A website is like a puzzle; it’s made of thousands of tiny pieces that fit together seamlessly to create a functional whole.
Subjectively speaking, you can say that many websites are variations of the same theme. Why is that? And is it a bad thing? Many platforms like WordPress offer access to free templates and stock images, so unsurprisingly businesses use the same layouts and backgrounds to construct websites. But brands should look for ways to create a strong visual identity, become easily recognizable, and draw out an emotional response from their public. Websites can help them communicate their mission and values and stand out on the market.
Good web design starts with the layout that most times, users don’t even notice. Visitors like practical web pages where they can easily find product specifications, promotional offers, the shopping cart, and purchase button without looking too much around. The more time they spend trying to figure out the website menu, the less attention they pay to the content.
Web page layout is about balancing practicality with aesthetics. The website should look nice, but also offer the user the experience which they came for. Internet users leave a web page in 10 to 20 seconds, but sites with clear value proposition hold their attention longer. People have little patience for a difficult to browse page. Yes, a good website layout won’t always retain customers, but it shouldn’t be the reason they leave.
Here are the fundamentals for creating a website that visitors won’t bounce from.
Identify the website layout’s goals
It may sound too simple, but the only purpose of a website layout is to support the goals of the brand, whether that is to increase customer retention, build brand awareness, provide entertainment, or inform the users. Content expresses the website’s goals, and the layout design establishes what the best strategy for delivering the content effectively is. Keeping this in mind, the average website layout can serve some functions.
It provides information. The website layout should organize pieces of information to fit together in an established sequence so that users find it easy to scan and understand. A good website layout focuses on the most critical elements and tools that make the menu intuitive and easy to use.
It engages visitors. A functional layout makes the website visually engaging, guides visitors towards the exciting bits of information, and encourages them to browse more pages.
It builds branding. Web layout plays an essential role in branding through different elements (scale, font, alignment, spacing, colours) that are consistent with the business’ brand.
Alongside the general functions website layout has, a business can also establish specific ones.
The website layout design process
The website mapping process occurs in the first stage of building a web page, often after establishing the website strategy and before choosing the graphics for the interface. Web developers visualize the layout through a wireframe (a skeletal map of the website) that shows them how the elements and content fit together. Wireframing is different from web design (the process of creating the visuals and end graphics of the pages), but it’s an essential part of the journey because website layout always starts with wireframing.
The ideal website design follows the layout, and each element is placed strategically rather than according to aesthetics preferences. Custom web design services always rely on website layout to build websites’ skeletons because it allows them to organize elements and create functional and practical web pages.
How to create a website layout?
Identify content areas. When establishing the website layout, web developers use rectangles and squares to point out where images and text are inserted. It’s useful to know ahead of time the amount of content the brand wants to upload, to fit the elements together perfectly.
Build prototypes and wireframes. Creating layouts should be a straightforward task like pen-drawing on a piece of paper. In fact, many web experts still use pen and paper to draw web pages’ layout. But there are also programs like Whimsical that automate the process. Wireframes aren’t meant to look like works of art, but rather to organize elements. Web developers often create a collection of layouts for the same website to provide the clients with more options. The layout has no fancy graphic features to distract the clients’ attention; it’s simply an arrangement that allows users to explore how intuitive the web design is. During this step, web experts create the layout for all devices (mobile and desktop).
Test and feedback. Once the web developer delivers the layout options, the website owner consults with prospective users to gather feedback. Some apps like Figma allow creators to build interactive prototypes so that users can test the navigation and buttons and evaluate their functionality. A trial version of the website reveals UV stumbling blocks and allows the website developer to improve the experience before the website is even launched.
The most popular types of website layouts
Rarely, a web developer creates a website layout from scratch, and this is why most websites look similar. Modern websites are based on some established layout schemes that come with small variations to meet the client’s requests.
Single column layout. It arranges the content sequentially in one column, usually in the center of the screen. Many modern websites work with this layout because developers first create the mobile design, and then arrange the elements to fit the desktop variation.
Two-column layout. It often looks like a split-screen pattern that displays content side-by-side. It’s used when the brand addresses different audiences because it counterbalances graphics.
Multicolumn layout. It’s also called magazine or newspaper layout because it accommodates high amounts of content within the same page. Developers use grids to organize elements and create a hierarchy. This layout gives more space to essential details like the navigation menu, banner and sidebar.
Asymmetrical layout. It arranges the elements in unequal proximity and scale, but without creating a chaotic image. Even if it achieves it in an unexpected way, the asymmetrical layout is always reaching balance.
Bottom line: Creating the layout of a website is similar to solving a puzzle, you put pieces together and try multiple combinations before you get the complete picture.