5 Things That Can Make (or break) A Killer Website Design

Starting the website design process can either give you a really great feeling, or can leave you feeling hollow in the pit of your stomach. The feeling you get is usually dependent on how great of a kick start you get with your design process.

What if I were to tell you that you can control those feelings even more than you’re used to? The truth is, you can control the feelings you have by utilizing some tips on how to make sure you’re creating a killer website design right from the start.

There are things that you should (and shouldn’t) be doing during your website design process. These things can be as small as subtle color choices or as large as advertisement placement or layout. Regardless of the size of each item on the list, the impact of each item is equally huge when you look at the bigger picture.

So today i want to go over 5 things you can do that will either make, or break, your next website design. Of course you should always start by brainstorming, sketching, wireframing and go through a couple rounds of revisions before you actually start designing a site in Photoshop or Fireworks.

I hope you enjoy the article.

Making Proper Use Of White Space

Killer website design tips

It’s no secret that here on SpyreStudios, we’re all fans of minimalism. This translates perfectly into website design because using the right amount of white space can make your design have a better flow and help visitors find what they’re looking for – and fast!

For those who are new to web design, when we say “white space” we’re not actually referring to the actual #FFFFFF color. What we’re referring to is the open, airy spacing that is utilized in designs. Spacial sense is also very important. For some inspiration on minimal designs, you can check out some previous articles we’ve wrote here on SpyreStudios.

The Wrong Color Choice Can Kill A Business

Killer website design tips

When you’re designing a website that’s geared towards making sales and getting people’s attention, you’ve got to remember that the wrong color choice will throw off potential buyers, especially if the color scheme you’ve chosen isn’t giving off the proper vibe for your product/business.

For example, a business aimed at selling meditation products wouldn’t do very well with a loud color scheme filled with bright reds or yellows. That business model would be better suited for muted colors – something calming and soothing. On the other hand, a website that’s trying to sell training equipment would do very well with a brighter, more “tough” color scheme.

One way to find good color schemes for your site is to check out Colour Lovers – they’ve got great palette choices for all kinds of styles. This article written by our very own Jon should also prove useful.

Don’t Turn Your Navigation Into A Game Of “Where’s Waldo?

Killer website design tips

Your goal is to keep people on your site for longer than 4 seconds, so one of the main things you should be thinking about is your navigation. Is it easy to find? Are people able to get from page to page easily? Will your visitors know how to contact you in the first couple seconds of viewing your site? (we’ve all seen Flash sites that have the navigation buried under 37 seconds of animation and heavy graphics, right?)

These are all questions that should be asked while designing your website. Turning your navigation into a game of Where’s Waldo? will definitely ensure that your page views per visit drop, your interaction plummets and your visitor’s overall experience is shot to hell.

By looking at the SpyreStudios website, you’re greeted with the navigation right away. It’s not hidden, blended in or hard to find. It’s up front and in your face – just like it should be.

Ignore The “Keep Everything Above The Fold” Mantra

Killer website design tips

Some people will have you believe that you must keep all of your content above the fold, disregarding the design and interaction you build into the top part of your website. Maybe they tell you to make your navigation and logo so small that the content comes in at 100px. Maybe they say that a “buy now” button doesn’t work if it’s below the fold. Whatever “they” say – they’re wrong; if you execute the top part of the design properly.

Paddy Donnelly has an awesome post titled “Life below 600px” that you should check out. A lot of great points are brought up in that article that you should really be thinking about when designing your site. Sacrificing design to appease the masses shouldn’t be at the top of your to do list.

Don’t Be Afraid To Sell Yourself As Much As Possible

Killer website design tips

Look, if you’re designing your own website to promote your business or you’re building another company’s website, one of the main thing that site is supposed to do is sell. Don’t let people tell you anything else because it would be a lie. Interaction is great and socializing with your clients is obviously a no-brainer, but if your website design doesn’t sell you to them, what’s the point in having a website to begin with?

If you look over most business websites, you’ll see a pattern – they all have buttons of some sort that say things like “sign up” or “buy now” or “view pricing and plans“. Checking out sites like Woo Themes, Basecamp, Mail Chimp and even the upcoming MediaLoot will allow you to visually see what I mean. There’s a reason they’re utilizing these types of calls to action – one of their (many) goals is to turn a profit.

As long as you don’t forget that and you make sure it’s easy for people to know you’ve got something to sell (and for god’s sake don’t over do it!), you’re on the right track.

Have your say

Drop a comment and let us know what you think can make or break a killer website design. Did I miss anything on the list?

the add to cart buttons image was a screenshot of this article

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  1. says

    One of the most common-sense, clearly written, and easily understood guides to web-design that this non-web-designer (who, despite his lack of credentials has build his company’s site!) has ever read. Thanks.


  2. says

    I definitely agree with “ignore above the fold mantra”. Pepole were scrollin, are scrolling and will scroll. That’s just the way it is. Most of them do that without even realizing they’re doing it.

    Nice read.

  3. says

    Got to agree with the above the fold mantra, nowadays people are more interested in the content, and as long as you get their attention above the fold(normally with a really good banner) they will scroll down without any issues.

  4. Fawcesite says

    Definately feeling the ‘below the fold’ subject. Although it makes sense to have important info visible above the fold, that doesn’t mean to say that everything needs to be visible @ 1024 x 768! Usability testing provides the results that no ‘little-bit-of-knowledge’ can dispute!

  5. says

    The fold should no longer a discussion issue for designers, so I think it’s a bit of a space filler in this article. The rest are great and will always be matter for improvement and debate.

  6. says

    Yeah I never follow(ed) that “above the fold” crap. It’s like telling me to color inside the lines… never did that either.

  7. says

    I had a discussion about page fold earlier today, if there’s one thing that drives me to distraction its a client’s insistence to cram loads above the mythical fold… nice article and whole heartedly agree with all points!

  8. says

    I always get a kick out of understanding my client, their business and how i can gain them more business via my design. There is nothing better when a client is really excited about a design because you have paid attention done your research and added appropriate features that they had never though of. Websites are essentially a sales tool and they don’t come cheap you have to be satisfied that your design is going to earn its keep.

  9. says

    This is more of an information architecture gripe, but along the same lines as “Where’s Waldo” with the navigation: designers who get too cute with the navigation names. Stop it. Not everyone on the Intar-Webs speaks your language natively and may be confused by your slang terms for common navigation elements.

    Stick to the basics: Contact, Home, Portfolio (or Gallery), Careers, About Us, etc. When designers (and writers) try to be clever with metaphors and themes on their nav, they only increase drop off rates, frustration and serve to lose readers.

  10. says

    I love the first tip on minimalism – I’m a huge fan of that on the web and in real life. I’m also surprised at how many designers start their design in Photoshop, instead of brainstorming and sketching first.

  11. says

    OK you free thinkers, this prize-at-bottom, make a chronological/temporal/teleprompter approach works for an A-B-C, front-middle-back set of content or ideas. But when I have thirty seconds (Gartner, Feb 2009) on average when I am comparing/shopping like things or commodities, I can’t afford all this white space which equates from spatial room to length of time. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather listen to a cool bossa nova than thrash metal, and noone wants to listen to the FedEx guy (recall his lightning delivery?). But if I ALREADY have a construct of the values and variables that are my criteria for scrolling or LEAVING, then I need to provide them at once, and so they are viewable together. Since most paying gigs are for services or products that compete, asking the viewer to fall waaaaaaaay down to the bottom in my view may win the design-aesthetic but defeat conversion. I enjoyed the article, I will be back.

  12. says

    Above the fold matra … i scrolled 7 to 8 times and now i am here after reading all comments. Just keep things interesting , involve users in your design and anybody love to scroll down. Nice article

  13. says

    Well said…I like your point about the colors. Picking the right colors is sometimes the hardest part of the process but one of the most important.

  14. says

    I did once have a client who said, and this is verbatim, “I don’t like scrolling.” I was amazed that someone could actually have a dislike for the action of scrolling down a website. Alas, she didn’t get her way, and she didn’t complain either, but that was an interesting time.

  15. says

    Awesome article. You brought some really clear points. Im actually gonna bring up that below the fold thing. I’m working on a website for my church and my friend is telling me it shouldn’t have to scroll at all on the site and now I have a little more backing to shove it in his face ;)

  16. says

    Thank you for the great article. Well said, well written, well needed! Thanks for the links too for the minimalist design.

  17. says

    Great post! This all is so true – I wish I could convince my clients that it is just impossible to Keep Everything Above The Fold :)

  18. says

    Great article. It’s all about minimalist design and white space. I think that colour choice is one of the hardest parts of a design to get right.

  19. says

    Hi Mike,
    I am in the process of developing a website and thought your article was very helpful. I was wondering if you knew of any good web hosting sites that are inexpensive, yet allow you to easily manage a website? I plan on using an ecommerce based plan.

  20. says

    Im a great fan of minimalism so def agree with the first, sadly 50% my designs never seem to work out tho’ I guess because I also love 1 page designs…lol

    Thank you for the great article!

  21. says

    I agree completely. Above the fold is meant to catch people’s attention, if they are interested they will scroll down inmediately; it comes on very naturally.
    This is clearly not widely understood because some sites that I have visited are so crammed with information “above the fold” that you loose interest inmediately.


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