As a discipline, web design has already exhausted its possibilities
This implies a shift from web pages to web services: self-sufficient bits of information that can be combined to other services to deliver value.
So if you are looking for a restaurant, you get the reviews from Foursquare or Yelp, the directions from Google Maps and the traffic conditions from Waze.
Even more: we are transitioning to a push-based model of content consumption, where the right information arrives without you even requesting it.
Google Now, for instance, warns you of how early you should depart in order to arrive on time to your meeting. All of this is already happening thanks to APIs—interfaces that let other services interact with your data. In this world, web pages are not required at all.
This is not to say that web pages will die—they will be around for a long time, because they are —and will continue to be— useful for certain purposes.
But there’s nothing interesting there for designers anymore. They are a commodity and a medium, no longer the default state for digital products and businesses.
Web pages are static content that need to be found and visited (pull-based).
But in the emerging push-based paradigm, the content finds you. Through data obtained from your context, your activity, and even your biometrics, content and tools will smartly present themselves to you when you are most likely to need them.
That’s the big thing about the new breed of smartwatches: they obtain data from your body and show you proactively tiny bits of information for your brain to chew on. Computer technology is already making big steps in order to dissapear from your sight.
Where does this leave us?
Web Design is Dead, Long Live UX Design
Here’s the good news: designers are really far from being obsolete. Quite to the contrary, you can see that the demand for UX designers is still on the rise, and everyone seems to be redesigning their digital products these days.
This switch from web design to experience design is directly caused by the shift from web pages to digital products, tools, and ecosystems.
Web pages are just part of something much bigger: mobile apps, API’s, social media presence, search engine optimization, customer service channels, and physical locations all inform the experience a user has with a brand, product, or service. Pretending that you can run a business or deliver value just by taking care of the web channel is naïve at best and harmful at worst.
And all these touchpoints need to be designed, planned, and managed. This is a job that will continue to exist, regardless of the channel.
We will still need cohesive experiences and valuable content across smart climatizers, virtual reality devices, electronic contact lenses, and whatever we invent in the decades to come.
In fact, as technology fades into the background, all we can see is the value transmitted by it. The designers who want to stay in business need to be experts in managing content and value across channels.
Now more than ever, in a world flooded with cognitive noise, the world needs simple, intelligent, integrated ecosystems of information. The sooner designers embrace this need, the better prepared we’ll be for the future.
Your website inspiration journey starts here.
Deciding to create a web presence is a big decision, but the best websites are a culmination of many small decisions.
Choosing the right content management system and web host, opting for a template, refining your content, and selecting the best layouts to display your products and services are just a few of the details that establish your business’s online identity.
But one major decision that takes time, diligence, and a great deal of inspiration is the design of your website.
From familiar corporations to small businesses, to international organizations, the following sites push the status quo on the web. Whether it's the design aesthetic, usability, interactivity, sound design, or value that the site provides, each one is a masterpiece in its respective industry and something to aspire to.
Not surprisingly, many organizations exist to highlight these sites and the contributions they make to the web.
To help surface some of the most inspirational designs, I gathered several award-winners that have made their way through several key awards organizations — including Red Dot, Awwwards, UX Awards, The Webby Awards, SiteInspire, Best Website Gallery, and FWA.
As you browse through the list, know that each site excels in its own way and seeks to serve a unique purpose. While one site may be an excellent example of visual design, another may be an excellent example of interactivity.
This means that not all of these sites may be "conversion machines" or blueprint ideas that you can easily copy over to your site. Rather, they're great ways to gain some website design inspiration and see the cutting-edge marketing that's happening in the different corners of the web.
Keep in mind that web designs are fluid and change often. Some of the designs in this list have changed since they were awarded, but we do our best to keep them up-to-date. We’re confident you’ll find a design here that sparks your creativity.
Usability and the utility, not the visual design, determine the success or failure of a website.
Since the visitor of the page is the only person who clicks the mouse and therefore decides everything, user-centric design has become a standard approach for successful and profit-oriented web design. After all, if users can’t use a feature, it might as well not exist.
We aren’t going to discuss the design implementation details (e.g. where the search box should be placed) as it has already been done in a number of articles; instead we focus on the main principles.
Heuristics and approaches for effective web design — approaches which, used properly, can lead to more sophisticated design decisions and simplify the process of perceiving presented information.
Please notice that you might be interested in the usability-related articles we’ve published before:
Designing A Perfect Accordion
Designing A Perfect Responsive Configurator
How Do Users Think? #
Basically, users’ habits on the Web aren’t that different from customers’ habits in a store. Visitors glance at each new page, scan some of the text, and click on the first link that catches their interest or vaguely resembles the thing they’re looking for. In fact, there are large parts of the page they don’t even look at.
Most users search for something interesting (or useful) and clickable; as soon as some promising candidates are found, users click. If the new page doesn’t meet users’ expectations, the Back button is clicked and the search process is continued.
Users appreciate quality and credibility. If a page provides users with high-quality content, they are willing to compromise the content with advertisements and the design of the site. This is the reason why not-that-well-designed websites with high-quality content gain a lot of traffic over years. Content is more important than the design which supports it.
Users don’t read, they scan. Analyzing a web-page, users search for some fixed points or anchors which would guide them through the content of the page.
Web users are impatient and insist on instant gratification. Very simple principle: If a website isn’t able to meet users’ expectations, then designer failed to get his job done properly and the company loses money. The higher is the cognitive load and the less intuitive is the navigation, the more willing are users to leave the website and search for alternatives. [JN / DWU]
Users don’t make optimal choices. Users don’t search for the quickest way to find the information they’re looking for. Neither do they scan webpage in a linear fashion, going sequentially from one site section to another one. Instead users satisfice;
They choose the first reasonable option. As soon as they find a link that seems like it might lead to the goal, there is a very good chance that it will be immediately clicked. Optimizing is hard, and it takes a long time. Satisficing is more efficient.
Don’t Make Users Think #
According to Krug’s first law of usability, the web-page should be obvious and self-explanatory. When you’re creating a site, your job is to get rid of the question marks — the decisions users need to make consciously, considering pros, cons and alternatives.
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A clear structure, moderate visual clues and easily recognizable links can help users to find their path to their aim.
Don’t Squander Users’ Patience #
In every project when you are going to offer your visitors some service or tool, try to keep your user requirements minimal.
The less action is required from users to test a service, the more likely a random visitor is to actually try it out. First-time visitors are willing to play with the service, not filling long web forms for an account they might never use in the future.
Let users explore the site and discover your services without forcing them into sharing private data. It’s not reasonable to force users to enter an email address to test the feature.
As Ryan Singer — the developer of the 37Signals team — states, users would probably be eager to provide an email address if they were asked for it after they’d seen the feature work, so they had some idea of what they were going to get in return.
Ideally remove all barriers, don’t require subscriptions or registrations first. A user registration alone is enough of an impediment to user navigation to cut down on incoming traffic.
3. Manage To Focus Users’ Attention #
As websites provide both static and dynamic content, some aspects of the user interface attract attention more than others do.
Obviously, images are more eye-catching than the text — just as the sentences marked as bold are more attractive than plain text.
The human eye is a highly non-linear device, and web-users can instantly recognize edges, patterns and motions. This is why video-based advertisements are extremely annoying and distracting, but from the marketing perspective they perfectly do the job of capturing users’ attention.
Dibusoft combines visual appeal with clear site structure. The site has 9 main navigation options which are visible at the first glance. The choice of colors might be too light, though.
Letting the user see clearly what functions are available is a fundamental principle of successful user interface design.
It doesn’t really matter how this is achieved. What matters is that the content is well-understood and visitors feel comfortable with the way they interact with the system.
5. Make Use Of Effective Writing #
As the Web is different from print, it’s necessary to adjust the writing style to users’ preferences and browsing habits. Promotional writing won’t be read. Long text blocks without images and keywords marked in bold or italics will be skipped. Exaggerated language will be ignored.
Talk business. Avoid cute or clever names, marketing-induced names, company-specific names, and unfamiliar technical names. For instance, if you describe a service and want users to create an account, “sign up” is better than “start now!” which is again better than “explore our services”.
Strive For Simplicity #
The “keep it simple”-principle (KIS) should be the primary goal of site design. Users are rarely on a site to enjoy the design; furthermore, in most cases they are looking for the information despite the design. Strive for simplicity instead of complexity.
From the visitors’ point of view, the best site design is a pure text, without any advertisements or further content blocks matching exactly the query visitors used or the content they’ve been looking for.
This is one of the reasons why a user-friendly print-version of web pages is essential for good user experience.
Don’t Be Afraid Of The White Space #
Actually it’s really hard to overestimate the importance of white space. Not only does it help to reduce the cognitive load for the visitors, but it makes it possible to perceive the information presented on the screen.
When a new visitor approaches a design layout, the first thing he/she tries to do is to scan the page and divide the content area into digestible pieces of information.
Complex structures are harder to read, scan, analyze and work with. If you have the choice between separating two design segments by a visible line or by some whitespace.
It’s usually better to use the whitespace solution. Hierarchical structures reduce complexity (Simon’s Law): the better you manage to provide users with a sense of visual hierarchy, the easier your content will be to perceive.
Communicate Effectively With A “Visible Language” #
In his papers on effective visual communication, Aaron Marcus states three fundamental principles involved in the use of the so-called “visible language” — the content users see on a screen.
Organize: provide the user with a clear and consistent conceptual structure. Consistency, screen layout, relationships and navigability are important concepts of organization. The same conventions and rules should be applied to all elements.
Economize: do the most with the least amount of cues and visual elements. Four major points to be considered: simplicity, clarity, distinctiveness, and emphasis. Simplicity includes only the elements that are most important for communication. Clarity: all components should be designed so their meaning is not ambiguous. Distinctiveness: the important properties of the necessary elements should be distinguishable. Emphasis: the most important elements should be easily perceived.
Communicate: match the presentation to the capabilities of the user. The user interface must keep in balance legibility, readability, typography, symbolism, multiple views, and color or texture in order to communicate successfully. Use max. 3 typefaces in a maximum of 3 point sizes — a maximum of 18 words or 50-80 characters per line of text.
9. Conventions Are Our Friends #
Conventional design of site elements doesn’t result in a boring web site. In fact, conventions are very useful as they reduce the learning curve, the need to figure out how things work. For instance, it would be a usability nightmare if all websites had different visual presentation of RSS-feeds. That’s not that different from our regular life where we tend to get used to basic principles of how we organize data (folders) or do shopping (placement of products).
With conventions you can gain users’ confidence, trust, reliability and prove your credibility. Follow users’ expectations — understand what they’re expecting from a site navigation, text structure, search placement etc.
A typical example from usability sessions is to translate the page in Japanese (assuming your web users don’t know Japanese, e.g. with Babelfish) and provide your usability testers with a task to find something in the page of different language. If conventions are well-applied, users will be able to achieve a not-too-specific objective, even if they can’t understand a word of it.
Steve Krug suggests that it’s better to innovate only when you know you really have a better idea, but take advantages of conventions when you don’t.
10. Test Early, Test Often #
This so-called TETO-principle should be applied to every web design project as usability tests often provide crucial insights into significant problems and issues related to a given layout.
Test not too late, not too little and not for the wrong reasons. In the latter case it’s necessary to understand that most design decisions are local; that means that you can’t universally answer whether some layout is better than the other one as you need to analyze it from a very specific point of view (considering requirements, stakeholders, budget etc.).
Some important points to keep in mind:
according to Steve Krug, testing one user is 100% better than testing none and testing one user early in the project is better than testing 50 near the end. Accoring to Boehm’s first law, errors are most frequent during requirements and design activities and are the more expensive the later they are removed.
testing is an iterative process. That means that you design something, test it, fix it and then test it again. There might be problems which haven’t been found during the first round as users were practically blocked by other problems.
usability tests always produce useful results. Either you’ll be pointed to the problems you have or you’ll be pointed to the absence of major design flaws which is in both cases a useful insight for your project.
according to Weinberg’s law, a developer is unsuited to test his or her code.
This holds for designers as well. After you’ve worked on a site for few weeks, you can’t observe it from a fresh perspective anymore.
You know how it is built and therefore you know exactly how it works — you have the wisdom independent testers and visitors of your site wouldn’t have.
The first step in winning over more customers is to understand the essential elements that should go into every homepage.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, draw inspiration from 31 top homepage designs so you can find out what will work best for your business and your audience.
The Benefits of a Well-Designed Homepage
A simple homepage design welcomes your audience to your site, tells them what you want them to do next, and allows them to explore your site in more depth.
Always begin with the basics.
What do you need on your homepage? What will your audience expect? And which elements take priority?
When you can answer those questions, you’ll have the information you need for better homepage design. In web design, homepage elements have very specific purposes.
Helping your target audience get to know your business
Many of your website visitors will find your homepage first. With that in mind, you need to make a solid first impression.
Your homepage should provide a sense of your company’s values, unique selling proposition (USP), and purpose. You’re more likely to lure in potential customers if you can effectively communicate this information.
Improving the user experience on your website
Consumers visit your website with a purpose. It could be to check out your product line, read your blog posts, or find out if you sell a particular type of service.
Regardless, you want to direct that consumer to the appropriate page. Your homepage design should facilitate this transition by providing intuitive navigation and a sense of how your website flows.
Accruing more conversions
You want website visitors to convert, but they won’t if you don’t give them the necessary incentive and opportunity. Maybe you want to build an email list, but if visitors can’t find a signup form, your database will remain empty.
By making this information easily accessible on your homepage, you will see an uptick in conversions.
Another way to boost conversions is to create a strong first impression with your homepage. If visitors enjoy their experience on your website, they’ll also be more likely to remember it in the future. Maybe you won’t make a sale today, but that customer will return days or weeks later and buy from you.
Improving brand awareness
Make your company memorable by allowing your brand image and messaging to come through on every page. This is especially true when it comes to your homepage design because the homepage serves as the gateway to the rest of your website.
Your logo, tagline, and purpose need to take center stage. In fact, you might even want to add a form or statement to the very top of your homepage — preferably in a large font — that gives your visitors a sense of what you do:
What problems do you solve for your customers? How do you improve your clients’ lives — whether personal or professional?
Don’t force your website audience to have to figure out and guess what it is you do. Make it clear from the get go.
How to Design a Website Homepage
Now that you know the four goals to motivate your design principles, ask yourself three guiding questions: What do you absolutely need on your homepage? Who is your target audience and what will they expect? Which elements take priority?
Once you have the answers to these three questions, you can begin plotting out how best to improve your homepage.
Remember to tie each of your design elements to one of the four goals listed above. Most importantly, don’t worry about getting it perfect. Website optimization is an ongoing process!
The Best Homepage Design Examples (And Why They Work)
There’s no better teacher than an example. I’m going to show you some of the best homepage design examples that I’ve found, and I’ll tell you exactly why they work so you can apply those same tactics on your own site.
Ecommerce homepage design can get tricky. Do you introduce the business, show off your flagship product, or overwhelm your audience with tons of products or categories?
Hopefully, you don’t do the latter.
In thredUP’s case, the homepage goes for a seasonal approach.
Apparently, boho style is in (at least for women), so we see a custom graphic that advertises lots of boho fashions available. The navigation is hefty but cleanly designed, so visitors can easily find the categories that interest them.
What is a website layout?
A website layout is a pattern (or framework) that defines a website’s structure. It has the role of structuring the information present on a site both for the website’s owner and for users. It provides clear paths for navigation within webpages and puts the most important elements of a website front and center.
Website layouts define the content hierarchy. Content will guide visitors around the website, and it must convey your message as well as possible to them.
Why should you choose one layout over another?
You should carefully make a selection. This is why:
A good layout keeps users on the site because it makes important information easily accessible and intuitive to find. A bad layout frustrates users which then quickly leave the site because they can’t find what they are looking for.
For this reason, it’s best to take as long as you need to find a good layout because users won’t give you more than a few seconds of their time.
There’s a strong relationship between the layout and the engagement of users with the website. It determines how long they dwell on the website pages, how many pages they browse, and how often they come back to the website.
So, besides overcoming the problem of split-second choice, a good layout comes with additional benefits. Engaging visitors can be a rewarding effort.
When selecting a layout, it might be useful to also consider the Gestalt law of closure. It says that, even if an image shape is not complete, the human eye tends to fill in the visual gaps and recognize the image as a whole. How can this be of use to you?
You won’t pay attention to details, rather focusing on the global view of the pages forming the website; users will find themselves the meaning path.
You pay attention to details, using some additional seconds to grow the engagement exponentially.
You intentionally won’t pay attention to details, letting originality speak for itself; users will find themselves the meaning path, and they will keep a strong memory of your website.
Getting familiar with the layout design best practices
To spend a fruitful time selecting a layout design, it’s important to get familiar with some basic notions related to website layouts. We’ve gathered a bunch of concepts that’ll help you get oriented into the abundance of predefined website layouts.
Visual weight and negative space
Visual weight is perceived by people when some objects on the website carry a stronger visual force. This visual force can be induced in specific elements through different techniques. Amongst them, negative space is the one that interests us directly here.
Negative space (space that is devoid of any elements) drives the attention towards elements outweighing the rest through visual force concentrated on them.
Balanced website layouts
In balanced web design, the elements that make up the layout are supporting one another so that the user sees the text content with equal importance. In addition, the elements are easily scannable in a layout that efficiently presents them all. The design gives the impression of stability, and it feels really pleasing, from the aesthetic point of view.
One of the most popular balanced designs is symmetrical balance, where, similar to a mirror image, a visual element will look the same on either side of the center.
Symmetry evokes balance, elegance, and pleasure. You’ve probably felt it too when looking at the architecture of some buildings, gardens, and even at the wings of a butterfly.
Sections for specific audiences or features
Arrangements of elements that can be changed meaning that users can easily switch to other website sections. To help you figure out how this is possible, we suggest you think about fashion websites addressing both men and women.
The layout supports 2 distinctive sections within the website, one dedicated to apparel for men, the other dedicated to apparel for women. The layout split serves functional content, highly useful for the 2 distinctive target audiences.
Go outside the standard layouts
Whereas some layouts follow the traditional path, with an aim at serving functionality at its best, other layouts use daring designs and structures, with the purpose of making an impact on the user.
Breaking the mold means unexpected arrangements of the elements within the web page, and the experiences it triggers stand out in a sea of standard websites, that a user can’t help but remember your website.
Create Vietnam Design for Eye-Catching Stimulating Layouts
In web design, Vietnam Design strains the users’ attention by focusing it on key points of the website. Vietnam Design comes out by contrasts of space, color or luminosity, and it is easily noticeable if interwoven in a perfect overall balance of elements.
Its role is to visually stimulate the users to break off the web surfer routine and process the information on the website in a brand-new light.
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