The 5 Web Design Principles You Should Know in 2023
5 golden web design principles to help you guide your next website design, with many live examples
No matter the type of website, the design uses visuals and content to reinforce a brand and make it stand out as well as to provide more value than competitor websites. Consistency, layout, color schemes, typography, visuals, and functionality all contribute to the creation of an effective website that successfully serves its purpose. This is why in this blog post, we’re going to look at the 5 golden web design principles to help you guide your next website design, with many live examples.
Update Oct 2023: The UI/UX Design Trends of 2023 are out to replace minimalism with bolder, more diverse, and more experimental digital experiences. Check them out.
#1 Use Alignment to Organize Your Content
Alignment refers to lining up different design elements in relation to each other. It improves not only your typography but the overall design and scanability via consistency and logic. In order to achieve this, the best practice is to pick one style for the body section and consistently follow it.
Using consistent alignment will help you:
- Organize and avoid clutter: constantly changing alignment creates too much movement and worsen the scanability and readability of your content.
- Guide the user through the content: Consistent alignment improves scanability by organizing your content and creating predictability. The eye doesn’t need to dance all over the page, instead, it follows a straight line and makes the content easy to read.
- Creates a connection between elements: Alignment connects different parts of the design and helps navigate the user through the content.
There are a couple of ways to use alignment efficiently. Depending on the overall style, you can achieve this via the grid, center, or edge alignment.
- Grid: Start with a solid grid system to organize your content. Most design tools offer premade grid setups, so it’s pretty easy to create a logical order and structure.
- Center and edge alignment: If you opt not to use a grid system for your design, you can add consistency by aligning your content centered or edge (left or right alignment)
But also know how to break it
However, keep in mind that breaking the rules and structure on purpose can inject novelty and deliver unexpected eye-catching UI design. Many websites achieve memorable design by doing just that: purposefully breaking the grid, reverse alignments, repeating and mixing irregular patterns, or overlapping some elements to guide attention to a particular section.
In order to break the rules, first, you need to establish them. Once you’ve created a logical order and a structure, start moving elements in order to create unusual patterns. Since this practice creates serves to abruptly stop the eye’s movement in order to grab its attention, try not to overdo it. Instead, break alignment only on key sections or elements that you wish to put focus on.
Examples of organizing content with alignment:
All sections use left alignment for better structure and readability. In addition, there’s a balanced composition with an asymmetrical pattern.
This website also uses left alignment which works best for a multicolumn grid layout.
In this example, the center alignment works best for a title and balances the collage of gif images.
In this case, the modular grid organizes the content in perfectly equal columns while the text uses center alignment for better readability.
#2 Establish a Visual Hierarchy for Simple Navigation
Using a visual hierarchy for your elements will make it easier for users to access your content. The golden principles of visual hierarchy play a huge role in UI design and help designers produce great results by drawing attention to the right places.
Using visual hierarchy will help you:
- Imply importance: You can choose which elements you wish to stand out and which to keep down.
- Give focus: Hierarchy can be used to guide the user to focus on a particular element.
- Organize typography: Most importantly, visual hierarchy serves to organize your written content by increasing and decreasing the visibility of text. It’s easily applied by organizing the written content by the use of titles, headings, subheadings, body text, and CTA.
In short, a well-planned hierarchy hitches the audience to the actions you expect them to take. There are a couple of ways to enforce this principle and use it to your advantage:
- Size and scale: The larger the element, the more likely the user will see it. Move the most important elements toward the top of the hierarchy while elements that aren’t important should be made smaller.
- Color and contrast: Colors can be used as a tool to highlight an element or a section. For example, if you use a black-and-white color scheme for the overall design of your website, a warm color will definitely pop against a dark background, while a cool color will stand out against a light one.
- Typography: When it comes to fonts, you can create a hierarchy through font size, width, colors, spacing, and content position. These methods will establish contrast and highlight the key information you wish your audience to pay attention to.
- Reading patterns: Create predictability through reading patterns. The most efficient patterns that the human eye will follow easily are the F-pattern (across the top of the page to read the headlines, then down the left side of the page) and the Z-pattern (across the top of the page from left to right).
Examples of organizing content with visual hierarchy:
This website creates a huge contrast between the different elements through a very distinctive visual hierarchy. The headline is significantly bigger than the first section’s title, and the animation, while the navigation labels are significantly smaller than anything else.
Here we have a standard hierarchy of a title, a subtitle, icons, column titles, and body text, which instantly shows us what to read first and which content is more important.
In this case, the most important element on top of the hierarchy are the animated image and hero title, followed by the logo, the CTA buttons, the navigation labels, and last, the body text.
You can also create a distinctive hierarchy on a much smaller scale. Although the page title has a smaller size in comparison to most websites, it still contrasts well with the section titles and the body text.
Thomson focuses on the visuals so the artistic high-quality product photo takes the undisputed top of the hierarchy before anything else.
#3. Make it Accessible
While visual aesthetics are essential in designing a logo, website, or poster, they can often be a detriment to people with visual impairments.
Many people who have eyesight issues or a color-blind to some degree can have issues finding details that are usually there for people to see. This can create a negative user experience, so here’s how to avoid it.
How to make your design accessible:
- Keyboard Navigation: Helps users with limited mobility to jump between buttons and links using the tab key and “clicking” with the enter key.
- Alt-Text: Gives a text equivalent for visual and auditory page elements.
- Color Contrast: Accessible websites eliminate contrast errors for a ratio of less than 4.5:1 with the background.
- Clear Links: Using meaningful text for hyperlinks.
- Scalable Text: This allows users to increase the size of text up to 200% without disruption to the page layout.
Examples of accessible websites:
Built by Silo shows a great example of attractive visuals and accessibility. Users can scroll down and experience the cool animations and parallaxes while jumping from navigational links to projects to contact information.
The same website also uses high color contrast, lots of white space, and simple readable fonts, which helps to make the website more accessible to everyone.
Many websites advanced functionality for accessibility that allows visitors to turn on XL oversize widgets, change contrast, highlight links, pause animations, adjust the line height, change text-align, make the text dyslexia friendly, etc.
#4. Create Balance
Balancing your layout refers to the distribution of the visual weights of elements such as objects, colors, and white space. A balanced composition of the layout is not only aesthetically pleasing but also gives a sense of stability and logic.
Using a balanced composition will help you:
- Create a conversion path: A balanced layout gives a clear path on where the eye should go and will tell users which piece of content holds more importance than the others. An unbalanced layout where one area completely overpowers other areas will disrupt the conversion path.
- Help users understand your design: When the importance of elements is balanced, users will easily scan and read your content and will intuitively know where to go. In contrast, if you put too much emphasis on a particular element, their focus will be shifted to the imbalance of the design rather than the element itself.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t make some elements focal points, such as headlines, CTA buttons, clickable objects, or blocks of elements. Focal points serve to be the very first thing your visitors will see. As they are a powerful tool for some elements to establish dominance on the page, you can’t use them to emphasize every aspect of your content. Balance is key.
There are 3 types of balance in web design:
- Symmetrical balance: Everything reloves and reflects around the vertical axis of the center of the page. Think of it as a mirror image where the elements on both sides of the centerline are similar in size and weight.
- Asymmetrical balance: The equilibrium comes from balancing visually heavy elements on one side with a number of lighter elements on the other. This creates an equal visual weight on each side of the center.
- Radial balance: The elements radiate out from the central point while their visual weight is distributed equally. This way they lead to the very center creating a strong point of attraction.
Examples of balanced compositions:
The heading and gallery make a symmetrical balance with equally distributed weight on both sides and focus on the center.
Here’s an example of a radial balance in the more literal sense where the elements radiate out from the central point.
This section has an asymmetrical composition where the image is the focal point and it’s perfectly balanced with the text elements on the other side.
Here we have a more obvious example of asymmetrical balance where the heaviest element (the laptop) is balanced by two smaller elements (the journal and the coffee mug).
World’s famous graphics uses radial balance where the objects radiating around the title lead to the very center creating a strong point of attraction.
#5. Web Design is Marketing
Ultimately, your website serves a particular purpose. Whether it’s an eCommerce platform where you sell products, a portfolio that describes your expertise or promotes services, or it serves to generate leads, its design is the prime marketing tool. No matter the type of website, the design uses visuals and content to reinforce a brand and make it stand out as well as to provide more value than competitor websites.
When you start planning your information architecture and design, you first think of the website’s purpose and who is the website for. You conduct research and get input from potential users. This saves you from the risk of working based on assumptions, and therefore, the risk of designing your website in the wrong direction.
There’s always intention behind any web design and there are specifics of a marketing strategy to beat the competition.
To Sum Up
We hope breaking down the 5 golden web design principles inspired you to create new appealing and fresh designs to represent your brand. These principles will guide you to create a sense of unity among your elements and of course, break it in the most crucial moment to bring focus and encourage action.
In the meantime, you can visit some of the UI/UX-related articles for some more insights and inspiration: