15 Essential Website Design Features

The 15 Features you'll find on every successful website

You know the websites that you leave right away after landing on them? But then there are the ones you can't wait to explore and bookmark so you can come back and read more? 

As a creative business owner, you know that not all websites are created equal.

A well designed site - with all the right infrastructure behind it - will grow your businesses and brand. On the other hand, you can have a nice looking site that even with the very best of intentions will never deliver results.

Having a good website that drives your business is totally within reach, so long as you follow certain guiding design principles and tie them in with your top business goals.

In this post I'll cover the top design features every website needs in order to be successful and in the download below you'll get my full checklist of 15 things you'll want to make sure are on your site.


1   |   BRANDING

Branding is a huge topic! But if you're on this site I'm pretty sure you have a strong appreciation for design and know how important a cohesive, appealing "visual identity" can be.

Broken down into simple elements, a brand usually includes a logo, color palette, typography, various images or graphics, and even the tone of voice in all your communications, including your website copy.

Consistency is key here. Your brand tells a story and you don't want to distract the narrative with random elements that aren't congruent.

Of course, I would always recommend working with a designer to help you pinpoint the vibe and aesthetic of your brand and have them capture that in a logo, color palette and fonts. But if you're not ready to invest in design yet, here are some guidelines so you can make solid progress on your own.

Before you even start throwing content onto your website I recommend you have 3 basic brand elements decided.

1.  Start with a logo. If you're looking for inspiration, I'd recommend starting on Pinterest. The Brightworks profile is set up for our clients looking for just this kind of inspiration to get them started, so you'll find boards for color inspiration, branding design, logo design, and lots more. 

One of the iterations of your logo should include your full business name. You can then use that on your website and business cards/e-signature. It's always good to have a logo on file for marketing materials as your business grows.

2.  Now it’s time to decide on a color palette. Go back to Pinterest and then choose 3 top colors for your brand. If you’re taking the DIY route and have no idea where to start, I recommend using the Adobe Color Wheel for pre-made combinations. If this is taking up too much time then I recommend just choosing ONE highlight color for now that speaks to you. See? Much easier.

3. Typography. Time to take a look at font pairings and choose which the fonts you want to work with. To help you choose a successful combination, see my related post (and download) on 10 strong font pairings. 


➳ Download the Font Pairs Cheat Sheet! 


2   |   A Way for you to keep in touch with your prospective clients

If you have a business website, you should have a way for people to sign up for your email list. Period.

Even in this day of digital overwhelm and multiple feeds, email converts much better than any other form of online marketing. If you have clients, and you want more, you need to send them emails! Regular emails are one of the most effective marketing tools out there and a great way to keep people in the loop with what you're offering. This can be a weekly commitment or a monthly one, whichever is easier and more sustainable for you.

So you should have a way to collect emails on your website and to entice people to stay connected to you, you might want to offer them something in return for their email, such as offering them a fun quiz or giving them access to a special offer or download.  

Instead of thinking of your regular emails as a newsletter (because who wants to read another newsletter these days?) then re-frame it: send little notes or updates instead. You can let your audience know about product launches, staff updates or send out greetings for occasions through the year. The more personality you put into your emails, the more likely people will be to respond, so have fun with it!


3   |   high quality photos & copy

If you are going to invest your time and/or money into a website design, but then use crummy photos, or tiny photos which come out pixellated, you are wasting your time and money. 

Because here's the thing: you simply cannot have an effective site with poor pictures. And if your copy is boring, or just a repeat of what your competitors are saying, then ugh.

But what you can do is have a simple site with great pictures. 

Top notch photography is not an afterthought: it can make or break your site.

After all, people are visiting your website as a way to decide whether to work with you. If you look like you have a professional online presence, then yes, people will suppose that you have a professional business.

They'll also decide if you're the kind of person they want to work with based on the copy on your About page.  

Not paying attention to your photos and copy will end up costing your business far more money in the long run than it takes to hire a few professionals to deliver what you need.

Tip: If you need some great stock photos, here are the best sites to search. 


4   |   uncluttered NAVIGATION

There are so many hidden things behind all great designs, especially ones that seem simple. And web design is no different.

For example, you may not have heard of the F-Layout in web design. It's a nifty concept.

It describes the way people read a website, which is horizontally starting at the top of the page, and then they make their way down and across through the content as they go.

Rather than trying to force the viewer's visual flow, the F-Layout follows the viewer's visual flow gives in to the natural behaviors of most web users.

Web designers interested in website user experience will build a site with a pattern such as the F-Layout in mind. And yes, this is why hiring a designer is a great idea because they will have a better grasp of how different layouts can change user behavior. I know, sneaky!

This means that the navigation and menu areas of your website are critical because they are the first place people will look when they open your site, and it's what they use to find a path through your content.

The best practice is to keep the menu and navigation as uncluttered as possible, which means you should try very hard to keep it under six items. Any more than that and you are asking people to do too much work to find the content they are looking for.

Note: The "F Pattern Layout" is not the only one, but it's a great one to start with. [If this topic interests you, do a Google search for web design theory!]



An intuitive path through your content means visitors will easily find the information they’re looking for or and whether your brand speaks to them.

If they navigate through your site effectively one of the first things they are going to want to do is reach out and contact you. So make that EASY for them!

You'd be surprised how many websites actually make their contact information hard to find. So, don't be one of them. Make sure one of your navigation items is a link to your Contact page.

If you are a business that serves clients in any way, you must have a contact page that is easily accessible and thorough. What you put on the page is up to you. The Great Contact Form debate still continues in some circles but whether you love them or hate them, you must have a way for people to email you. You can also of course choose to include your phone number, physical address, social media links and perhaps your availability info. 


If you have any social media profiles you must have them linked to your website. Having at least ONE social media profile is a must because it will help boost your search rankings and provide another way for people to find you.

Connecting your social media accounts to your website is straightforward so make sure you do it! And having a live feed at the bottom of your home page is also a good idea to make your content feel fresh and new.

The other big advantage to social content is that it's far more likely to be shared - and yes that means new traffic to your website! You want to make it as easy as possible for people to interact with your content on your website and share that content too!

7-15  |  USE our CHECKLIST

There are a total of 15 design features on the checklist I've created for you. You can download your copy of the guide and checklist below. Adding these features to your site will not only improve your website visually & structurally, but will also help you to connect with your audience more effectively, increase traffic and get more returning visitors!

Soon, you’ll notice a direct correlation between strong website design and website audience growth. 


So tell me, which elements you going to work on first? I’d love to know so leave me a note in the comments!