If I got a penny every time a client told me they paid a great deal of money for their website design that I
tore to pieces provided improvement suggestions for during my website review, I’d be writing these lines from my beach house in Portugal.
Sadly, you can’t trust ready-made premium website themes—or even a web designer you paid 💰 (<— a bags of money)—to be sure the design of your website doesn’t kill its message.
So, the least a smart business owner (you!) can do is to understand what good web design is and what mistakes to avoid to be more careful in selecting website themes (and website designers).
Which is exactly what this website design checklist helps you do.
6-point checklist that helps you spot website design mistakes
+ examples and a handy scorecard
1. Good website design is visually appealing
Studies show that simple web design is better.
So, your website doesn’t have to be super-duper fancy. Not ugly is fine.
The question is, what’s the threshold for “not ugly”?
It may sound counter-intuitive, but if your prospects don’t notice your website design at all, it already means that you’ve done a great job.
“Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible, serving us without drawing attention to itself. Bad design, on the other hand, screams out its inadequacies, making itself very noticeable.”
~ Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things
Your visitors will find your design visually appealing if it:
- is balanced
- is free of clutter
- uses the elements in a consistent way
- doesn’t get in their way while they’re trying to read or accomplish a task
But you can use a shortcut and just show your website to couple of people from your target audience and ask them what they think.
They don’t have to be over the moon about it. But if it doesn’t evoke any negative emotions, like disgust, mistrust, or frustration, you’re good.
Good web design makes it easy for your website visitors to interact with your website:
- read your text (make sure to avoid these formatting mistakes)
- navigate between your web pages (are you familiar with the navigation best practices?)
- complete tasks like contacting you or buying a product, etc.
- Same type of elements look the same. For example, using the same typeface and font size for headings or the same styling for links.
- Elements that look the same function the same. Which also means that two elements that have a different purpose – for example, a button and a section subhead – can’t look the same.
- Things look like they function. For example, what looks like a button is a button.
- Things are easy to find. For example, all important elements are where the visitors expect them to be: navigation on top, link to the shipping policy in the footer, link to the Contact page in the navigation and/or footer, etc.
5. Responsive and robust
Good website design adapts to different browsers and devices while still looking visually appealing, functional, consistent and intuitive.
6. Accessible to all your users
Meaning, your website should be implemented in a way that the previous 5 criteria hold for every website visitor.
Whether your web design passes the accessibility check depends mostly not on how it looks but on how it’s technically implemented.
How to find out if your website design is accessible?
Different countries have different definitions here. Check out this website to find out if your website is compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act.
And here’s a handy web content accessibility checklist that tells you what you what your website needs to be accessible.
An easy way to remember these checkpoints
Good web design is:
- visually appealing
- and intuitive
…on all devices for all website visitors
How to use this checklist to evaluate your web design decisions
Let’s say you have section headings or widget titles on your website that have a background color and look like this:
Hi, I am a section heading*
* – Did you try clicking on it? Exactly my point.
Now, let’s go through our 6-point checklist and see how your headings/titles score:
- Visually appealing? Quite possible ✔️
- Functional? Yes, if one can still read the text ✔️
- Consistent? Yes, if you use the same typeface and background color everywhere ✔️
- Intuitive? Nope. They look like buttons => people click => nothing happens => people click some more => still nothing => people frustrated. And that’s the opposite of “intuitive” ❌
…which means using a background color for a section heading isn’t a great idea (who knew?).
Here’s is a score card with some common bad website design choices. Can you spot the only good example?