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Web Design and Graphic Design: Working Together to Create the Perfect Online Experience

website designer in office

You’re about to jump into redesigning your website. It’s served its purpose for a few years now, but it’s time for an upgrade. 

The design, the style, the user experience are all out-of-date. Your biggest competitor just gave their website a makeover, and it puts your site to shame. 

You want your site to both look amazing and perform at top levels. To make that happen, you’ll need to find the sweet spot where web design and graphic design intersect. 

To help you get started, here are five things you need to consider to ensure your new website both looks good and converts visitors into paying customers. 

How do web and graphic design intersect to create a cohesive online user experience?

One of the major things you need to consider is how the intersection of web design and graphic design will impact your visitors’ user experience. 

User experience is so important. Google is shifting more and more of its focus on assessing the user experience sites offer, so you need to get this one right.

Your website is easy on the eyes

The first and most obvious impact of the intersection of web design and graphic design on the user experience is that quality graphic design worked into a website design creates a pleasant, eye-catching experience for the visitor. 

Simple things like font choice, color, placement of your designs can make the site easier to digest and help the visitor flow more easily through the site. 

I love this example from Basecamp. With each iteration of their site, they keep it simple while creating a very informative, eye-catching experience.

A website that’s easy to navigate

Ease of use is so important in creating a positive user experience for your visitors. If you go too overboard with your graphic design, the elements are cluttered, out of brand, the list goes on. It makes it hard for your visitors to flow through the site and can create frustration. 

Make that brand connection

Solid graphic design worked into your web design helps make the connection to the brand. Stay consistent with colors, styles, and other elements of your brand, like your logo

You can certainly add flavor by dropping in highlights and other elements to make the website “pop.” But make sure that when someone visitors your website, it’s extra clear they’re dealing with you and your brand so there’s no confusion. 

Guide visitors to convert

Certain visual elements can help visually guide visitors to things that are most important on the site. 

Text can flow downward, clearly pointing to a CTA button. A form can be placed with a clear visual directing visitors to fill it out. Background design can help visitors understand the flow, and various elements can clarify the hierarchy and differentiate important sections of your website. 

The example above is from Ahrefs. The team does a great job here of highlighting the CTA button and making it clearly stand out from the text, then flowing across the page to a second, alternative offer.

Taking all of these things into account, generally promotes a positive vibe around the brand if done right and makes the brand look respectable and professional. 

How do design principles differ between web and traditional graphic design, and where do they overlap?

While web design and graphic design do have a lot in common, it’s also important that you understand the differences so you can approach each properly to create a site that blows away the competition

Lots of movement on websites today

One of the major differences is interactivity. With traditional graphic design, you have flyers, billboards, ads, and so on. Those are all pretty static. When you’re designing graphics for a website, you need to consider that things may be moving and shifting around as people view the site. 

Below, you can see how we’ve added a lot of movement to our own website as the visitor flows through the homepage.

With websites, you can add in design elements that are interactive. Hover over an element and it changes, moves, shifts, or brings up more info for the visitor. 

The best sites today tend to incorporate movement and interactivity so the visitor feels like they’re really engaged with the brand. 

Avoid going crazy with too much movement

Sometimes, applying the static design principles from traditional graphic design can be useful when designing your website. 

It’s important not to go too overboard with movement. If too many visual elements are moving and floating around the screen, it can become annoying and distracting.

I don’t want to call out any particular business with an example here, so I’ll refer to the classic “World’s Worst Website.” This site was purposely designed with all the worst web design principles in mind, so by calling it out as a bad web design here in this article, I’m not at risk of offending anyone.

 

A lot of crossover exists between web design and graphic design

Web design and graphic design aren’t different in every way. In fact, a lot of the same principles do apply to both traditional and digital. 

For example, white space is still important to help key elements stand out. Give your visual and text elements, along with your CTAs and other content, room to breathe so visitors can discover them and easily get the message you’re trying to convey. 

Whole Foods does a great job of using white space in its design. As you can see in the video below, the visuals of the food and other products really pop off the page. The CTAs are clearly visible, and the site flows very nicely because of the use of white space.

Make your website readable with the right font choices

Limiting the number of fonts and making sure the fonts are readable are key. On that note, however, you can play with different font styles in web design vs. graphic design. 

Readability is key. Different browsers and other web platforms may not take kindly to non-web fonts, and that can throw off the design and leave a bad impression and kill the experience. 

In terms of responsive design, how does graphic design adapt to varying web layouts and devices?

One super-important thing you need to factor into any web design, besides elements like speed and quality copywriting, is that a huge percentage of your visitors are likely viewing your site on their mobile device. As such, you need to focus on creating a site that plays well on different screens. 

Accounting for the mobile shift

When designing graphics for a website, graphic designers need to consider that the designs they create may appear differently depending on the device. 

What may look great and create an amazing experience on a desktop may be altered significantly on a mobile device, moving elements around in a funky way and killing the experience. 

Color and fonts are key

Color plays an important role, fonts as well. These basic elements of design can appear differently on different screens, so it’s important for a designer to choose wisely here. 

One font may work well on a desktop, but when you open the same font on a mobile device, it gets a bit wonky, moves around the screen, just doesn’t play right. 

Too many visuals doesn’t respond well

Cramming too many visual elements into the design can also cause problems, both on a mobile version of a site and on a desktop. Minimalism in design is key here.

It’s important to think about spacing and white space, to ensure there are clear boundaries between sections and important information you wish to convey to your audience isn’t lost. 

The Coca-Cola website is a great representation of this. All the way down the homepage, each section is clearly defined by white space in between, imagery representing each section, and a clear, concise call-to-action.

Fixed elements may not adjust

Avoid fixed width elements that don’t adjust properly.  You can end up with significant issues on mobile by adding elements that look great on the big screen but can’t be read on a small screen.

The most important thing to do is to test each element on different devices to ensure it’s creating a positive experience no matter where it’s being viewed. 

With web accessibility becoming increasingly important, how does graphic design play a role in ensuring a site is accessible to all?

Web accessibility is a big topic. There are lots of gray areas, and it’s a space that’s very much still developing. There are, however, some key considerations to keep in mind. 

If you want to check to see if your passes the accessibility test, you can use a free tool like Accessibility Checker. And if you find your site isn’t up to par, contact our team, and our website accessibility experts will get you up to speed.

Contrast is important

Contrast is a big one to keep in mind when considering accessibility for your website. People with low vision can have difficulty reading low contrast design. 

Always add clear and relevant alt text

Any imagery or design elements added should have alt text so a screen reader can pick up what the images represent or determine whether it’s simply a design element. 

Avoid flashing elements

Some design elements can trigger seizures in sensitive individuals. Flashing and moving elements can do this. It’s good practice to limit any such elements. Movement is important, but again, don’t go overboard.

Readable fonts help when screen readers are in play

Readable fonts are key as well. Fonts that are too small or aren’t web friendly can make it difficult for visually impaired readers to read, or for those using screen readers, it can cause an inaccurate, negative experience. 

Shooting for larger display headings around 24-pt or so font, and keep your text at 12-14-pt. Font. 

This is from my other site (it’s a publication with marketing articles from marketing professionals across the globe). We use a large font to make it easy to read on both mobile and desktop, as well as to ensure the site is accessible.

In the age of templates and DIY web platforms, how does custom graphic and web design elevate a website’s value and user experience?

A lot of smaller businesses are turning to DIY and drag and drop templates to build their websites. These options are great for leveling the playing field a bit and allowing small businesses to get online quickly. 

As you grow, however, your digital-savvy customers grow as well. A drag-and-drop, template site can be great for starting off, but it quickly becomes obvious to visitors that your site lacks sophistication. 

This is where a custom-designed website can help you stand out. 

Custom design is pricier but leaves a better impression

I realize that a custom-designed site can be pricier than a DIY or template platform, but the level of credibility and professionalism it brings to your brand is worth every penny. 

Growing your brand with digital marketing

If you’re using a template for your site that looks like 75% of other sites on the internet, and your competition has a site that’s got a great user experience, lots of elements that engage a visitor, and a unique presence that really helps the brand stand out, you lose almost every time. 

We need both DIY and custom-designed websites

We need both DIY template sites and custom-designed sites. 

I believe in a fair playing field, and the DIY side of things lowers the barriers to entry for a small business with a small budget that wants to just get started and have a website. 

As you grow, however, you just have to be prepared to invest money in a custom website that helps your brand stand out. Otherwise, you’ll lose out on tons of money and growth. 

Final thoughts on graphic design and website design

Today’s digital world demands that your website meets the expectations of digital-savvy visitors. 

By applying key graphic design principles with the digital world in mind, you can create a website that leaves visitors in awww and scrambling to do business with you. 

Movement, the right fonts, and visuals that help visitors flow through the site help your audience to fall in love with your brand and find the info they need quickly. 

On the opposite site, if you go too overboard, you can kill the experience and really set your website back. 

Take into account all the graphic design principles laid out in this article, and consider the role they play in the design of your new website. 

When you find the sweet spot between web design and graphic design, we all win (except for your competition).

2 Responses

  1. Hello, Anthony,

    We need to make our website design more simple and user-friendly. Visitors love to spend more time on a website that has good navigation and content. Thanks for sharing this detailed post on designing a perfect website.

    Regards,
    Vishwajeet Kumar

    1. Simple and user-friendly is the key today. No one wants to land on a complicated, hard-to-navigate site these days. Pass on the crazy, overcomplicated design options.

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