Designing a website is more than just picking colors, fonts, and web copy—there’s a lot that goes on under the surface that contributes to creating a beautiful, impactful website. If you want to leave a lasting impression on potential clients, the website must also be technically sound as well as aesthetically pleasing. Where the internet is concerned, function is just as important as form, if not more so.
Whether you take some web design inspiration, or design it completely from scratch, there are some things you should always be aware of that we will discuss in this article.
What should you prioritize when designing a website? Whether you’re coding by hand or customizing a template, you need to keep an eye on the following factors to ensure that your site is in the best possible condition:
One of the best things you can do to be certain that your website is in tip-top shape is to design with the Lighthouse score in mind.
What’s a Lighthouse score? Lighthouse is an auditing tool developed by Google that is used by search engines to evaluate the quality of a website. Sites are judged on five categories and given a score for each on a scale of 0-100. These categories are a set of standard metrics that incorporate guidelines called Web Vitals that allow developers to assess the user experience of a web page as they build or improve it.
The five categories that factor into a site’s Lighthouse score are:
Google Lighthouse audits a site’s accessibility and assigns a weighted score. Unlike some of the other metrics, the items that are being audited are evaluated on a pass/fail basis, resulting in a zero instead of a low score if an item is deemed not up to standard. Making your site accessible is about more than just achieving a good score, though: ensuring a high level of accessibility means that any potential user can access your site, retrieve information, and interact with your content regardless of disability. Lighthouse provides a full checklist and suggestions to make sure accessibility guidelines are clear and achievable.
This category contemplates more general qualities pertaining to the website’s design. Essentially, it gauges how up-to-date the web design standards of your site are and offers insight into how to make them better. The criteria often change as technology and programming practices evolve, but Google maintains an updated set of criteria to check a site’s compliance with current standards.
The performance category assesses the speed at which a site loads and allows users to access and interact with content. There are six subcategories that are used to evaluate the site on a performance basis: First Contentful Paint, First Meaningful Paint, Speed Index, Time to Interactive, First CPU Idle, and Estimated Input Latency. Each of these subcategories essentially measures how quickly features of the site are available and ready to facilitate use.
Progressive web applications (PWAs) are built with standard web technologies to be reliable, efficient, and deliver an experience that is relative to comparable mobile apps. Lighthouse maintains a set of specifications for PWAs that also operate on a pass/fail basis similar to the accessibility category.
If you want your site to rank in search engines and get organic traffic, you should ensure your site is set up for Search Engine Optimization. Lighthouse does a basic evaluation of a site’s SEO practices to determine its ability to rank well, but doesn’t provide a report as comprehensive as other SEO tools. Still, having a good Lighthouse score in this area at least proves that you’re on the right track.
Obviously, your target is to score 100 in each of the categories, but any score above 90 is satisfactory and indicates a good site quality that will read well to search engines and users alike. In addition to analyzing the categories, Lighthouse also offers suggestions for improving your scores.
Clean code is imperative to a site’s design and will minimize trouble later down the road as you continue to develop and update your web page. Code should be:
- Easily understood and maintained by developers other than the one who wrote it.
- Easy to maintain and/or update.
- Short and easy to break down into simple, reusable chunks.
If the website is coded manually, HTML and CSS should be minified (AKA all unnecessary characters should be removed while preserving function). There are a ton of plugins available on the web to help clean up code.
It’s easy to overlook the mobile version of a webpage during initial webdesign, but as more and more people rely on mobile devices like phones and tablets to access web pages, it’s important to assign special consideration when designing the site’s mobile version. Google recently implemented Mobile First Indexing, meaning they focus on the mobile version before the desktop version when evaluating a website.
Other factors that are high on the list of web-design importance are the security layers you add to protect your clients and your company from breaches and data leaks. A few things to keep in mind are:
The SSL certificate is a data file that contains information about the website’s owner and public key. Installing an SSL certificate allows your site’s traffic to be encrypted, which protects information (including personal data) being imported and exported from being intercepted by malicious third parties.
Phishing is one of the most popular means of gaining access to protected information like personal identification numbers, birth dates, location information, passwords, and financial information. Anti-phishing softwares or code can prevent hackers from gaining access to your company’s personal information (and then your clients’ information) through your website or email.
Taking measures to protect the backend of your website always pays off in the long run. Making sure your website is protected from unauthorized access and controlling data exposure is paramount to ensuring that your website can’t be hijacked by unauthorized users and sensitive data can’t be leaked.
You should also consider replacing your site’s JPEG, PNG, and GIF files with WebP images. This file format was developed by Google to ensure faster loading times without compromising the quality of the images. WebP supports lossless and lossy compression, so you can decide whether or not you want to be able to convert the images back in the future.