy to read, yet still have ‘personality’, and just like any medium, there is an ideal font size for reading easily.

7. COLOUR can change everything

Colour creates mood, and the wrong mood can make or break a website. It’s also important to keep in mind that your website is an extension of your existing brand, so consistency in your colour palette is crucial.

8. IMAGE is everything

Choosing the right images for your website is crucial to creating a great first impression. If you don’t have your own high quality professional photos, there are some great online stock photo libraries available with great images.

9. It needs to LOAD QUICKLY

Make sure the images you use are at an optimised size and scale, and avoid adding flash animations (which don’t work on mobile devices).

10. Make sure it’s RESPONSIVE

And finally, your website must look its best, in whatever environment it’s being viewed in. ‘Responsive’ means the layout will adjust to suit whatever device it’s being viewed on – smart phone, iPad, whatever. A good web designer should be able to maintain a consistent style and strong brand across all of these platforms, whilst adjusting the layout to maximise the available space.