Effective Website Design

Design your website with your target audience in mind.  To be effective, your site design must be:


A well-designed website uses a consistent design from page to page.  To ensure this consistency, create and follow guidelines for each page of your site regarding:

  • Text size, color, and fonts.
  • Use of color.
  • Margins, spacing, and indentation.
  • Specifications for graphics and images.
  • Use of headings and subheadings.
  • Page layout and alignment of text, images, and form elements.
  • Placement of graphics and text.
  • Page length and file size limits.
  • Use of tables, borders, dividers and backgrounds.


Design the structure of your site to mirror your method of organizing information.  Create a table of contents or site map showing how the pieces of your website fit together.  Be consistent in how you group, order, label, and arrange information. Will the organization make sense when visiting the site for the first time or trying to find specific information?  Are there too many or too few categories?  Splitting up your site into 5-9 major headings is ideal, since people can store about 5-9 "chunks" of information in short-term memory.

Easy to use

A site should have clear navigation aids, be easily readable, and load quickly.  Help the user find the information they need by creating an effective user interface, including a sitemap or site index, list of frequently asked questions, help and search options, links to the home page, and an email address to contact the Web master.  Make your pages easy to read and understand.  Limit the file size of images and other elements on your Web pages for faster downloads.

Accessible to a variety of users

As the World Wide Web Consortium emphasizes, a well-designed website will be available to the range of Web users.  A highly accessible website:

  • Is viewable and functions well using different browsers, monitors of different sizes and color depths, and multiple operating systems.
  • Is available to people with disabilities.
  • Can be understood by people with various levels of knowledge about a topic or technical expertise and by people from different cultural backgrounds.
  • Follows the guidelines of the Web Accessibility Initiative.

Interactive with useful content

Plan to provide information that is useful, reliable, accurate, up-to-date, and interesting.  When possible, include interactive and multimedia elements to your website such as message and bulletin boards, surveys, videos, games, online tests, audio and video selections, chat rooms, broadcasting, and search technologies.  Creative and original content helps make a website memorable and unique.

Visually appealing

Does your site look good?  Does anyone else think so?  Too much text can make a site seem dull, so balance the use of text and images.  The use of color and graphics, photos, and other images can enhance the look of your site when used thoughtfully.  Avoid using too many colors, an overabundance of gratuitous images, or an uneven layout.  Apply established principles of graphic design.  Ask others for feedback on your design, and carefully consider suggestions they may offer.