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Web design basics and key principles

Tuesday 02 April 2019, by Sunil Joshi

Web design basics and key principles

Website design is a fast-paced industry, which requires insiders to adapt at a very fast rate. Technology changes quite rapidly, and so does the way people connect with content on the web. From traditional desktop browsing, down to mobile searches and other devices, the Internet is not a straight-forward place! Today, professional web developers need to be well-versed in several aspects of web design. Keep reading to learn more about some basics, and some key principles.

Front end vs. Back End

If you are a web design beginner, you’ve probably heard of the expressions “front end” and “back end.” These represent two very important sides of developing a website. “Front End” refers to what the user, (i.e. the person who visits the website) sees and experiences. Whether it’s a visually appealing banner, a particular menu configuration or an interactive experience for the user, “front end” is all about how people relate to the given website. On the other hand, “Back end” refers to what goes on under the hood. Think of it as a theatre performance. The audience is going to see the actors and the set, but there are many other things going on behind the scenes that make the show possible!

Website templates

Website templates are particularly widespread. There are many services, which offer template-based design suites. These products can be fully customized to match the aesthetics or brand of a company, but the benefit is that the core of the code is already there for you. The fact that most of the essential functions of the website are already available due to the template means that the service will be more affordable. Many web designers learn how to work with templates, not only to facilitate their workflow but also to make admin functions a lot easier (since there are many great admin templates available).

Grid Systems and visual hierarchy

Web design basics and key principlesUnderstanding grid systems is particularly important for a web designer. A grid helps people make sense of the content on a website, and it can be a fundamental aspect of its layout. In other words, this is how text, images, and other visual elements are arranged together, to form a page that’s not only aesthetically pleasing but also incredibly intelligible and easy to understand. Never forget that as a web designer, one of your main concerns should be to reach out to people and get the brand message of your customers across.

When you design a website, you want to guide the viewer in some ways. This is achieved through a process called visual hierarchy. Well, technically this isn’t a process per se, but rather a philosophy, which will help you design better pages.

Say, for example, that you find yourself working with a blog post, and you have a headline and a text body. You’d naturally have the headline displayed in a bigger, flashier font, and the body will have a smaller size.

Can you imagine how weird and goofy it would be if it was the other way around? It would be very off-putting for the reader, and it would be hard to help them focus on the content. The same goes for visual elements, images, and other elements on the website. The things that are visually more important should be highlighted, such as a brand logo, versus a random stock image to add some color to the page, for instance.


Understanding color matching is absolutely essential. A good website should use colors in a very controlled and intelligent way. Some goofy, outdated website use a rainbow of weird colors, different fonts, and bizarre visuals as a way to try to appeal to the audience. On the other hand, they will actually achieve the opposite result. Too many fonts make a page look inconsistent and unprofessional, and too many colors can be quite confusing and disorientating. Take a look at some of the most successful websites on the web. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Fiverr, Upwork, Vimeo…what do these websites have in common? They actually use 2 or maybe 3 colors, maintaining a very consistent theme through their entire website.

Many web designers actually even go to great lengths, to optimize colors for color-blind viewers, as well as for heightened readability levels.

Avoid using images that move

The little gif of a cat jumping around might be funny, but it’s not ideal for a professional design. Have you noticed where you can actually see a lot of animated images? On shady spam websites! If you are looking to optimize your website’s visual and appeal, avoid going over the top. Instead, take the absolute opposite approach: less is more. Just to go back to the previous example, look at any of the major websites mentioned above. You’ll notice how their designs are well-structured, even and on-point, without useless moving elements that might only cause more confusion and decrease the user-friendliness of the website. “Stillness” is actually an important principle of web design, because the viewer wants to be able to feel in control of the movement through navigation, rather than being bombarded with many moving elements.

Conclusions and final observations

In this day and age, many people think that designing a website is a walk in the park these days and that pretty much anybody with a computer can do it. While creating a page on the web is certainly easier today than it was ten years ago, becoming a great web designer still requires a certain know-how.

Actually, great web design is even more important today: companies need to stand out if they want to compete against the ocean of cookie-cutter self-made websites out there. Hiring a proficient designer is the best way to accomplish that!

This is the reason why being a web designer is still considered a fulfilling career path with many exciting opportunities.

About The Author

Sunil Joshi is a co-founder of WrapPixel. His design skills cover investigating client requirements, identifying best user practices in emerging market environments, conceptualization and development of web page designs, user interfaces (UI) designs, and other custom built design solutions as per the business domain.

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