Web design is a field that is steeped in theory but relatively short on must-do tasks or dedicated rules to follow. While the laws of thirds, contrast, and balance catch out inexperienced designers and provide seasoned website developers with an added visual advantage, the vast majority of web design projects leave designers with a refreshing degree of creative freedom - certainly something that is welcome in a global economy often limited by established processes.
However, more freedom is not always a good thing. As many designers, developers, and strategists will tell you, a project built on limited requirements and assigned without direction can leave developers stuck trying to pursue a difficult goal. Creating an ideal website, particularly a commissioned website, without adequate communication can be difficult and stressful, especially when there are commercial expectations behind it.
That is why it is occasionally best to stick to the basics. If you are struggling to come to terms with a vast and unrestricted project, let these four modern web design tips serve as a roadmap for your development strategy. Do not feel limited by the "rules" of online design, but do use them as you should - as a non-essential tool.
Design With Conversions In Mind
Effective commercial websites are not designed to dazzle visitors with flashy graphics or win points in design competitions - they are designed to help sell products, market services, or spread a message. Whether your website's goals are commercial or social, political or personal, its design needs to be focused around them. Drop the idea of impressing visitors with a flashy layout or stylish banner and instead focus on producing the desired effects.
Complete Your Project, Then Eliminate Half
Great websites are not packed with content, loaded with widgets, or rendered useless by a dizzying web of on-page elements. The most effective websites out there - the Google, Delicious, and Facebook types - do not focus so much on crowded design, but on effective design.
For most designers, indulgence and experimentation is a part of the creative process. By all means let it inspire and motivate you, but ensure that it is free of the final product.
Test, Test, Test
With tools like Google Analytics, CrazyEgg, and Google Website Optimizer available, there is absolutely no excuse for a commercial website that is free of any testing platforms. Whether your ambitions involve selling coffee mugs or high-end stereos; gold rings or pet collars, your website needs to be paired with an effective testing application.
Don't Feel Tempted to Appeal to Trends
They say truly effective design is timeless. The Dyson vacuum cleaner, the Apple iPod, and the Volkswagen Beetle are all examples of design's incredible power to sustain itself when built away from the conjecture and short-term thinking of current trends.
If you want your design to last, and not become a wasted asset within mere months, a focus on long-term design principles are important. Study more than just effective websites - look at elegant magazine page layouts, slick book covers, and timeless industrial design pieces for your website's inspiration.