Analyzing the Best Website Design
Web design is often a very open-ended field. While there are a lot of common, accepted standards and good practices when it comes to designing something that’s pleasing to a vast majority of people, there’s still a lot of room for interpretation when it comes to visual flow, use of colors and branding, having an eye-catching font, and so on. Some of the most popular websites today take all this into account in some fashion, so it’s good to take a close, critical look at what we think makes for the best website design.
By far one of the most common aspects of modern web design, at least in 2013, is simplicity. The web has grown and evolved a great deal since the mid-90’s, and gone are the days of blinking marquees, animated construction gifs, and headache-inducing colors and font choices. Today, a lot of that has been simplified away as we move towards streamlining webpage navigation and begin to understand how a user takes in information.
One of the most important sub points on simplicity is to not overwhelm the user. Back in the 90’s it wouldn’t be uncommon for a single webpage to contain almost the entire content of the website, with nothing but contents links at the top. For a time this had worked fine, but then we started to keep more of an eye towards organization and pagination (splitting content into multiple pages). Having content on separate pages helps the user digest everything and understand where they are in terms of reading completion.
Examples of simplicity in web design can be seen all over. One notable instance is Google. Fairly recently they had decided on a simplified and unified design for nearly all of the services that they offer. They tend to use simple, flat colors with as few borders and etches as possible. All of this helps to keep the user focused on content rather than getting distracted by the website. This, among other things, put Google among the top companies for best website design.
Making a website quick to navigate touches on the “steamlining” aspect mentioned earlier. It overlaps a bit in the simplicity department, but yet is very distinct. Efficiency means being able to get where you want to go in as few clicks as possible. It means having a user interface that’s intuitive to navigate. It means organizing content into clearly named and labeled pages, easily found through a menu interface or convenient sidebar.
One example of efficiency would be the site for Simple Direct Media Layer (SDL), a popular library/API for programmers. It has a very no-nonsense design with its dark text on white background and simple sidebar navigation on the left. Every link in the sidebar takes you precisely where you would expect it to, and lets you arrive where you want to be in as few clicks as possible. It’s certainly not the flashiest design out there, but it gets the job done without sacrificing anything in terms of aesthetics and user satisfaction.
Perhaps the next most important part of web design is the “design” part. How a website uses logos and branding along with colors, composition, and fonts all make a huge difference in how a user perceives the quality and credibility of a website.
A great instance of this is BGR, a popular mobile and tech news website. Its use of simple gradients as well as unique fonts make the design rather striking; you know that when you see this design in the future, you’ll be reminded of BGR, which is exactly what their intention is. And not only is the aesthetic quite pleasant, the ample amount of whitespace in-between the site’s various elements make it a lot easier on the eyes. Less visual clutter is always a good thing.
And touching on aspects mentioned earlier, BGR is also fairly simplistic and efficient in its design. There aren’t even any submenus in its navigation; it’s about as simple as they come, and it takes very few clicks and/or keyboard strokes to find exactly what you want.
Since we live in a time where IE6 has faded away quite a bit, it’s safe to say that it’s not very common anymore for a website to be incompatible with a modern web browser. There are still several annoying quirks depending on whether you’re using IE, Firefox, or Chrome, but a modern website will continue to function correctly despite the minor differences. Being cross-browser compatible is something that any high-quality website will keep in mind and test for. All of the examples mentioned above will render largely the same whether you’re using IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and so on.
Some of the best website design tends to come from larger corporations. This makes sense since they spend so much money making sure that the public finds them credible and likable. Having a well-designed website goes a long way in solidifying these qualities, though they aren’t exclusive to big companies. These are all principles that any web designer can follow, and in all likelihood will continue to be relevant in the years to come.