Elements of Great Design

Category: Engaging Design published on: 5/2/2016  by Brad Cowart

After creating hundreds and reviewing thousands of web sites over the years Tier Strategies has developed 5 elements of great design. These five are provided for consideration. Remember the goal of your site is to attract qualified prospects, provide the information they are looking for and convert them to customers. Below is an explanation of each element.

Original Content that Answers the Question

When most think of design they picture colors, fonts, graphics and layout. While all of these are important the reason a visitor clicked your link was to answer a question. They wanted info on your company or product, were comparing prices, looking for your phone number or address etc. They had a purpose and it is almost never to “just see how pretty the site is”. In fact, content is so important it has become an important ranking signal. More than key words Google examines the overall content of a web site (using neural maps) to determine position during searches.

So content is important; but what makes good content? The copy must be readable (size, font and spacing). Use white space liberally and images to reinforce your message. Be thorough but short. Finally, think from your readers’ point of view. They seek answers make sure your copy gives them the info they need.

Clear Concise Navigation

Site navigation is critical to both design and usability. Don’t get creative with placement or “cool” effects. Users expect to see navigation links across the top – just above or below your logo. Navigation should be simple. A mouse roll over should highlight the link or reveal a drop menu. Other effects may confuse the user or may not be rendered on mobile devices.

For larger sites extra navigation on the side bar or at the very top of the screen may be needed. Amazon.com does a good job with their various links. However, even their site can be confusing. Simple categorized navigation that lets users get to any page from any page will enhance your design

Branding Cohesion

Sites are an extension of your offline branding and should convey the same message. Use the same color scheme, logo and slogan of your printed materials. The problem comes if your branding does not work well on the web. Bright colors (especially red and yellow) do not look great online. You may have to tone down or use these as a secondary color. Logos can also be an issue. If designed 20 years ago the logo may not be easy to display online. To maintain cohesion you may have to update branding.

Design for your Target Market

Design for your customers expectations. Attorneys, Politicians and CPS’s still wear suites (though no one else does) and their clients expect professionalism. Their sites will use fewer, richer colors (probably darker blue) and be straight forward in content. Web Agencies while still professional have more latitude in colors, images and content. Rock Band fans expect a certain edginess and breaking of the rules. Consider your branding, business and target when designing a site.

Mobile Usability

Since 2012 mobile has rapidly changed the web environment. About one third of traffic now comes from mobile devices. These screens are 25-60% smaller than desktops. The result is that users have to pull, pinch and scroll to read your content. They won’t. Rather they will find another site that has been designed for mobile and buy from that company.

Mobile interfaces are no longer a neat option but are crucial to business success. For industries that serve the under 40 market the need is even more critical. Do you have to scrap your site and start over? Not necessarily, most sites can be rebuilt for mobile use without a huge redesign. This is not simple but costs much less than new design. If your design is not current then use the mobile excuse to solve both problems.


So review your site with these elements of great design in mind. What improvements can you make?