To the uninitiated, web design is magic. Transforming text into beautiful, responsive, and interactive creations is pure sorcery to those who don’t see past the one-way mirror. The problem is, you do, and for that reason, you know just how complicated and challenging things can get. When navigating the jungle (so that end-users don’t have to) keeping essential, core principles in mind can mean the difference between Facebook and MySpace. In this post, we’re outlining the ten commandments of effective web design and development.
1. Thou shalt code with care
If you honor the integrity of your web page and the integrity of your sanity, this rule means everything. Poorly organized, un-commented, and messy code can create copious headaches as you develop your site or redesign your aesthetic. It is said that the skill of a master chef is indicated by the cleanliness of his apron; the same goes for coders. Keep things clean, organized, well labeled, and concise in order to save you and yours a little pain along the way.
2. Thou shalt be flexible
Our relationship with the web is ever changing. From our standards for interaction to the platforms on which we view sites, the onus falls on web developers to make users happy at all junctures. For this reason, it is essential to observe responsive web design. The elegant solution will adapt your layout, your media, and your text based on queries to the observing platform. In doing so, your website maintains a coherent identity with common elements and shared page ranking; a win-win-win.
3. Thou shalt put the user before all else
Developing your code and your platform is only part of the picture. Ultimately, the user is where the rubber hits the road, and failing to gain traction with a favorable user experience will see ambitious efforts fall heartbreakingly short. At every conjuncture, consider elements like typography, visual balance, navigability, communicability, and aesthetic to ensure that viewers appreciate all the hard work you put in.
4. Thou shalt remember scalability and keep it holy
The term “web development” should give you an idea of what we’re talking about. Development is, by its nature, the progression and adaptation of infrastructure and design to your changing goals. For this reason, your web hosting infrastructure and underlying platform should be scalable in order to accommodate future growth. You may only see 100 users per day at present, but when your blog hits it big, you’ll wish you had sprung for a solution with robust upgrades options.
5. Thou shalt change with the times
As stated, the web is an ever-changing cornucopia of visuals, content, contexts, and experiences. Failing to adapt to this changing world will leave your site feeling slow and looking old. These may not seem like huge issues at first, but considering how quickly a user’s attention can falter, even a seemingly negligible drop in performance can turn them off. Aesthetic is not to be ignored either. The glossy buttons of web 1.0 have been supplanted by simple and elegant flat designs. Falling behind this curve means uninterested eyes and negative perceptions.
6. Thou shalt not take a domain name in vain
Your docket is already full with technical concerns and design considerations, but ignoring the significant role that your domain name plays is an exercise in ignorance. In order for websites to garner organic traffic, they need to be eye catching when viewed in the context of search results. A good domain name can set expectations and entice wandering eyes even before your copy and layout make an impression. Choose something simple, creative, and interesting to reel in readers.
7. Thou shalt optimize thy search index
In order for your domain name to have an impact, however, your site needs to appear in said search rankings. The search indexing system may not be perfect, but unfortunately, it’s all we’ve got. Optimize your SEO by focusing on Schema microdata, authorship, linkages to high profile sites, and strong keywords. Doing so we’ll not only bump your initial traffic results, but also make hay for years after publication.
8. Thou shalt hold design on high
If the individual instances demonstrating the importance of design haven’t sold you on this concept, then let this commandment do the work. Design, once popularly considered to be a luxury of large companies with ample budgets, quickly became an integral part of startup culture, content formatting, and now, every aspect of the Internet. The new era sees design as a primary concern of Internet users, even if only subconsciously, and failing to recognize this can seriously derail your efforts.
9. Thou shalt be distinctive
The Internet is big. To quantify it, research shows that monthly traffic in 2012 hit 44 exabytes per month. To put this volume in perspective, 1 exabyte is 1,000 petabytes, and 1 petabyte is 1,000 terabytes. For that reason, you need to make an impression. Web design is about functionality and impact, and when focusing on impact, aim to set your creation apart. This can be achieved in a number of ways, just remember to focus on being distinctive, not weird or annoying.
10. Thou shalt keep it simple
Paramount to all of these concerns, make sure you keep things simple. Strive for elegance; the simplest, most effective solution. Cluttered code, busy design, and ham-fisted attempts at standing out are as likely to drive away users as they are to frustrate your stakeholders. In all things, strive for the simplest solution and enjoy the sophistication and intuitiveness that only elegance can provide.
They may not have been handed down on the mount, but these commandments can help guide your web design and development efforts in profound ways. Code responsibly, focus on the user, develop flexible platforms, keep up with design innovations, optimize your data, and focus on elegance. Between these rules and your own dash of creativity and talent, you’re bound to build something notable, and that’s a valuable thing in an interconnected world.