Web design is the art that gives life to the online world.
It gives websites and web apps definition and color that make them attractive and easy to work with for the users.
If you are thinking about pursuing web design, it is important to get started on the essential basics first before you get to the hardcore stuff so that you have a fairly easy time getting a good grasp of it.
In this beginner’s guide to web design, I will be walking you through everything you need to know about web design including what it is, how it works, its benefits, how to get started with it, tips to keep in mind for success, common mistakes beginners make and frequently asked questions about it.
So roll your sleeves and let’s dive right in.
What is Web Design
Web design is the process of creating, planning, and organizing content online. In recent times, building a website goes beyond just the aesthetics and often also includes how it functions.
People who go surfing online desire to go to attractive websites that also have a good user experience.
This means that when you are developing your website, which you hope to be accessed by millions of people every month, you need to take time to make it look appealing and easy to navigate.
Research shows that 94% of first impressions relate to your site’s web design and 75% of a website’s credibility comes from its design.
This goes on to show how much creative and quality effort needs to be directed to this aspect of a website.
Not only does having a good website design increase the value of your brand, but it also brings your business out as professional and seriously invested in the products and services it deals with and the industry at large.
And these things highly contribute to a business’s success in the online world.
How Web Design Works
As previously mentioned, the aim of web design is to improve the look and feel of a website as well as how the visitors of the website interact with it.
And the 4 aspects that make this possible are color theory, typography, user interface, and the user experience.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the aspects.
1. Color theory – This is the art and science of picking color combinations for your website or online project which help bring them out exactly the way you want them and give the right impression to the people who view them.
Different colors represent different moods and it is important to keep that in mind when you are choosing a color palette for your website.
For instance, blue represents trust, serenity, and stability, that is why you will often find most financial websites using it as part of the palette.
Most professional web designers use the color wheel and Adobe colors to play around with various colors so as to help them find suitable ones for the projects they are working on.
2. Typography – This is all about fonts. Whether you are developing a WordPress or Joomla website, or even developing a website from scratch by coding, you have to seriously consider the fonts you want your website to have as they also add to the overall impression a website gives.
There are 2 main families, the Serif and the Sans-serif families.
The Serif family carries fonts that usually have sharp edges like the Times New Roman, Courier New, and Georgia.
The Sans-serif family, on the other hand, has right-angled edges. Examples of fonts in this family are Helvetica and Arial.
Like colors, fonts also give off certain moods or vibes and it is always good practice to combine two fonts, one from the Serif family and the other from the Sans-serif family on your website that both have the moods that match the purpose of your website.
3. User interface – This is pretty much what the visitor or user of a website sees and interacts with on the website.
As a web designer, you should design your website in such a way that the users get to see what you feel is important and most beneficial to them.
You make this possible by using lots of white space, keeping in mind the age of the target audience, and using colors, layouts, and content alignment that best fits them.
For example, when you are designing a website for kids, you should consider using graphics and designs that attract kids.
4. User experience – Just as the name suggests, user experience is all about optimizing the experience of the user when they come to your website.
Here, you focus on keeping things easy to work with so that the user flows with the website naturally and don’t have to struggle to get to the pages they want to view.
For a good user experience, keeping the content and layout of your website consistent and simple is the way to go.
Why Web Design is Important
~ Reflects the image of the brand
When it comes to branding as a business, how well you design your website, dictates how much you stand out as a brand.
What people say and what impression they get when they first visit your website is what will determine how long they will stay on the website and how comfortable they will be with coming back to check out what you deal with in terms of products and services.
~ Sets apart a brand from another
In every industry, there are many people or businesses competing to dominate.
And as we all know, the online audience carries a huge deal of exposure and market for these businesses.
And while your competitors are doing exactly what you are doing to grow their brand as well, how good you are at web design or how much skilled manpower you employ will help to give your business an edge.
Choosing colors, fonts, and a user interface that uniquely identifies with your brand and sets you apart as an authority is what will make you be more preferred than your competitors.
~ Increase sales and profits for a business
When it comes to exposure, most popular search engines such as Google and Bing give more preference to those websites that are well optimized for the user or visitors.
Imagine you have a website that is a business-based platform where you showcase your services and wish to get more purchases from the site.
If the site has a good user experience, does quality business, is customer sensitive, and the few visitors who come there love it, the search engines will notice that and will put your website in front of an even bigger audience.
This will translate to more engagement and increased sales that will then boost your profits.
How to Get Started With Web Design
How you set foot into web design pretty much depends on your reason for wanting to do it and the level of depth you want to be involved in it.
There are many levels at which you can do web design.
You can learn the deepest level where you use programming languages such as CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and Bootstrap that help you create customized designs for your website.
You can also choose to use website builders such as Squarespace, WordPress, Shopify, Google Sites, Builderall, and Wix among others. This route is for people who want a fairly easy way out.
You can use a lot of inbuilt functionalities within these builders that help you style your website much faster.
You also have the option of using design software like Sketch, Adobe InDesign, and others.
This is just as similar to using website builders only that the software is dedicated to designing purposes only meaning they have more design options, unlike website builders that also include website coding and other web-based services like domains and such.
If you were to ask me, I would recommend you go for the deepest level, that is, learning the programming languages for design.
This is because you get more flexibility and room for exploring your creative skills as opposed to other options where you are limited to what has been provided by the builder or software.
On top of that, you will be able to work with design software and website builders smoothly because you will know what is happening behind the scenes when you take certain steps when designing your website.
However, it is entirely up to you which route you want to take.
Tips to Become Successful With Web Design
Take a quick course on web design
You can choose to take an online course or go to a local college in your neighborhood to learn. It will only take you a few months to learn the basics. If you can’t manage to pay for these options, you can work with YouTube channels and websites that are specific to web design, as the last option.
These will give you some ground although they will not teach you all you should know.
But hey, a little something is better than nothing, right?
Do lots of practice
Practice makes perfect. As you learn, and even after you are done with the course, make an effort of doing regular practice and building your portfolio.
Take on design challenges and push yourself to the next level by going out of your comfort zone and learning new things in this area every so often.
Research on latest web designs and generally seek to keep learning more on web design and ensure you stay updated on current affairs and incorporate the same on your website. That is how you sharpen your skills.
Focus on the mobile-friendliness of your website
We are in an era where people are using their smartphones to go online more than they use their computers and laptops.
At the moment, mobile searches are much higher than desktop searches. And since you have to optimize your business to compete where the big numbers are, you should ensure that your website looks and works well on mobile devices.
Make your design plans before you start working
I cannot emphasize this enough.
If you don’t want to have confusion or frustrations as you are working on any project, try to make plans beforehand.
Write down what you intend to do, the things you will need, and the action plan broken down into small doable steps like a to-do list. This makes your life way easier than if you just went for it without planning.
Don’t forget SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Remember me saying that if your website design is great search engines are going to notice you and expose your website to more people?
Well, SEO is what makes it happen.
See, there are certain design factors like user experience and others that search engines consider awesome for a good website experience for the visitors of any website.
And if you consider these factors when creating your website, you will be rewarded with good rankings in search engine listings and get more exposure in return.
Common Mistakes Made in Web Design
1. Failure to pay attention to the general outlook of the website
Your website’s general appearance matters a great deal.
When people come to your website, the mental image they get of your website determines whether they will respect what you tell them and follow it and if they will do business with you.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to go all out on the design. No, you can have a simple but classic design that is more focused on giving the visitors a wonderful experience.
Most people just focus on what they are selling and fail to work on how their websites look as well. You wouldn’t visit a shop that has sewage that is passing outside the shop and getting inside the shop, no matter how high quality their products are.
2. Doing too much
Building on the point in the previously discussed mistake, there is such a thing as overdoing in web design.
This includes adding countless unnecessary photos and texts, amongst other things that often lead to overcrowding.
I have seen websites stuffed with columns of content and colors, and with every page having different fonts. This confuses visitors because they cannot really get through what is trying to be communicated. There are just so many unnecessary bells and whistles that distract them from their main reason for visiting the site.
It is good to keep in mind that while the design is important, visitors don’t come to check out a website’s design. They come to do something on a website and the design adds to the overall value of the website.
So, optimize the design in a way that allows the visitors to achieve their main objective while they appreciate its beauty.
Strike a good balance between not doing too much and not doing too little.
3. Poor CTA (Call-to-Action) techniques
A Call to Action (CTA) is important because it allows you to tell your visitors what they should do with the information you are sharing with them. Examples of CTAs include “Buy now”, “Subscribe”, “Make Your Order Today”.
Some designers place their CTAs in the wrong place and thus lose out on many opportunities to make money.
It is always important to add them at the point where your visitors have been fully informed about a service or product you are selling and they are ready to buy.
There are also other points you can place them after you have raised your visitors’ interest and credibility and you have gained their attention and trust.
4. Making navigation through your website hard
This is another not-so-encouraging aspect that keeps readers away from your website. No one ever wants to struggle to get something on a website they don’t even own when there are so many other websites out there.
You ideally want to make the navigation of your website simple and easy to use for someone who is just discovering about websites or someone who is slowly getting acquainted with the technology.
There is a user experience method known as KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) that really converts well for websites, and you should consider working with it on your design projects.
5. Failure to make available your contact information
For a website that hopes to get the readers to reach out to them for various reasons, this is among the mistakes that should never be done.
Contact information is part of a good user experience and if you want your visitors to go from “Man, this is the kind of business I want to make my orders from” to “I am definitely buying from these guys again”, you will want to pay attention to your contact page.
First of all, see that you have a “Contact Us” page and that it has everything that your visitors might need including all your phone numbers, social media pages, and email addresses.
In case you change any information in there, make sure that you immediately update it so that there isn’t any confusion.
6. Placing ads in all the wrong places
We are in a period in time when almost everyone is tired of ads getting in their way when they are doing something online.
We all know that ads can easily make accessing a website very difficult, and as such, you don’t want to boggle visitors on your website with too many irrelevant and annoying ads.
Now, this doesn’t mean you completely eliminate them.
It means you take your time to identify the right places to add them.
And be extremely careful with popups too.
You should keep checking up on how they appear on your website and comprehend that if they get in your way, then they most definitely will annoy those visiting your website.
7. Slow web speed
This is another killer for your website because no one wants to spend a lifetime waiting for a website to load information.
Therefore, frequently check on the speed of your website and reduce things that slow the speed like too many unoptimized images, website cookies and cache, and poor technical optimization of your website.
8. Wrong use of white spaces
The use of lots of white space on your site makes it neat and readable, increases clarity, and gains the attention of your audience.
However, it is also crucial that you know where to make use of this. Having lots of white space on the two sides of your website, where you keep your content in the middle of the white space is the way to go.
Also, having space between your paragraphs helps.
Doing this will avoid making your website look crowded and untidy.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Web Design
Question: How much will it cost me to become an expert web designer?
Answer: It depends on the route you choose to take and other related factors. As earlier mentioned, there are different levels of web design with the root level web design being the most demanding, yet also, the most rewarding.
Now if you choose to take an online course, you might have to pay slightly higher tuition fees than the person who does it online, or the other way around. The cost also depends on which institution you go for and how much they charge to teach.
Other than the costs involved in learning, the only other costs will include getting high-quality equipment for web design to help you become an expert at your craft. And these vary with the individual as we all have different needs and desires.
Question: How long will it take for me to master web design?
Answer: It also depends. How fast you become an expert depends on the time you invest in learning and practicing, as well as the commitment you have. The more dedication, desire to learn and practice, the sooner you will become an expert and vice versa.
Question: What is the color wheel in web design?
Answer: This is a wheel that contains a spectrum of colors that are good to use in designing your web projects. There is a method you are supposed to use to come up with a great color combination that will be a good match for your website from the wheel. For example, two colors sitting next to each other in the color wheel like dark red and bright red make a good fit for navigation bars and your website’s body, not to mention your logo.