Understanding Website Design

Understanding Website Design: How to Design a Top Website

Good Website Design is an art. “When it comes to websites, take time to get it right the first time.”

Dylan Kohlstädt,

Founder and CEO of Shift ONE


The Elements of Good Website Design

In today’s digital landscape, a well-designed website is crucial for businesses to establish their online presence and engage with their target audience effectively. A good website design goes beyond aesthetics; it encompasses various elements that work together harmoniously to create a seamless user experience. In this article, we will explore the key elements that contribute to good website design.

1. Purposeful Layout and Navigation

The layout and navigation of a website play a vital role in guiding users through the content and ensuring easy access to information. A purposeful layout should be visually appealing, organized, and intuitive. Key considerations include:

  • Clear Hierarchy: Establish a clear visual hierarchy by using different font sizes, colors, and spacing to prioritize and differentiate content. This helps users understand the importance and flow of information.
  • Intuitive Navigation: Design a user-friendly navigation menu that is easy to locate and understand. Use descriptive labels and logical grouping to help users find what they’re looking for quickly and effortlessly.
  • Consistent Structure: Maintain consistency across pages by using the same layout, navigation structure, and placement of important elements like the logo, menu, and search bar. Consistency enhances familiarity and usability.

A Website Wireframe is the best place to start

Web design should be simple and straight forward:

Where am I?

Why am I here?

What’s in it for me?

These are some of the questions your visitors ask themselves.

The simplest designs are the most effective, however it usually takes a lot of effort to arrive at a simple solution.

If you don’t put in the time planning and testing your concepts, you will have to pour extra hours into fixing your designs after they’ve gone live.

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2. Responsive and Mobile-Friendly Design

With the increasing use of mobile devices, it’s essential to create websites that are responsive and adapt seamlessly to different screen sizes. A responsive design ensures that the website looks and functions well on desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Key considerations include:

  • Flexible Grid Systems: Use a flexible grid system that allows content to adapt to different screen sizes and orientations. This ensures that the website maintains its structure and readability across devices.
  • Touch-Friendly Interactions: Optimize interactive elements, such as buttons and menus, for touch gestures. Provide ample spacing between clickable elements to prevent accidental taps and enhance usability on mobile devices.
  • Fast Loading Times: Optimize images, minimize server requests, and leverage caching techniques to reduce loading times. Mobile users often have limited bandwidth, so a fast-loading website improves user experience and reduces bounce rates.

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What does ‘Conversion’ mean to you?

The reason I ask this is because I’m always talking about conversion rates when it comes to websites, and it’s amazing how many people ask me what ‘conversion rate’ means.

It’s simple. It means turning visitors to your website into customers – and hopefully – at a higher rate than your competitors.

In order to create a top-converting website, you need to spend a lot of time planning the site before getting the graphic designer to start with the fun stuff like where to put the pretty pictures.

This means first gathering as much data as you can about your customers and then spending time wireframing the site.

Visual appeal is essential for capturing users’ attention and conveying the brand’s personality. A well-designed website should align with the brand’s identity and create a positive first impression. Key considerations include:

  • Color Scheme: Choose a cohesive color palette that reflects the brand’s values and creates a visually pleasing experience. Use colors strategically to guide users’ attention and evoke desired emotions.
  • Typography: Select appropriate fonts that are legible across different devices and screen sizes. Establish a hierarchy by using different font weights and sizes to distinguish headings, subheadings, and body text.
  • Imagery and Graphics: Incorporate high-quality and relevant images, illustrations, and graphics that align with the brand’s style and enhance the overall visual appeal. Use imagery strategically to tell a story and support the content.

4. Readable and Engaging Content

Compelling and well-presented content is crucial for keeping users engaged and encouraging them to explore further. Key considerations include:

  • Clear and Concise Copy: Use concise and easy-to-understand language to communicate messages effectively. Break down content into scannable sections with headings, subheadings, and bullet points to improve readability.
  • Whitespace and Formatting: Utilize whitespace effectively to give content room to breathe, improving readability and visual balance. Use formatting techniques like bold, italics, and bullet points to emphasize important information and improve scanability.
  • Call-to-Action (CTA): Incorporate clear and prominent CTAs throughout the website to guide users to take desired actions. Whether it’s signing up for a newsletter, making a purchase, or contacting the business, CTAs should be compelling and easily identifiable.

5. User-Focused Functionality

A well-designed website should provide seamless functionality and interactive features that enhance the user experience. Key considerations include:

  • Forms and Inputs: Design user-friendly forms and input fields by utilizing placeholders, clear labels, and appropriate error messages. Minimize the number of required fields and streamline the submission process to reduce friction.
  • Search Functionality: Incorporate a search bar that allows users to find specific content quickly. Provide relevant search results, including suggested keywords or auto-complete functionality, to assist users in their search.
  • Feedback and Validation: Provide real-time feedback and validation to users when they interact with forms or perform actions. This helps prevent errors and gives users confidence that their actions are being processed.
  • Social Proof and Reviews: Integrate social proof elements, such as testimonials, reviews, or case studies, to build trust and credibility. Positive social proof can significantly impact user perception and encourage conversion.


Test that wireframe with users, and only once the wireframe passes the user tests every time, should you hand it over for graphic design and eventually web development.

User test at every milestone along the way.

Only then can you be sure that the website is optimised for sales.

It might be tempting to start designing the site as soon as you can, let me assure you that you will spend more time (and a lot more money) ‘fixing it’ once it’s gone live if you leave out one of the steps above, and if your website was designed by a graphic designer or web developer that didn’t first do wireframing and user testing, then you probably aren’t making as many sales from your website as you could be.

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6. Accessibility and Usability

Designing websites with accessibility and usability in mind ensures that they can be accessed and used by a wide range of users, including those with disabilities. Key considerations include:

  • Color Contrast: Ensure sufficient contrast between text and background colors to accommodate users with visual impairments. Follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to meet accessibility standards.
  • Keyboard Navigation: Enable keyboard navigation so users can navigate the website without relying solely on a mouse. This is crucial for individuals with motor disabilities or those who prefer using keyboard shortcuts.
  • Alternative Text (Alt Text): Provide descriptive alt text for images, enabling users who use screen readers or have images disabled to understand the content. Alt text should convey the image’s purpose or information accurately.

7. Performance and Optimization

A high-performing website enhances user experience and encourages users to stay engaged. Key considerations include:

  • Optimized Images and Media: Compress and optimize images to reduce file sizes without sacrificing quality. Use modern media formats like WebP and lazy loading techniques to improve loading times.
  • Caching and Minification: Implement caching techniques to store frequently accessed files locally on users’ devices, reducing server requests. Minify CSS and JavaScript files to eliminate unnecessary characters and improve load times.
  • Website Analytics: Integrate analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, to track user behavior, identify areas for improvement, and make data-driven decisions to optimize the website’s performance.


Thinking of redesigning your website? Then follow these simple steps below.


  • Clarify Objectives:
    Understand the goals and objectives of the website. Is it going to be an ‘online brochure’ or a fully functional e-commerce site?
  • Who are your customers:
    Know who you’re designing for and what their needs are.
  • Wireframe and iterative design:
    Draw up a skeleton of the site and test it with users, incorporate their comments into your wireframe and keep going until the framework passes without users getting stuck or lost.
  • Design with Google in mind:
    Make sure you follow the basic principles of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and you’ll be well on your way to ranking in Google – maybe not yet page one, but getting there.

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  • Hire the right graphic designer and developer:
    Try to find people who fit your style of working. If you’re flexible and like to keep making changes, make sure they’ve built some ‘fat’ into their estimates to cover your requests.
  • Test and test again:
    AB testing and MultiVariate Testing (MVT) are paramount to getting the right end result. You should always have one or two tests running to ensure you have the optimal page design.
  • ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’:
    Please don’t re-brand or redesign if you don’t have to. Even if you are dead tired of the look and feel. The chances are that your customers still like it. That is, unless it was designed in 1995!
  • Don’t use fancy effects:
    Use animations sparingly and don’t have an ‘entry’ landing page. You lose 20% of customers every time you make them click so keep it simple!


Is your Website Designed with Customers in mind? Or is it Costing You Business?

Your website could be losing you money. Who designed it? Was it tested with customers? Is the platform, the technology, the design, the flow out of date and slow? Are your users frustrated with your web design because it’s too ‘fancy’?

Web Design and Development is an Art

Your website should not be designed by a graphic designer or a developer.

It needs to be designed by someone who interacts closely with your customers and designs the site based on their needs, and the business’ requirements.

Wireframing, user testing, analytics and Google SEO are all part and parcel of good web design and development.

In conclusion, a good website design incorporates purposeful layout and navigation, responsive and mobile-friendly design, visual appeal and branding, readable and engaging content, user-focused functionality, accessibility and usability, and performance and optimization. By considering these key elements, businesses can create websites that not only captivate their audience but also provide a seamless and enjoyable user experience.

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Call us today at +27 21 554 2498 or email info@shiftone.co.za

With good web design we can work towards having your business positioned exactly how you want it so that it can flourish.

If you are interested in any of our services, contact us today and set up a meeting.

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