23 steps to the perfect website layout

13. Refine every component

Website layouts: video component

Treat each component as if it were for a design contest

Treat every component as if it could be presented to a design contest. If you pay attention to every component, the whole will be more than the sum of its parts. I have to admit that this piece of advice is not mine. I heard it in the past at a previous agency and I was shocked by how clear and true this statement was. 

Each component needs to be designed as it could stand alone as the best component ever. Sometimes designers leave certain parts of a site until last on their to-do list, and end up not showing them much respect.

14. Sharpen your work

Website layouts: blurry pixels

Set the right contrast between strokes and background

To avoid blurry pixels, try to set the right contrast between strokes and background or background colours. Besides any aesthetic considerations, there are some common things that have to be avoided in order to create a clean and correct piece of work. 

Some things you should be on the lookout for when trying to sharpen your work  include gradients banding, blurry edges, font rendering options (some fonts, depending on their size are best viewed, on a specific render mode), and strokes that merge badly with the background. 

These are just a few basic examples of issues to look for, but in reality the list is endless. Always look at your design as a whole to see if everything works well and then analyse each component individually more carefully.

15. Tidy up your design files

This (along with the use of a grid) is one of the most important pieces of advice, no matter what design tool you are using. Regardless of the size of the project and the number of designers working on it, you need to keep your files clean. This will make it easier to export different sections, to speed up the design process and to work collaboratively with other designers.

16. Design the best case; prepare for the worst

Website layouts: Clear app

Bear in mind how your layout will work on different devices and screen sizes

Bear in mind how your layout will work across different devices and screen sizes. As designers our job is to solve problems through different constraints. With web design, the constraints range from conceptual and technical problems to content-related issues. 

We need to build a site that can work not only in the ideal scenario, but also in the worst-case scenario. For instance, a user could be using a really small screen and check the site when there is barely any content on it so it looks broken. 

However for the purpose of presenting our work I always strongly recommend building the best case scenario for it. Therefore we are going to display the ideal amount of text and we are going to show the site inside the ideal browser size that should be the most common scenario for most users using it.

17. Obsess over the design until you hate it

If you are passionate about design I'm sure this is something you are already doing. Whenever I finish a comp I feel proud of, I tend to make that comp a part of my life. I take screenshots of it, check it out it different devices, make wallpapers of it and even print it and hang it on the wall.

As a result of this process, I get to a point where I finally end up hating my design. I start seeing everything that's wrong with it and eventually I change it. Disliking your previous work is sign of maturity, and it means that you are finally learning from your own mistakes.

18. Share designs with clients early on

When proposing an interactive concept or a design 'look and feel', you need to ensure that you and the client are both on the same page as soon as possible. Avoid spending too much time on a concept before sharing it with the client.

Once the initial concept is approved you can relax a little bit and start production. But after presenting the first concept, if the client doesn't fall in love with it, you should gather enough feedback to bring a second more appropriate concept to the table.

19. Be your developer's best friend

Developers are creative people and they love their jobs as much as you do. But they are not always included in a project from the very beginning, and often only get involved when the concept is decided and their creative role has been overridden. 

This process is wrong; some of the best ideas come from the development team, so make sure you team up with them from the very beginning of the project. Sharing your concepts and excitement with them will lead to better ideas and a better execution in the end.

20. Present things as clearly as possible 

It's just as important to produce great work as it is to present it. Your best design can be ignored or thrown away if you don't present it properly. When it comes to presentations, you want to explain your work like you're showing it to a four-year-old. Always keep in mind that what is totally clear to you might not be that clear to somebody seeing your design for the first time.

21. Don't get too attached to your ideas

There is a thin line between knowing when to advocate for your ideas and learning to recognise when your team or client doesn't see them as 'the one'. As a designer you need to firmly believe in what you do, but you should also be open to quickly turning over any of your ideas and coming up with something else. Don't forget that there is more than one solution.

22. Follow your design into development 

If you work inside an agency you'll probably know how easy it is to find yourself struggling with the design of a new project when the previous one is being developed. Contrary to general belief, your work on a project doesn't end when the PSD and style sheet are delivered.

If you really care about your designs and interaction ideas being well executed, check in on your old best friends the developers from time to time, and help them as much as they need to ensure every little pixel is perfect.

23. Show your work in progress

Website layouts: style sheets

Share your style sheets and work in progress components with the community

As part of a community of designers, we all love to see not just the final results but also the work in progress. Sometimes the best part of a project is left out for several reasons and gets lost in your Archive folder. 

Once the project is done and you get the approval from the client/producer promote it, and if possible create a case study with the work in progress and designs that didn't make it to the final release. You will be helping by contributing to the community's knowledge and you will get valuable feedback in return.

Like this? Read these...