Qualities of a Good Website Design
What exactly makes a good design? You may come across some sites whose designs you love, and some you don't. Many of the good designs will have some similar qualities that improve the design, and make it a good design.
Here are a few things to remember when creating a new website design.
Usability is probably the most important part of a good design. Usability is pretty much how easy (or how difficult) it is for users to get the content they need, and to interact with the site.
A usable design will be logical and easy to use. It should follow a basic layout similar to what most sites use, because that is what your users will be used to. A bad example is those websites done entirely in Flash, with a huge header at the top of the screen, with the navigation consisting of a bunch of links floating around that area.
A usable design will also be readable. If your users can't read their content, they'll go somewhere else. Be sure to not use a tiny font, and keep a good contrast between the font colour and the background.
To find out about how you can improve your site's usability, check out the post I wrote a little while ago, 11 Quick and Easy Ways to Improve Site Usability.
Navigation is a huge part of usability. Your users need to be able to get around your site to be able to use it. Be sure to keep your main navigation in a standard location, such as along the top of the page, or in a sidebar.
You should also remember to provide links to relevant sections of your site from within the content. That way, as the user is reading the content, they can click on the link to find out more about what they are reading about.
The design should be consistent across your entire site. You don't wan't people clicking on what they think is your article to suddenly think they're on a new site.
Of course, it's usually not that bad. But you should make sure that the navigation is always in the same place, and that links are consistently coloured and underlined, different from normal text.
One commonly overlooked aspect of usability is not including the
alt attribute in images. You can't just include it and leave it empty, either. It should include a short description explaining the image, to be used by text-based browsers, and when the image simply doesn't load.
Accessibility is not just a part of design, though. Accessible content will be simple and easy for everyone to understand, not using cryptic acronyms without explaining them.
Focus on Content
If Content is King, you should treat it as such. The content should be the main focus of every site, unless your site is about showing off the awesomest sidebar in the world.
Those Flash websites with the huge headers will usually have a very small content area. A lot of the sites like that are essentially useless, and are there only to look nice (Unfortunately, they often don't seem to get that, either).
An article by Brian Hoff talks about designing with your content in mind. In this post he talks about the effects of typography, use of colour and more.
Because users can be very impatient at times, you've only got a few seconds to get your page to them after they find their way to it. Every tip here is completely useless if a visitor leaves before the page is even loaded.
What else do you think should be here? Be sure to leave a comment.