Web design is a creative discipline, but there are still rules and best practices you should follow to create a professional website. Knowing these best practices ahead of time will allow you to understand the web design process and work better with a freelance web designer.
In this post, we’ll be taking a look at 9 web design rules for creating professional websites. These rules will help your company develop an effective online presence and establish authority within your industry.
Even if you are not designing your company’s website yourself, the information in this post will help you know what to look for when evaluating freelance web designers and web developers.
Rule #1: Work Collaboratively to Design the Website
If you’re creating a website for your business, chances are you have hired a freelance web designer or a web design agency. If you’ve yet to make that decision, you can read our post here to help determine which option is a better fit for your project and company.
It’s important to understand that designing a website is a collaborative process. Meaning whether you hire a freelancer or an agency, you will need to work closely with them.
To create an effective website, the freelancer will need to know your company’s history, business model, services, process, target market, branding, positioning and much more. Without this information, it will be very hard to design a website that produces business results.
A great freelance web designer or agency will include you from the start and ensure your team is an active member of the web design process. While it may be tempting to be uninvolved until the final design is ready, this approach almost never leads to satisfying results.
To work collaboratively with our clients, we use a project management tool called Trello. It acts as a project portal, where all the documents, creative assets, and deliverables live in a Kanban-style format. This makes keeping track of the project pain-free.
We also create content worksheets. This way clients can help write the website copy and give feedback on the wireframe design so they can bring it closer to their liking.
Rule #2: Determine the Target Audience for the Website
There is no one size fits all option for a website. For it to be an effective driver of growth, the design and content must be tailored to the people that will be visiting and using the website.
As a general web design rule, you should not begin sketching out the design of a website until you have a solid understanding of who the user will be. This is especially important if a company is trying to expand its target market in a certain direction.
To help you better understand the needs and wants of those who will be visiting your website, we recommend creating buyer personas.
Buyer personas are fictional characters that represent the main target audience of a business. Creating a persona forces you to think long and hard about the major segments of your company’s target audience.
When designing a website, this makes it easier to develop effective layouts and user flows that will help your company generate leads.
Creating personas doesn’t need to be hard. We recommend the Hubspot Make My Persona tool which will guide you through the whole process and generate personas for you.
Rule #3: Research Competitors Digital Marketing Strategy
Before designing a website, it’s essential to research how other businesses within your local industry are using their websites and what they look like. By studying your competitor’s websites, you can create a website that stands out for the right reasons.
For this web design rule, we take it one step further for our clients by researching their competitor’s digital marketing strategy. We use digital marketing tools to see what keywords competitors are ranking for, where their website traffic comes from, their most popular pieces of content, and their social media presence.
With this info, we can see what is already working in the marketplace and look to improve upon that for our client. It also helps us figure out where there are opportunities for our client to succeed where there is little digital marketing competition.
Overall, competitor research helps us design a website that is truly unique and stands out from the competition. It also gives our client a better understanding of their competitor’s digital marketing strategy which helps them long after the web design project has been completed.
Rule #4: Develop a Content Strategy for the Website
Ever try to create a website from a premade template, but for whatever reason, it just never seemed to look quite right?
Other than the fact that website builders like Wix and Squarespace aren’t that great, it’s likely because there wasn’t a content strategy in place to create a coherent and organized design for the website.
Developing a content strategy is one of the most important web design rules out there. It allows web designers to design a website that effectively shows off a client’s work, videos, case studies, testimonials, and blog for an enjoyable user experience.
With a content strategy, a website will be better positioned to generate leads. It creates a logical flow of information and content for your website. This makes it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for – regardless of where they are in the customer journey.
Need help brainstorming content for your website? Check out the post below for a quick and easy process to developing website content.
Rule #5: Create Website Wireframes
Without wireframes, creating a website would be much more time-consuming. Also, clients would not be able to be involved as much in the process.
Wireframes give a web designer the ability to quickly mockup a design and test various layouts. We like to sketch them out with a pen and paper first, and then use a tool like Adobe XD or Figma to flesh out the design.
These wireframing tools are great for designing a website collaboratively with our clients. We can send them the file and they can go in and leave comments with their feedback. They can also edit they copy directly instead of having to go back and forth over email.
Creating a wireframe for a website is an essential web design rule that should never be broken. They are the foundation of the web design process and allow the client to view the website and request changes before any code is written.
Rule #6: Implement Responsive Design
Website’s these days can’t be designed just for people viewing them on their desktop computers.
The world has changed, and a majority of people will likely be visiting your website from their mobile phones and tablets.
To create a responsive website, you used to have to be a CSS master. Even then, it was a very time-consuming process to go through each element on each page and make sure it looked right on a variety of mobile devices.
These days, many WordPress themes and website builders like Webflow have made it much simpler to design a website for multiple devices. Many WordPress themes will automatically make the elements on page mobile responsive.
However, it’s not a perfect solution as not everything formats correctly. That’s why we would recommend hiring a web developer to ensure it looks right before launching the site.
Rule #7: Use a Content Management System (CMS)
A content management system will help you develop a website faster while also serving as a platform where the content on your website can be stored.
A CMS like WordPress, Webflow, or Drupal can store all of your blog posts, images, videos, and portfolio items that make updating and editing the website a breeze once it’s fully developed.
Another reason why we recommend using a CMS for web design projects? It makes updating and managing the website possible for clients, resulting in significant savings for them over time.
Rule #8: Ensure Website is Optimized for SEO
Unfortunately, even the best-designed website in the world won’t do much for your company if no one is able to find it. That’s why one of our web design rules is that a website must be optimized for SEO before launching.
To get your new website to rank higher on Google, follow these steps:
- Make sure your website is mobile responsive. Google now weighs the mobile version of your website heavily. Websites that aren’t mobile responsive are heavily penalized and result in a lower ranking.
- The speed of your website is vital for ranking well on Google. Use a tool like Google PageSpeed Insights to see how fast your site is. The tool also offers areas where your website can improve.
- Submit an XML sitemap to Google. It’s essentially a file that makes it much easier for Google to crawl your website. You can generate a free one here and then submit it via Google Search Console.
- Set up a Google My Business profile. It will make your business appear more legitimate to consumers and help you rank for local search queries.
- Write up keyword-optimized meta title and descriptions. Meta titles are the headlines for a Google search result, and the meta description is the subtext beneath it. Writing these up will help you rank for your target search terms and encourage someone to click it. Use a tool like Yoast SEO to streamline this process.
The above list are the main SEO items to get right when first launching a website.
However as time goes on, the most important factor for your website’s SEO authority will be creating high-quality content such as blog posts, videos, case studies, and podcasts.
For a more in-depth guide on SEO, check out this post: How To Optimize Your Website for SEO.
#Rule #9: Get Call-to-Actions Right
Call-to-Actions (CTAs) are what will help your website generate leads. These are buttons/sections on a website that urge a user to make contact or download a piece of content.
Believe it or not, getting CTAs right can be tricky and require a lot of trial and error. In conversion optimization tests, even slight differences in a CTA button can produce wildly different conversion results.
As a general web design rule, your Call-to-Actions should be highly visible and catch the user’s attention. Place them in strategic areas of the website where someone who is further down the sales funnel would be to encourage more conversions. Examples include a services or process page.
You can use CTAs for a variety of actions you would like a visitor on your website to take. From general contact/consultation offers to downloads of content that require an email. Having well placed CTAs is what will ultimately help you convert website traffic into sales leads.
Having a professional-looking website will allow your company to establish trust and appear legitimate right away with visitors. A website is the foundation of a company’s digital marketing strategy. By creating content, you can ensure it is a driver of growth for years to come.
Designing a professional website can be accomplished by following the best practices outlined in this post. If you are interested in speaking with a freelance web designer about a website project, hit the button below.