It’s true, some people just have a natural eye for design. They can look at a site and intuitively know whether a site is well designed or not – and what to change to make it better. But most people don’t have that gift, so it’s important to understand the principles that make up good web design:
Good Design has Good Bones (structure)
A successful website starts with good bones. Just like us, if a site has weak bones, nothing else works well. Knowing the basics of web design theory will help you immensely. Having a simple structure to work within can make the first steps of designing a new websites much easier to navigate. Choose a website grid that meets the needs of your project and stick with it. Don’t break your own rules.
Good Design Sends a Clear Message (branding)
Even the most beautiful website can fall flat if your site does not convey a clear and consistent message to your viewers. This is where investing a little time and money into your branding can really pay off. Take the time to plan and design a beautiful logo for your organization. Choose a color scheme that can be used across platforms to carry your message. I know that many parishes and schools don’t feel that they can invest in a professional designer to make a branding package for them. But, a classic, timeless logo can be used for years and can help you define a professional and dedicated image to your viewers. Used well, this helps to develop relationships and involvement. Don’t underestimate the importance of branding.
Be faithful to your brand. If you have thought about your style, paid for a logo and come up an overall ‘look’ for your site, stick with it. I’ve seen the most beautiful designs ruined by someone coming in a month later and adding it hastily designed ads or sliders graphics that conflict with the rest of the site. Be sure that whomever creates graphics for your site has a very clear understanding of your website’s style. That may mean turning down volunteers who want to help update the Church’s website.
Good Design has Personality (color, graphics, typography)
Good design, like interesting people, has personality! Make good use of color, graphics and typography to make your site unique. Are you based in the south? Use images and fonts that identify with your culture. Do you have a unique mission or service area? Think of images, colors and typography that echoes that mission. Taking the time to think about WHO you are can work wonders to give your web presence a unique personality.
Your color, graphics and typography need to enhance your branding and work well within the framework of your site structure. On color, be careful! The safest way to use color well, is to use your featured color from your branding, and then use variations of that color for your accents. You might want to learn a little bit more about color theory. Color palettes can be helpful, but too many colors all over a website can easily become disjointed and obnoxious. Choose one color that you want to focus on and work around that!
Good Design is Purposeful
Good design always has a purpose! The design of your site should move your viewers toward your goal, not distract them from it. If you want people to come to sign up for a service or event, then your graphics should direct the eye to that action. If you want people to become more involved in your community, then your grid, graphics and text should easily and clearly direct your viewers to a welcome message, event schedules and resources. Is your website is content focused? Make sure that your content pages are clean and easy to read. Your font style and size should make reading easy. You shouldn’t have a distracting pattern in the background.
Design is more than just ‘what you think is pretty’. Design always serves a purpose – directing your viewer toward your end goal. Everything should work toward that goal. When design works WITH you, your website will be more successful than you ever thought possible!