If web design is art and art is interpretive, can there be such a thing as design etiquette? While it's true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there are certain standards and conventions to follow when dealing with design, otherwise you may face a lot of difficulty with people accepting or understanding your work. This concept of a design standards is especially vital if you're a business attempting to sell a service or product - you need to engage your visitors and convert them into paying customers, and having a great design can help you do just that.

The Basics

When designing a website, it helps to set a goal for what you want to accomplish with it, as that can dictate what you should or shouldn't do in terms of design. If you're a business, you should aim for professionalism and clear calls to action. On the other hand, if you're showcasing your portfolio, you have a lot more freedom in your design. Either way, your website is essentially a digital representation of you (or your company), a professional and clean design can mean a lot!

Control Your Colors

This is a relatively simple concept that many websites fail to understand. If you choose to have color in your design (versus black and white), keep them limited, friendly and tame. What do I mean by this?

DO NOT use colors that are too bright, angry or blinding, ie:

DO use a sensible color palette and base your design on it.

Use services like Kuler or COLOURlovers if you need and keep in mind that limiting colors should not limit your creativity:

Prevent Information Overload

Great design can be ruined by overwhelming the visitor with too much information. Put yourself in the shoes of a random visitor who has somehow found his way to your site - he wants to know who you are and what you provide without having to sift through the rubble. Writing good copy can and will increase your conversions, just remember to keep things concise and relevant to the visitors' needs.

DO NOT overload the visitor with too much text or content in general:

DO use intelligent design, grid layouts and a limited amount of information:

Usability

Last but not least, for the sake of your visitors, keep your site user friendly! Things should work the way they're supposed to and your visitors shouldn't have to struggle to navigate your website. Make calls to action sparingly but prominently, using buttons, videos or anything that will capture attention without creating confusion. Little details can matter here, for instance:

  • If you have something shaped like a button, make sure it is clickable and acts like a button!
  • Keep things obvious - if you want to embed a video, make it clear that what the visitor is seeing is in fact a video (video controls often help, as do a translucent "play" button)
  • If you're a business, let the visitor understand what you are immediately - they don't want to spend more than 30 seconds figuring out what you offer
  • Put your navigation at the top of the site and make it prominent/obvious
  • On the subject of navigations, keep the links limited and broad, use sub-menus if you must
  • Consider the manner in which a visitor, or a potential customer, would want to view your website and try to place your content in that order

DO NOT make your visitor wonder what it is you offer or why they are at your website.

DO use proper calls to action, intelligent content placement and proper navigation menus.

Make life easy for the visitor and encourage them to do whatever is that you want them to.

Conclusion

While the rules of web design are far from concrete, there are some standards and practices that will help you become a better designer and more importantly, help you better connect with your visitors. The list above outlines what a few of my standards are - do you have any to add to the list?