Digital Marketing

The Ultimate Guide to Website Design Best Practices in 2021

The importance of your website cannot be understated. It’s the heart of your digital marketing.

Without it, all that effort you put into increasing your traffic and finding that lead is futile.

As with all technology, website design best practices are ever-changing. What was great in 2001 and 2011 is not great in 2021.

This is why we’ve put together our ultimate guide to website design best practices.

Website Design Best Practices in 2021

So often, people think improving website design revolves around aesthetics.

How your site looks matters, what is far more important is the usability of your site. Think about it this way. If your site looks stunning but nothing works, what’s the purpose of it?

It isn’t only for your users either. Google is putting more and more emphasis on the usability of your site. In fact, they announced yet another update for 2021 revolving around page experience and usability.

This means sites that aren’t designing with usability and user-friendliness in mind will suffer in the search engine ranking positions.

There are many different factors to consider regarding usability in website design. So many we couldn’t possibly cover them all, but we’ll cover the most important ones.

Mobile-Friendly

It’s estimated that more than half of all online traffic worldwide is from mobile devices. This is only expected to rise.

That’s why Google took a mobile-first approach to indexing back in 2019. This means when Google’s bot is assessing the usability of your site, it looks at the mobile version.

Despite these two facts, many businesses do not take the same approach.

By this we mean, when they’re designing their site, they focus on the desktop version of the design. In reality, this should be a second priority to the mobile version.

Professional best practices dictate you follow the same mobile-first approach Google does. This helps avoid so many issues with fonts, image sizes, functionality, and so on later down the line.

Responsive Design

To those not in the know, responsive design can sound like a bit of a buzzword. But it should be the industry standard.

Think about how many different devices your users might use. So not just desktop, laptops, or tablets, but all the different types available. Different browsers and screen sizes all need to be considered.

It’s enough to give any web designer a headache. That is until responsive design comes in.

Responsive design makes sure your website adjusts to all the different combinations of browsers, devices, and screen sizes. So whatever they access your site from, the experience is the same.

This is so important for usability. Without responsive design, you end up with broken elements users can’t interact with or elements that jump as the page loads incorrectly.

Responsive design resolves all these kinds of issues. It helps you give a better experience all around, whatever the device. Your customers will love you for it and so will Google.

Images

Humans are, of course, visual creatures. Most of us are far more likely to enjoy images than long blocks of text.

So your site should have images — lots of them in fact. But there are some good rules to follow.

Your images should be high-quality. This means sharp, clear resolution with stunning visuals. Don’t throw an image in for the sake of an image.

This means avoid dull, overused stock images. Users don’t really appreciate them and they’re often bulky image files.

The second bit matters more than the first. Huge image files create a bad user experience. They’re one of the most common culprits for slow site load times.

In general, even for huge background images, you should avoid images larger than 1MB. Anything over this is going to start to affect your page load speeds.

It’s becoming increasingly popular to have videos where images once were on homepages and landing pages. They’re a great option to increase conversions as engaging content.

It’s best to keep videos as short as possible. You can use seamless looping footage that creates the illusion of longer footage for this. If not, you should try and keep videos to 30 seconds and less than 2MB in size.

Accessibility for All

After decades of campaigning, web accessibility is finally becoming a mainstream agenda.

Ask yourself this — how accessible is your current site? Could someone differently-abled use it with ease?

If not, you need to consider improving your website design. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states all commercial websites need to be compliant with web accessibility guidelines. But it’s not just about meeting requirements.

In reality, without considering web accessibility in your design, you’re excluding a huge potential audience immediately.

No Guesswork Needed

We’ve given you some tips on website design improvement, but there are actually easier ways to get insightful data, unique to your website thanks to digital experience analytics.

You can use these tools to get data into how people are using your website and discover where the strengths and weaknesses are. This means you can design your website based on actionable data, as opposed to guessing what your customers want to see.

Brands that design based on data are the ones striding ahead of their competitors. They use things like heatmaps and session replays to figure out patterns of how users experience their site. These digital experience analytics allow them to fix granular issues that would otherwise go unnoticed, allowing them to continually improve.

You can find out more about digital experience analytics in this step-by-step guide.

User-Friendly, Data-Driven Design

Website design best practices for 2021 are obvious. Design for usability first, with responsive, accessible web design. If possible, website owners should also be led by data through digital experience analytics.

We have lots more digital marketing articles on our site about website design that you might find helpful before you go.

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