20 Web Design Best Practices for Professional Sites

web design best practices

Web design is a complex and continuously evolving field. To be successful, it must seamlessly blend artistic sensibilities and science. And while there aren’t always “right answers,” there are a lot of well-established best practices.

This isn’t to say every business, nonprofit, agency, or other brand website should look like all the others. In some respects, of course it’s good to stand out. But website visitors have deeply ingrained expectations about particular aspects of using a website that come from the sheer number of sites they visit and the amount of time they spend using them.

Sometimes, breaking a rule can be a powerful tool for a brand and its on-site user experience. It’s risky territory, though; you’d better know what you’re doing, have a smart reason for doing it, and be confident that your target audience won’t be turned off by it. Far more often than not, violating key expectations makes for an unpleasant user experience and can create trust issues between your brand and its public.

So, when evaluating the strength of your website or having one built or redesigned, look for whether the following 20 web design best practices have been implemented.

What Visitors Expect on Your Brand’s Website

  1. Responsive design if they’re accessing your site from a mobile device
  1. Your brand’s logo in the top left corner of the screen
  1. Contact information or a link to a Contact page near the top right of the screen
  1. These standard website pages
  1. The main navigation menu running horizontally along the top of the screen
  1. Intuitive navigation
  1. Navigational consistency from page to page
  1. The purpose of each page made obvious as soon as they land there
  1. Your value proposition high up on the Home page
  1. High-quality, relevant images on each page
  1. Images thoughtfully selected to add interest and value to the page
  1. Print that’s big enough, in a legible font, and not obscured by background colors or patterns
  1. Dark lettering over a paler background
  1. No more than three or four colors on a page
  1. Enough empty space around content and images to prevent a cluttered appearance
  1. Text that’s not in large blocks and that can be quickly scanned for desired information
  1. Clear calls to action (CTAs) for taking a logical next step from any page
  1. Easily located icon links to your organization’s social media pages (typically in the footer)
  1. A place to sign up for your mailing list on all or most site pages
  1. One or more common trust signals

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