Design Tips for Non-Designers: Eight Dos and Don’ts

Creating a visually compelling web presence can be intimidating if you don’t have any design experience. Building a website — which has to be both attractive and functional — can feel even scarier. However, there are certain design tips that anyone can use, and when applied correctly, these principles will elevate the quality of your site design from amateur to professional.

Follow these eight design dos and don’ts to create an aesthetically pleasing, highly functional website that you will be proud to share with the world.

1. Do use hierarchy to order content

This tip may sound complicated, but the premise is rather straightforward: the information that you want people to read first should appear first, and be bigger and bolder than the rest.

You can and should create a hierarchy in your website’s design by using elements like headings and subheadings to draw viewers’ attention to the most important information. Bold colors and eye-catching fonts can also be used to show which content is most important and should be read first.

2. Do limit fonts and colors

According to The Next Web, “No matter what colors you choose, they have a definite influence on the design as a whole — from communicating contrast or similarity, to evoking precise emotions.” As a rule of thumb, you should use a maximum of three colors in your site design. Using too many colors can make a site look messy.

Similarly, Canva suggests limiting the number of fonts used, as “the eye finds it hard to scan multiple typefaces.” If you’re new to the design world, you can’t go wrong with fonts in the same family (Arial, Times, Courier), as they’ll naturally look good together.

3. Do consider legibility

One common mistake that amateur designers make is using fonts or colors that impair readability. For example, a decorative font like Curlz MT or yellow text can be hard to read (even if it looks nice with your theme). Be sure to periodically take a step back and consider the legibility of your design.

4. Do keep it simple

When in doubt, keep your design simple. If you do too much with your design, it can end up looking messy.

ELearning Industry highlights that “effective design is clear-cut and balanced to help viewers focus on important information.” It’s better to present your information clearly without any design frills than to go overboard and lose your message.

5. Don’t forget about images

Pictures are necessary to create engaging content. HubSpot notes that viewers only remember 10 percent of the information they hear, but if there’s a relevant image paired with the information, they retain 65 percent of the message instead.

However, it’s easy to go wrong with images. Pixelated or warped pictures distract visitors from your content. Be sure to familiarize yourself with basic photo-editing skills, like cropping and resizing.

Here’s a bonus design tip: aligning photos in a grid formation will make them look more professional than if they’re placed randomly across a page, according to Canva.

6. Don’t be afraid to experiment

Even experienced designers make mistakes. Trial and error is important as you work toward a functional site design, so take risks and try out new things. If you don’t like the result, you can always change it.

With your WordPress.com site, try new themes, change your header, or play with the color scheme. Even the smallest changes can make a big difference in the overall appearance of your site.

7. Don’t over-prioritize pretty

Naturally, you want your design to look good; but you shouldn’t prioritize aesthetics at the expense of functionality. First and foremost, your website needs to inform viewers. Consider whether it achieves this goal before you add more decorative elements.

8. Don’t ignore feedback

Design is subjective. What you think looks good might not resonate with others.

Keep an open mind when it comes to user feedback. If your visitors are struggling with a certain aspect of your site, — whether it’s legibility, navigation, or something else — acknowledge them and take their comments to heart. Otherwise, they may not come back for repeat visits.

When you follow these eight design tips, you will be positioned to create a professional-grade website — even if you’re new to design. Keep them in mind and see how they improve the overall look and feel of your site.

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Camryn Rabideau

Camryn Rabideau is freelance writer specializing in digital lifestyle content, ranging from pop culture to smart home technology. Camryn has contributed to popular media sites such as InStyle, Taste of Home, Martha Stewart, Food52, USA Today, The Spruce and more.

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