Web Design for Non-Designers

Not everyone needs a web designer to design their website. There are many personal websites that can be built and maintained by individuals who are not trained in web design.

The caveat to that statement is that if your site is for a business or requires an online store, credit card handling and other more sophisticated tools, you would be wise to hire an experienced designer to build it and possibly to maintain it.

For the non-designer creating a website, WordPress offers this good infographic starter along with an article of explanation.

These 8 design dos and don’ts will help you create a site that looks good and is functional.

Use hierarchy to order content sounds so obvious – put the first information that you want people to read first. But that’s not as easy on a webpage as it is on a document. Position, font types, sizes, colors, headings and subheadings affect viewers’ attention.

Limit fonts and colors  Rule of thumb: use a maximum of three colors in your site design. Rule of thumb 2: use fonts in the same family (Arial, Times, Courier)

Consider legibility/readability and (not mentioned in the article) accessibility. A highly decorative font (Curlz MT) can hurt any viewer’s ability to quickly read, and many colors of text (especially on colored backgrounds) can be hard to read or even “invisible” to people with vision problems.

(even if it looks nice with your theme). Be sure to periodically take a step back and consider the legibility of your design.

The article’s “Don’ts” can also be seen as things to do. Don’t forget about images is do use images wisely. Some basic photo-editing skills (cropping, resizing, exposures) are definitely required.

Don’t be afraid to experiment  Every website is “under construction” to some degree. In WordPress.com, you can easily try new themes, change your header, or play with the color scheme. You may want to give the site a fresh look periodically without really changing the content.

I agree that you shouldn’t prioritize aesthetics at the expense of functionality, and that feedback from users or friends or other people working with websites is important. Keep an open mind. No matter how much you like a design feature, if users have a problem with it, change it. 

You don’t need to be a UX expert to know that if people have trouble finding a section of your site, then the navigation needs some revision.


Web Design Versus Web Development

meeting laptops

There are lots of ways to divide up the process of putting together a new website. I wrote elsewhere about some tips to streamline the phases of that process. But another way to divide the process is into the two primary tasks of web design and web development. They sound like they might just be two different ways to say the same thing, but there is a difference and it is an important distinction to make to a client.

Web development refers to building up the architecture of the website. This is when a developer is using code to create a functional site and get everything “technical” working properly.

But development doesn’t occur with the web design. In a larger company, these two tasks may not be done by the same people or even the same departments. The web designers are the people who determine what the website looks like, and how users will interact with it.

Small design firms might combine the tasks and a web designer might also work with some code, but designers focus more on appearance, layout, and usability. They are also often the “front office” that interacts directly with a client.

Web developers are primarily focused on turning an existing design into the proper code. They are often in the “back office” though they may sit in on client meetings in order to approve or disapprove ideas that a client would like to try.