What Makes a Website Well Designed?

By Anna Johansson
Published 07/30/2019
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Every business owner wants a well-designed website, but what does that phrase even mean?

Design is partially in the eye of the beholder, but there are also some objective qualities that can make a site “better” than another. For example, if you see a site utilizing fonts and colors straight out of the early 90s and compare it to a sleek, intuitive site from the modern era, there’d be no question about which is better designed.

You can also review some of the best website designs in Singapore, the United States, and other technologically advanced countries to learn by example what makes for a “well-designed” site. But let’s try to break the entire concept down.

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Best Website Goals

A good design is, by some standards, one that helps you achieve the goals of your website. Those goals may vary, depending on the nature of your business and what your main objectives are, but these are some of the most common:

  • Conversions. By far the most common goal of a website is to secure more conversions, which requires some degree of conversion optimization. Conversions come in many varieties; for example, you could be getting people to buy one of your products, or encouraging them to sign up for an email newsletter.
  • Information conveyance. You may also simply want to spread information. For example, you might be trying to raise awareness of a specific cause, so your end goal is simply getting people to read or otherwise consume the information you provide.
  • Engagement. Other sites thrive on getting their users to function as a community, posting content or engaging with each other. In these cases, a “good” design is one that makes it easy to contribute.

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Fundamentals of the Best Websites

Most of these goals share commonalities in web design fundamentals. These design qualities can help you achieve almost any end goal:

  • Functionality. First and foremost, a site must be designed with functionality in mind. If it’s so bogged down with images and videos that it takes many seconds to load, your design will be working against you. It also needs to be compatible with the largest number of devices, operating systems, and browsers possible; if users can’t even access your site without getting error messages, you won’t be able to achieve your goals.
  • Intuitiveness. Websites also need to be intuitive, even for users unfamiliar with the web. For example, an effective navigation bar makes it obvious where your pages are located and how to get there. Engagement opportunities and links aren’t hidden, or located in an unfamiliar spot; instead, they follow some baseline conventions, or are obvious to amateur users.
  • Originality. There are billions of websites in existence, and many of them rely on the same types of templates. If you’re going to be successful in winning new visitors and getting them to engage with your content, you need to have something more original. That doesn’t mean you can (or should) intentionally break the norms of web design, but there should be some unique flavor to your site.
  • Readability. Readability is huge, especially for sites focused on providing quality content. For text to be readable, it needs to be placed intelligently, in a reasonable font, and in a color that stands out from the background. Your font can be unique, but it can’t be stylized in a way that makes it hard to read. Similarly, you can choose font colors other than black (on a light background) or white (on a dark one), but it needs to stand out easily.
  • Open space. For the most part, white space is a good thing. Extra space on your website makes it easier to read content and is easier on the eyes of your users. It also prevents you from trying to cram too much into a given space, which would otherwise give your site a heavily crowded feel.
  • Segmentation. Users should find it easy to get from one section of your site to another, and they should find it easy to distinguish between those sections. Accordingly, most well-designed websites have a segmented feel; they arrange paragraphs and content in blocks and columns.
  • Consistency. A good website is also internally consistent. The branding is obvious from an external perspective and doesn’t vary from page to page. You’ll be using the same colors, the same fonts, and the same design standards across the entire domain, giving users a sense of familiarity.

While there are some objective markers of a “well-designed” website, web design is still largely a subjective issue. Once you get more familiar with web design, don’t be afraid to bend or break some of the rules. Sometimes, the most impressive sites are the ones that defy the norm—yet still give users everything they need to succeed.