The 10 Commandments of Website Design

Posted on Posted in Thoughts

Today, let’s talk website design and aesthetics.  We have all seen sites that are, to say the least, cringe-worthy, or seem to lack functionality.  Many companies are still hiring website development companies to manage their corporate brand.  However, with the prevalence of web content management systems, some companies are creating their websites on their own.  Whether it be Wix, WordPress, Weebly, or any of the other tools, the possibilities for these sites are endless.  However, as the saying goes “with great power comes great responsibility”.  In other words, creating and maintaining the website on your own means you must be very thorough and cognizant of the individual looking at the site, and how they perceive and navigate your site.  Below are 10 Commandments of Website Design that have been written to assist you, with images that are created to protect the innocent.

Website Aesthetics:

  1. Thou shall be aware of how backgrounds and text colors work together.

    • Do not place colored text on a similarly colored background.
      Take a look at the sample above. The text disappears quickly, and you actually have to be looking for it to see it. In fact, picture reading this on a smartphone (or maybe you are right now). Less screen real estate means it can be lost even easier. You need to choose a palette that lets your text pop, rather than being lost.
    • Ensure there is good contrast between text and background colors.

      As previously stated, you must ensure there is a good contrast. The best way to do so is choose complementary colors. Make sure when you are selecting a color scheme that you have a color wheel available. This may assist in being able to determine the best colors to use on certain backgrounds.
    • Do not use excessively bright colors nor dim colors on a light background.
      When choosing those colors, remember that “bright” colors are not always “better” colors. Again, we’re looking for contrast, so if you’ve chosen, for example, a light grey background, then a bright yellow font will be lost. Try to pare dark colored backgrounds with light fonts, and vice versa. However, I would avoid using bright colored backgrounds entirely, as they may make the reader feel like you’re burning their retinas.
  2. Thou shalt not use too many fonts, and avoid using outdated fonts.
    There are two principles at play here. The first is to avoid using several fonts, but rather stick with one or two. Too many fonts can give your site an amateurish look. There are also some outdated, or non-professional fonts, to avoid. For this, refer to Laci White’s article, as she summed it up best.

Your Site Navigation:

  1. Thou shall have an easily remembered URL
    The K.I.S.S. philosophy must be used when choosing a URL. Choose a URL that is both easy to remember, but at the same time cannot be misconstrued for another site. Let’s look at the Grand Rapids law firm Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt, and Howlett. Rather than choosing a long URL name that utilizes all of their names, the law firm opted on varnumlaw.com. This URL is both simple to spell and remember. However, beware of how your site name could be misconstrued. www.choosespain.com could be either “Choose Spain” or “Chooses Pain”. www.whorepresents.com could be either “Who Represents”, or….well, you get the picture.
  2. Thou shall test all links, and ensure there are no broken/missing links (404). This includes ensuring you have easy to use navigation, and no orphan pages (pages with no navigation back to home).

    When you design and test your website, test every link on every page. Ensure that the links go somewhere, and that you do not get a 404 error. This is especially important if your site links to external resources. You will need to periodically check to ensure those pages still remain.
    You must also ensure there are no orphan pages on your site. By that, I mean that there are no pages that do not have a way to navigate back to your main site. These pages would typically be reached by using a Google search, and may be lacking navigation. Ensure that every page, at the very minimum, contains a link back to the home page.
  3. Thou shall include contact links including a contact page, and all appropriate social media icons.
    This Commandment is fairly self-explanatory. Ensure that your website contains multiple ways to contact you, and that all social media icons are present, and work. Furthermore, make sure that these sites are all updated regularly.

Your Site Content:

  1. Thou shall proofread every page of thy site to ensure there are no typos, incorrect grammar, or misleading statements.
    Your site may be the initial introduction someone has to your company. Ensure that you get off on the right foot by making sure that it is as professional and error-free as possible.
  2. Thou shall have clean breakpoints (i.e. div lines and/or/whitespace) to delineate information, and make it easy to read.
    Simply put, less is more. Make good use of white space and dividers on your site in order to not inundate the reader with a solid wall of text. Everyone has been taught to make sure there is plenty of white space and a logical flow to your resume. Your company website can be viewed as your corporate resume, and should be formatted as such by including visual breaks.
  3. Thou shall check load times on multiple devices/browsers.
    Not all computers, devices, or browsers are created equally, so it is imperative to test your site on multiple devices. This is especially true if you have both a computer viewable site and a mobile friendly site. You want the site to come up fast, clean, and easily on all devices, and not simply the one you used to design it.
  4. Thou shall keep content fresh and updated.
    Your website is one of the main internet faces of your company. You must keep the site updated in order to ensure that you do not appear to be stagnant or of date, or worse, out-of-business. How many times have you looked at a website, seen what it looks like, and wondered “Are they even still around?”.
  5. Thou shall keep SEO in mind.
    Whether you manage SEO on your own through organic growth, or hire an SEO-specialty company, ensure that your content, backlinks, and tags are geared towards SEO-optimization, and raising your rankings in Google searches.

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