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Web Design 101: Everything You Need to Know

Learn the ins and outs of web design with the help of this guide before getting started with Mailchimp’s website builder.

As we continue to move forward in a tech-driven environment, a website is one of the most important assets for your brand. There are tons of design tools on the market now that can help you in designing websites that have the look and feel you want. Even if you don’t understand a coding language, a website builder will take your design and transform it into what you need.

If you have a brick-and-mortar store, you still need a website to extend your products and services into an online brand. This helps create authority while expanding your customer base beyond a local following. Still on the fence about needing a website? Here are a few reasons why web designing is a must:

Professionalism

Having a website makes your business look more credible. When you have a website, you have a personalized domain. That domain gives you a branded email address which reinforces you’re in it for the long haul. There are some email systems that won’t even allow you to send emails from personal addresses, so having this in place makes sense. You should always send your email campaigns from a professionally branded email address that matches your website’s domain.

Advertising

You can have amazing visual elements on your web pages that showcase who you are and your products and services. This helps current and potential customers become more familiar with your brand.

Testimonials

What’s it like working with your brand? People love to hear about these things, especially if they don’t have to go looking for them. If you’ve been featured in the press or have glowing reviews, you want to make sure they are front and center.

So, beyond these three, you want to maintain an online presence so people can find you and find out more about you. It’s the “virtual” part of your business. If you’re developing an eCommerce site, you know being able to have a store that’s visually attractive and easy to navigate is one of the most important parts of your business. This is the same thing.

Building a website is easy and affordable now and is crucial to ensuring long-term success. With billions of people and brands having websites to bring additional eyes to their products and services, can you afford not to have one? This is the way you remain competitive and enhance your global presence.

To thrive in the business world, you have to adapt to what works. Even if your brick and mortar has a temporary setback, with an online presence you can continue selling your products and services without missing a beat. In today’s world, your customers and competitors are online. Isn’t that where you need to be?

Getting inspiration for your website can happen anywhere. When you see something you like, save it. It’s not unheard of to have different elements from multiple sites that spoke to you. The key is designing something user-friendly that makes a statement.

What is web design?

Web design is carefully curating content and planning to share it online. It’s where you create visuals through graphic design with functional elements for an amazing user experience. When designing a website you must think about the site’s functionality on the web, mobile apps, and the UX design. A website builder can help you quickly determine the type of site that works well for your products and services. There are different templates that have adaptive and responsive sites, which are both important based on your audience and needs.

Adaptive vs responsive web design

As you start planning your website, consider the type of website you need: adaptive or responsive. This also helps in determining the right website builder to use. There are a lot of terminologies when it comes to designing websites, but in the grand scheme of things, there are only two website styles. What are the differences?

Adaptive websites have two or more versions. They are customized for certain screen sizes. They can be broken down into two categories based on the way the site detects them:

  • Device type: Once the browser connects to your website, the request includes the “user-agent” field that lets the server know the type of device being used to view the page. Adaptive websites know what version to display. Users could potentially run into issues if the browser window is shrunk to house additional windows because the user agent will still recognize the desktop as the original device.
  • Browser width: In a browser, the website uses media queries instead of the user agent that uses pixel widths instead of versions based on the device. This is more flexible and provides a better viewing experience for the user.

Responsive websites use the flexibility of grid layouts based on the percentages of each element in the container. Responsive websites have elements that will stay at certain percentages no matter what the screen size is. The value of these types of sites is that they constantly change according to the screen size being used.

Some web builders have both adaptive and responsive website features which are even better. This means the website can be adaptive while being responsive at the same time.

Web design principles

Good web design follows certain principles to have a cohesive look and feel. While each designer can create as they wish, these principles are usually standard in the industry for guidance:

Balance

Balance is key. That means everything on the site is visually balanced symmetrically and asymmetrically.

Contrast

Just like in photos, contrast is important. Arranging elements to have good contrast adds depth and makes people want to scroll your site.

Emphasis

There are different elements on your web pages that must stand out from the others. Your logo, certain buttons, or images can be items that should command the attention of your audience. Emphasis makes sure it’s a dominant feature.

Rhythm

This is how elements repeat in order for cohesion and consistency to elevate certain messages. This includes brand colors, typography, and your logo.

Movement

Movement is the guiding force moving your visitors from one element to the next. You control this through the size, order, and direction of certain elements.

Hierarchy

You always want to place the most important items of your business at the top of your website, like your logo and the name of your business. Important information should be prominent on your website.

Unity

Unity is how all the elements come together to create a visually informative website. You want to make sure each part of the website is unified and harmonious so there won’t be any confusion or people feeling overwhelmed. If there is no unity, people will leave your site.

White Space

Every website needs white space to help the elements breathe. It provides room for balance, hierarchy, emphasis, and lets everything be arranged without looking like there's too much in the space.

Functional elements of web design

All websites need functionality. The speed, how well it performs, and other elements are all a part of this functionality. There are specific components of web design that must work together for a website to perform at its best.

Navigation

One web design can have multiple pages within the site. The navigation allows your visitors to find exactly what they are looking for when reaching the main page. Most websites have a menu that directs users to their desired destination. The menu links the pages together, which can then be broken down further into sections.

Speed

If it’s one thing users cannot stand, it’s a slow site. This is the quickest way to lose interested customers. If your site loads over 3 seconds, you have a lot of work to do. Even if your site is visually attractive, your users won’t know because they’ll be gone to your competitor. It’s important to use all the tools designed to help you create a great site that loads very quickly. Auditing the site on a continuous basis and making changes to any elements slowing your site down can improve loading speed.

SEO

Search engine optimization or SEO is when the website is optimized so that it will rank high within the search engines. SEO is vital to the success of your website, so making sure you know how to use the tools that can improve and attract new visitors is important. You want to include headings in your content, add the alt text to images so they can be cataloged by Google, use meta descriptions on your pages, and choose the right domain that aligns with your brand.

UX

Many people see UX and don’t know what it means. UX, or UX design stands for user experience. User experience is more important than ever because it deals with how you create a website that displays your products and services in an appealing way, the way you brand, the usability of the site, and function. Each website should have high-quality content, interactions, and of course, products and services. There are seven factors to consider: useful, usable, findable, credible, desirable, accessible, and valuable. These should all be used when designing a website for an optimal user experience.

Visual elements of web design

When it comes to good web design, you can’t move forward if your design isn’t visually engaging. The way your website looks is just as important as its functionality. This means your colors should work together with your fonts, video, and all the other elements of your brand. You must have these elements for a workable, cohesive site:

Header

Your website header is one of the first things someone visiting your website will see. It’s at the very top of the web page and is a strategic piece of real estate. This is where your logo sits, your navigational menu, your business name, and in some cases, social media, and contact information.

Footer

The footer is located at the bottom of the page and is on every page of your site. It’s the very last thing a visitor will see, so any important information you want them to know should be here. This is where you add additional contact information, where they can sign up for email, and social media may live here instead of on the header.

Color scheme

Many people don’t realize the psychology of color and how important of a role it plays in your brand. Your color scheme sets the entire tone for your website. You should be using your brand’s colors for cohesion to reinforce your online brand. You should have a primary color, which is the dominant color used throughout the site, the secondary color, which is consistent but not as much as the primary, the accent color or colors, which are used to highlight certain details, and of course, don’t forget the white space. It doesn’t have to be the color white, but it should provide room for the elements to breathe.

Background

Your website’s background is important. You want to use this real estate to your advantage. It sets the tone for your page because it’s what your users see when they scroll. You may have a background that’s solid, textured, animated, or static, but it should be an integral part of the visuals for your site. The goal is to make sure it grabs attention while keeping the integrity of the other elements on your site. Many people use parallax scrolling to achieve this desired look and feel.

Typography

Think about the type you use to communicate your brand. It’s yet another visual aspect that cannot be ignored. The font and arrangement of those fonts on your website matter. The right typography can keep people on your site for a while. Typography complements the style of the website and adds emphasis when needed throughout the site. Use fonts that are readable and, of course, on brand. They should mirror the formula for the color scheme. Primary, secondary, and accent fonts to heighten the experience for your users.

Imagery

Your website imagery can strengthen your messages from the moment someone visits your site. You may use your imagery to display your products, location, have photos of yourself if you’re a consultant, photos of events, or branded favicons. However you use imagery, it should complement the entire site and be engaging.

The imagery you choose should be relevant and crisp. It’s always a good idea to have photos that are clear and not fuzzy. If you don’t have original photos, there are tons of places that have stock images where you can find those closest to your brand story and use them throughout for consistency and cohesion.

Animation

You want your site to tell its own story. That means doing things differently from what you may see others do. Adding animation to your site is a good way to start moving away from the competition and setting your own lane in motion. Animation can also direct the actions of your users. Place animation throughout your site to give more depth to the user experience or to get a reaction. Here are some great ways to add animation to your site:

  • CTA (call-to-action) button that directs your users to click and do something
  • Using arrows to direct your users to certain sections
  • Short loading bards to entice them to wait for something (make sure the bars are quick)
  • Email signup lightboxes

Design a beautiful website with MailChimp

When you’re designing your website, make sure you’re using the right voice and tone of your brand. While all these elements are important, you won’t connect with your audience if you aren’t using the right messaging (yes, even if your website is pretty). That’s why using the right web builder makes a difference.

MailChimp’s website builder makes it easy for businesses to get their website built in no time at all without the help of a web designer. One of the great things about this web builder is the attention to detail and all the elements of a website we discussed, like the differences between adaptive and responsive, the principles of web design, functional elements, and visual elements.

While you may have been intimidated to start building a website, this website design software makes things very easy by using all these elements that come together to create a website that’s going to help you build your brand the right way and establish a strong online presence within the industry. For more information on MailChimp’s website builder, visit the site today.

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