19 Essential Website Design Elements and Principles for Small Businesses

19 Essential Website Design Elements and Principles

Small businesses need to adhere to website design principles to create an online presence that will help them succeed. Though website design is often thought of as only about the look and feel of a website, it is much more than that. Good website design incorporates practical elements and principles that work together to create a user-friendly and visually appealing website.

We’ve broken the 19 elements into five categories: foundation, branding, cosmetics, functionality, and content.

Setting the foundation.

Before we do anything, developing the site’s foundation is essential. You can choose to code the site from scratch or use a CMS (Content Management System).

I am a big fan of using WordPress as a foundation for many reasons but the biggest one is the flexibility of the platform. You can do just about anything with WordPress.

However, if you are going to use WordPress, it is crucial to understand the basic structure of the code and how it works before you begin adding content.

Layout and grid design.

The layout of your website should be easy to understand and use. The most common website layouts are-

  • Left sidebar with the content on the right.
  • Right sidebar with the content on the left.
  • Central column with the content in the middle.

The layout you choose will depend on the type of website you are building and the content you will be including.

For example, if you are building a website for a blog, you will likely want to use a left sidebar layout so that people can easily navigate your different posts.

If you are building a website for a business, you may want to use a central column layout so that people can easily find the information they are looking for.

Navigation and usability.

Have you ever been to a website and can’t find what you are looking for?

It is frustrating, right? This is why navigation and usability are so crucial in website design.

Your website should be easy to navigate and use. People should be able to find what they are looking for without trouble.

The navigation menu should be easy to find, and the website should be easy to use on all devices (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone).

Responsive design.

Mobile Responsive Website Design
A responsive website will look great on mobile devices, tablets, and desktops.

These days over 50% of all of your website’s traffic will come from mobile devices.

This is why it is so important to have a responsive website design.

A responsive website design means that your website will adjust to fit any screen size.

So whether someone is looking at your website on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, they will be able to see it and use it without any trouble.

Get your brand on point.

Now that the layout and design of your website are taken care of, it’s time to start thinking about your brand. Of our list of website design elements and principles, these are the ones that will reflect who you are the most.

Your website should reflect your brand in every way. This means choosing the right colors, fonts, and images that represent your business well.

Logo first.

Your logo is the face of your brand, and it should be the first thing people see when they visit your website.

Make sure your logo is placed in a prominent location on your website so people can easily see it. This is typically in the header or top left corner of the website.

Brand colors.

As you design your website, consider the colors you will use.

Your website should ideally use 2-3 brand colors that represent your business well and are easy on the eyes.

If your suck on colors, I like to use a site called Paletton. It allows you to choose color schemes that are monochromatic, adjacent, triadic, or tetradic.


Many people overlook the importance of typography when it comes to website design. But the truth is, your website’s typography can make or break your site.

Remember, your website’s typography should be easy to read and match your brand well.

You don’t want something so fancy that it is hard to read or something so plain that it doesn’t represent your brand well.

Making it eye-catching.

You have your layout, and it’s starting to represent your brand well, but now it’s time to make it eye-catching. Nothing too flashy, but just enough to make people want to stay on your website.

These three basic website design elements and principles are where you make your site look and feel professional to give your brand the credibility it deserves.

Use of whitespace.

Many sites try to cram as much information as possible into every space. But this is a mistake.

Your website should use whitespace to make it more eye-catching and easy to read.

Whitespace doesn’t have to be white; it can be any color. It is simply the space around your content that makes it easier on the eyes.


When applying colors to your website, you want to ensure a good amount of contrast.

This means that your colors are not too similar and provide enough contrast for people to read your website easily.

A good rule of thumb is to use a light color for your background and a dark color for your text. Personally, I think absolute colors such as white and black are too sharp. So I use lighter shades such as off-white, gray, or beige for my website’s background and deep grays for the text.

Beautiful images.

Once upon a time, it was cool to use flashy gifs and animations on your website. But those days are long gone.

Nowadays, people want to see beautiful images that represent their brand well.

Choose images that are high quality and reflect your brand in a positive light. The best option is to use photos you take or hire a professional photographer. But you can also find some good stock photos on sites like Unsplash and Pexels. Both of which are free stock photo sites.

Ensure functionality.

Your site is certainly coming along nicely, but none of that matters if it isn’t functional. These four website design elements and principles will help your site interact with your visitors.

CTA – Calls to Action.

What do you want them to do when you get a visitor to your site?

This is where having a call to action, or CTA, comes in.

Your website’s CTA should be clear and easy to find. It should stand out from the rest of your site and be placed in a prominent location.

It should also be relevant to your business. For example, if you sell products, your CTA could buy now. But if you are a service-based business, your CTA might be to schedule a consultation.

Contact and appointment forms.

You want your website’s visitors to take these action items. The CTA is usually the call, while the form is the action.

Make sure your forms are short, sweet, and to the point. You don’t want people to get overwhelmed and click away from your website. Only collect the necessary information and make it as easy as possible for people to fill out your forms.

Map integration.

If you’re a brick-and-mortar shop or a service-based business with an area you serve, you’ll want to ensure your website has map integration.

This allows people to see where you are and how to get to you. It also helps with SEO as Google considers location when ranking websites.

Social buttons.

Social Media Website Development Costs
Social media is everywhere. You want to ensure your business is on various social media platforms so you can engage with your customers.

Nowadays, nearly every business is on at least one or two social media platforms – sometimes more.

Make it easy for people to find and follow your social media accounts by adding social buttons to your website.

You can typically find social sharing buttons as part of your website’s theme or plugin. If not, there are several free and paid options available. We usually like to put them on our website’s header, footer, and contact page.

Fill it with content.

In the world of search engine optimization, content is king. You’ll want to be thorough when filling out your website’s content. This includes the About page, Service page, and Contact page.

Make sure to use relevant keywords throughout your website’s content. But don’t overdo it, as this can result in keyword stuffing, hurting your website’s ranking.

About page.

This is one of the most essential pages on your website as it’s typically one of the first places people will go to learn more about you and your business. You want to build a personal connection with your website’s visitors, and the best way to do that is by sharing your story on the About page.

Be open, honest, and transparent as you share who you are, what you do, and why you do it. This will help people to connect with you on a personal level and build trust.

If you look at our website’s about page, you’ll see that we focus on our vision and mission.

Service pages.

What services do you offer?

This is an essential page for small businesses as it helps explain what you do. You’ll want to be thorough and include all the relevant information people might be looking for.

If you have a lot of services, you might want to consider creating individual pages for each one. This will help your website’s organization and make it easier for people to find the information they want.


You have seen testimonials and reviews on websites before. They help build trust and credibility for the website and business.

If you have testimonials or reviews from past or current clients, showcase them prominently on your website. You can also include them in your website’s sidebar or footer.

Having testimonials on your website demonstrates social proof and helps to build trust with your website’s visitors.


You can get away without having a blog on your website, but we would highly recommend it.

Blogging is a great way to show your expertise, connect with your audience, and attract new website visitors. It also helps with SEO, giving you more content to optimize for relevant keywords.

If you decide to start a blog, post regularly and promote your blog posts on social media.


Your visitors want to see what you have done in the past.

If you have any relevant projects, showcase them on your website. You can create an individual page for each project or include them in a portfolio section.

Be sure to include images, videos, and any other relevant information people might be interested in. Remember, you’re trying to sell them on your products or services, so make sure to put your best foot forward.

If you don’t have any projects to showcase, consider creating some. You can create case studies, how-tos, or even just share your process.

Pricing table.

Many visitors will visit your website to find out how much your products or services cost.

If you have pricing for your products or services, include a pricing table on your website. This will give people the information they are looking for and help them decide whether or not to do business with you.

A Few Website Design Elements and Principles
Our website uses various design elements and principles. You’ll notice them as you browse the site.

These 19 website design elements and principles are essential for all businesses, especially small businesses. By following the website design principles in this article, you can create a visually appealing, functional, and user-friendly website.

Remember, your website is usually the first impression a potential customer or client has of your business. So, you want to make sure it is a good one!