If you’re not a pro, designing or redesigning your website can be an overwhelming task. And with so many features and flashy elements available, it’s easy to get swept away and want “one of everything”.

So we’ve rounded up our five top tips for creating beautiful websites that aren’t just pretty to look at, but also provide your customers with what they want.

1. Navigation

Customers expect to find everything they’re looking for within seconds of arriving at your homepage, so make this easy by placing your navigation in a prominent location. Whether you opt for vertical or horizontal navigation, it should be instantly recognisable to your website viewers.

Use clear wording and keep the number of items on your navigation bar to a minimum - too many options will look cluttered and will only confuse your customers. If your website is page-heavy and you must utilise multiple levels of navigation, it’s a good idea to feature breadcrumbs, which is basically a visual representation of where they are on the site, so that users can easily track their location on your site.

Image: example of breadcrumbs

2. Responsive Design (or how to make sure your site works on mobile)

In the last few years, viewing the web using mobile devices has become part of our everyday experience: whether you’re on a train, in a waiting room or just killing time, chances are you have your mobile or tablet within arm’s reach to do some web browsing. 

It makes sense then, to build a website that’s able to respond to the hardware it’s being viewed on. Responsive design is basically a website that is coded to adapt to the needs of the users and the devices they’re using. This means if your customer switches from viewing your site from their desktop to their mobile, the elements on the page resize to display correctly on the smaller screen.

3. Fonts

Considering text is how we predominantly communicate on websites, it makes a lot of sense to devote time to getting the typography (arrangement of fonts) on your site just right. Choosing a unique font for your logo might work perfectly for your brand, but on the web it’s all about readability, so always go for simplicity and a legible font over an elaborate option. 

Embrace contrast and make sure the colour of your text is either significantly lighter or darker than your background so that it’s easy to read. And always consider font size - a smaller font might look cool, but if your customers are squinting in order to understand what you’re selling, you’re won’t be scoring any points.

4. Find a colour scheme that works for your brand, and stick with it

When it comes to colours, unless you’re running a fancy dress shop specialising in unicorns, less is always more. Always aim for between two to four colours. For professional colour usage, be consistent across your whole site, choose colours that contrast well for easy readability, and always use web smart colours to ensure your chosen shade looks the same across all screens and devices. Check out this Colour Scheme Designer to get some ideas on which colours work well together.

You should also look at colours as a way to inspire emotions, but be aware some colours will resonate differently across different cultures, so if your audience is an international one, you might need to do a bit of extra research. For example, in China, red represents good luck and celebration, but in South Africa, it’s the colour of mourning.

5. Choose unique, engaging images that tell your brand’s story in a relatable way

Images are what jump out first to your visitor’s eyes, so choosing interesting and engaging photos to impress them is very important. Just think of what goes through your mind when you visit a website featuring generic images. Airbrushed models with million dollar smiles might look great on a website selling cosmetics, but probably less so for a local plumbing company.

Invest in high quality, authentic photography, either by hiring a professional photographer or by selectively choosing stock images that inspire an emotional connection with your brand.

Check out these popular Stock Image websites: Shutterstock, iStock, Offset, Big Stock Photo.
(Note: Purchasing stock images is often cheaper than hiring a photographer, but the drawback is that the images downloaded will not be exclusive to you).

This post is for educational purposes only. Google / The Digital Garage does not endorse any 3rd party brands mentioned.

Make the most of your website by signing up to our free 'Build your web presence' lessons: