Web Development

Top 10 WordPress Design Tips That Make Your Site Stand Out

Your business is at an important stage: you’re getting ready to launch your website. Except… you’re not a programmer. So, like many an enterprising business owner, you turn to WordPress to make things easier.

You’re not alone. A whopping 74.6 million websites across the globe depend on WordPress (for a sense of scale, that’s one site per person in Turkey).

However, a simple template isn’t all you need for a successful website. If you want your online business to truly stand out, then you need the tips and tricks of an expert WordPress designer.

Good thing we’ve assembled 10 of them.

1. Borrow Ideas

Full disclosure: we’re not talking about an Ocean’s 8 type of heist. Nor are we telling you to steal other people’s hard work, including code, branding, etc.

Instead, we’re talking about looking at the good ideas other people have had and drawing inspiration from them.

This is especially useful if you have no idea where to start on your website. By exploring other websites, especially sites that compete with you, you can get an idea of what you like, what you don’t like, and how to do it better than your competitors.

Now, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to see the actual coding other people have used so that you can tinker with your own ideas, there are ways to see (and use) other people’s code that is perfectly acceptable.

For example, there’s a ton of open source code available on GitHub. You can even take a look at the code of the sites you like. Just open to the webpage with a feature you like, then right-click anywhere on the page and click Inspect on the drop-down menu.

This will show you the code on the page in question. However, web developers know about this trick. Because of this, they will often hide the code for certain features, so Inspect will only get you so far.

2. To Design, or To Modify?

That is the question, whether ’tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous WordPress pre-designed templates or to take up fresh code against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them.

For the uninitiated, WordPress offers two ways to build a website:

  1. Use a pre-designed template and tweak it around the edges
  2. Start from the ground up

The beauty of WordPress is that it eliminates the need to hire a programmer whenever you want to build a website–instead, the code is pre-designed for you and you can modify the end result to suit your needs.

That said, WordPress templates have two drawbacks:

  1. They’re not always responsive to modifications
  2. Since so many people use WordPress, someone’s website looks like yours

What is a business owner to do?

If you’re not a coder, or you don’t have time to design a website from scratch, make use of the functionality WordPress has already provided and modify it around the edges.

It will save you a lot of manpower and frustration, and you get support if you experience any difficulties.

3. Follow Hick’s Law

Once you have an idea of what you’d like to see on your website, it’s time to introduce Hick’s Law.

What is Hick’s Law?

Hick’s Law (short for the Hick-Hyman Law) is named for the British and American psychologists William Edmund Hick and Ray Hyman. It’s cited for a variety of purposes, but it’s popular among web designers as a guiding tool.

In plain English, Hick’s Law states that the amount of time it takes for an individual decision is directly proportionate to the available options. In other words, the more options you have, the longer it takes to make up your mind.

Applying Hick’s Law

So… why is this relevant?

We present to you the famous study by Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper. In it, they found that a display with six varieties of jam attracted more visitors than a display with 24 varieties of jam.

In fact, people who saw the large display were only one-tenth as likely to buy as those who saw the small display.

This is Hick’s Law at work. We’re less likely to make a choice if we have too many options presented to us.

What does this mean for web design?

It means that you need to leverage Hick’s Law in your favor.

For example, let’s say you have a navigation bar. Each entry in that navigation bar opens to a drop-down menu with at least a dozen options each. The viewer is going to lose interest because they don’t want to wade through so many options.

This also applies to the rest of your website–how many posts you show on each page or whether someone has to choose between liking, sharing, or commenting on a post.

4. Lay the Groundwork, and Get the Right Tools

If you’re like most people, you care more about what your site does for you than how it looks. That’s fine–most people do. But you have to consider how the appearance of your site lends itself to your goals.

So, when you’re thinking about how to design your WordPress site, it’s important to consider what you want to achieve. This isn’t the same thing as what you want to sell. Ask yourself what you want your customer to do when they come to a specific webpage.

For example: do you want to generate brand awareness? Do you want your customer to buy a specific product?

The way you design your page will change based on what you want your customer to do.

This will also change the tools you use to design your site. After all, you wouldn’t be thinking about e-commerce tools if you want your customer to call your law practice.

5. The Rule of Thirds and Negative Space

Web design comes with some of its own design rules, but in some cases, the classic rules of art class apply. Specifically, the rule of thirds and negative space.

The Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is a classic rule of photography, and one of the most basic rules of good composition.

Basically, the human eye has a tendency to look at certain parts of an image and to find certain layouts more aesthetically pleasing. The rule of thirds allows you to take advantage of that tendency.

Imagine your image is divided like a tic-tac-toe grid into nine equal squares. There will be four intersection points between the lines–this is where the eye is naturally drawn. Your focal point is strongest if placed on these intersections.

When you have more than one subject, a few additional rules apply. A subject in the foreground naturally has more emphasis than a subject in the background, but its placement on the grid will affect this.

The bottom right intersection is the strongest focal point for multiple subjects, while the top left intersection is the weakest.

Negative Space

Some parts of your webpage have stuff, and other parts have empty space. The parts with the stuff (images, navigation bar, sidebar, etc.) are the positive space. The parts that are empty are the negative space.

You might not know it, but negative space is just as important to web design as positive space. In fact, without negative space, the parts of your website would be unreadable.

Look at the paragraph you’re reading right now. The white space where there are no words, the space between lines, is negative space. That negative space is what makes it possible for you to read the page at all.

That same principle applies to other areas of your website. When you’re using it properly, negative space should make your website readable, scannable, and easy on the eyes.

The Rule of Thirds and Negative Space in Web Design

The balance between the rule of thirds and negative space is more important to web design than you think.

For example, let’s say you’ve got a homepage. There’s an image with a call to action that takes up most of the screen, with the navigation bar above it. If you split that page according to the rule of thirds, the call to action would be on the intersections.

This works as a layout because it keeps the focus where you want–on the call to action, not the navigation bar.

In addition, if you’re using negative space properly, the call to action can function as a stretch of negative space for the viewer to rest their eyes (and pay attention to the call to action) compared to everything going on in the navigation bar.

6. Respect Your User’s (Im)patience

Fun fact: your customer now has a shorter attention span than a goldfish (about eight seconds).

You can wax poetic about what this means for humanity, but in real time, this means you only have eight seconds to get your user’s attention.

That’s assuming they stay on a webpage at all.

Hint: 47% of users expect a webpage to load in two seconds or less, and 40% of users will leave a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load.

So, while you may be tempted to put every bell and whistle on your site, if you include so many that your website takes forever and a day to load, you’re actively losing customers.

Every second counts.

Instead of bogging down your site (and your user) with plugins and extras that you don’t actually need, stick to the essentials.

And if you’re not sure how your site is performing, use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. It will show you your load time, optimization, and key statistics to boost your performance.

7. Get Non-Obvious Plugins

Not all plugins are going to be customer-oriented. In fact, there are several plugins out there that make your life a million times easier, without your customer ever laying eyes on them.

A big one is WordPress Backup to Dropbox. It’s exactly what it says on the tin–it backs up your site to Dropbox in case any unfortunate events occur that keep the site from getting backed up to the server.

Another handy one is Review Old Posts, which allows you to automatically share your old content posts on social media. If you’ve ever spent hours digging through old content to create posts, you know exactly how magical this is.

And if you need more ideas, check out this post.

8. Leverage Color Theory

Did you know that blue is a favorite color of many, especially men, and as a consequence, is often viewed as a non-threatening color? Or that red is viewed as a color of intensity, which can mean anything from anger to excitement to passion?

This is important for your website–your users will react differently to the colors they see and interpret your brand differently based on those colors, which will, in turn, affect the usability of your site.

9. Use Responsive (and Mobile Friendly) Design

We’ve talked a lot about the bells and whistles you should leave out of your site. Let’s talk about one you absolutely cannot neglect: mobile-friendliness. In fact, mobile-friendliness has become a central tenet of search engine marketing.

Mobile users spend twice as long on websites as desktop users. But keep in mind that their attention spans are just as short.

Think of the last time you logged onto a site on your phone. The site was clearly not meant to be viewed on a phone, and it drove you up the wall the entire time you were using it.

Picture that frustration. Now picture whether or not you’re likely to buy something on your phone when facing that frustration.

If the answer is no, then you understand why you need to optimize your site for mobile.

10. Remember to K.I.S.S.

When all else fails, the old mantra applies: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

If Hick’s Law, bounce rates, and negative space taught you anything, it’s that simplicity is always the best choice when it comes to web design. A simple web design is almost always more pleasing than a complicated one, and it always converts better.

The WordPress Designer You Need

Now that you know a few tricks of the trade, are you ready to build your website?

If not, no worries. Working as a WordPress designer is an undertaking, and you’ve got a business to run.

That’s where we come in.

If you need more ideas to get started, check out our blog for more tips and tricks to improve your web design and SEO, like this post on how to build quality backlinks (even when you’re new to the game).

And if you need a WordPress expert? We’ve got your back. Reach out to us today to schedule a free consultation.