Modern Web Design: Principles, Trends and Best Practices

June 19th, 2024
modern web design

Modern web design is not just about aesthetic appeal; it encompasses functionality, user experience, and a seamless interface that engages visitors from the moment they land on your site. Understanding the key principles and practices of effective web design can transform your online presence, making it more attractive, user-friendly, and ultimately, more successful.

This article delves into the essential aspects of good web design, offering insights and tips to help you create a website that not only looks great but also performs exceptionally well.


  1. Website design development
  2. Website design principles
  3. Good web design practices
  4. Web design trends
  5. Modern web design examples

Website design development

Website design has evolved a lot over the last 30 years. CERN launcehd the first-ever website in 1991. Like most websites of the early 90s, it was function-based–welcoming us with plain text on a white background. However, as the internet’s popularity grew, so too did web design. Website design encompasses what a visitor sees and interacts with on a website. 

Do you remember the homepages of the late 90s? Boxy styles, garish colors, and limited fonts along with no clear positioning of text made these early sites resemble collages of Word documents and photos stuck to a pinboard. While this colorful kaleidoscope was innovative at the time, modern web design has come a long way since then.

Early web design

Early web design

Back in the early 2000s, major elements of a website included the navigation bar with tabs to sub-pages, headings of pages, and a logo. The start page was often named as the front page to show the visitor they had landed on the main page. Early web design was table-based, descriptive, and text-focused. It represents the “read-only web” known as Web 1.0.

For the last 14 years we have mostly been using Web 2.0; concentrating on watching, reading, and writing.

Schematic development of the world wide web

Schematic development of the World Wide Web

Web 3.0 takes it a step further, allowing execution. This means visitors can engage with a website like a program or application. Right now, the web is shifting to a symbiotic web (Web 4.0) that allows customized self-learning interaction of the user with websites, apps, and platforms. As internet usage shifted from computers to mobile devices, responsive web design also became an important factor in the visitor experience.

Website design principles

Web design makes websites engaging, interactive, and functional. Good web design allows visitors to find valuable information easily and quickly, in an aesthetically pleasing way. When it comes to getting started with web design, there are a few key principles to keep in mind:


User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design are essential parts of website design. UX design focuses on creating a seamless experience for the website user whereas UI focuses on the visual aspects. Striking the right balance between aesthetics and functionality is key to good web design. Conducting research and understanding your website visitors’ needs will help you design a website that is not only engaging, but also easy to use.


The style of a website is fundamental as it delivers the framework of a website. This website design principle describes how elements of a website are positioned relative to each other. The most important ingredients that make up the style are:

  • navigation bar
  • header (with optional headings and logo)
  • website footer
  • (optional) sections
Major elements of a website, example image of top navigation bar, header and footer

Major elements of a website, for example, an image of the top navigation bar, header, and footer

These elements are arranged relative to the navigation bar in a standard style. There are 4 types of standard styles considered to be good web design. A navigation bar to the top or left is the most common. Webnode provides you with templates meeting all standard styles. No matter which template you select, you can always change between these standard styles afterward.

From top left to lower right: hamburger button, top navigation bar, lower navigation bar and the navigation bar to the left.

From top left to lower right: hamburger button, top navigation bar, lower navigation bar, and the navigation bar to the left.

Although the navigation bar is still positioned at the top of more than 80% of all websites, flexibility is growing. The clean positioning of a hamburger button (three bold horizontal lines) at the top right corner, opening up all other pages in a dropdown menu, is a newer approach in addition to placing the navigation lower to the middle of the pages.

Usually, the website footer is reserved for legal information, disclaimers, social media contacts, and other links. Half the world displays the contact info on the right of the navigation bar. This is why most website templates already hold a space in the navigation menu for the contacts page.

The idea behind the standard style is to provide the visitor with a comprehensive overview. All elements on a page have a dedicated space, leading away from the style used in early website design that resembled a patchwork pattern.


In Western cultures, people tend to read from left to right and from top to bottom in an “F” pattern. As our eyes move from left to right, whatever is placed on the right side will gain more attention. This is important to consider when planning your content and layout. There are also many trends related to this such as logos being placed on the top left side as a standard practice or expect them at least in the mid-top section.


In web design, the layout describes what space the major elements of a website take up on the screen.

They can be positioned in the center with borders or take up the entire screen–like a heading in a Word document with wide or narrow spaces between words being placed in the center or to the left.

Single column design

In this layout, the content of a page is laid out in a single column that takes up most of the screen. Due to its simplicity, it is the most commonly used type of layout.

It is especially suitable for displaying content on mobile devices. This makes it very popular in contemporary web design.

Single column design

Single column design

Split-screen design

Sometimes it is necessary to present more than one piece of content of equal or similar importance next to each other.

The common format for this layout is to complement a text box with an image or divide the text into columns. Using two images with a textbox on top or below to split the screen works equally as well.

Variations of this type of layout can be achieved by dividing the screen in different ratios, for example, 50:50.

We can often see this type of layout in the web design for online shops where the information is as important as the product image itself.

Split screen design

Split screen design

Card grid design

This type of design became popular with sites such as Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

The card grid design resembles cards laid out in rows on a table. The cards are images or symbols with optional short text captions that lead the reader to more detail-intensive pages with one click.

The image used in the card grid design makes it easy to identify the different contents of a page. It makes browsing and selecting information more accessible and enjoyable.

Example of card grid design

Example of card grid design

There are two types of grid layouts:

  • based on cards of the same size–such as a square grid
  • based on cards of different sizes–so that rows of the grid vary in height

“Above the fold” and “below the fold”

Once a website is opened on a screen, we see the navigation bar, the major header image, a headline, and perhaps some intro text. If we want to see more, we need to scroll down.

What we see from a website without scrolling down is referred to as “above the fold”. Everything else is “below the fold”. Contemporary web design places the most important elements above the fold.

To catch a visitor’s attention, place the best and most important elements of each of your website pages on top so that these are visible without scrolling.

The standard styles and layout give the website a look, but good web design also needs to be practical. We like to find what we seek quickly and easily. Therefore, good web design means functionality. 

SEO boosting elements

These are fields in the website editor to define search engine-relevant terms, such as the:

  • meta description
  • page name
  • web address or URL
  • keyword usage in text and titles

Google prioritizes headings within the written website text, giving main headings classified as H1 the top priority.

Modern website creators already define the function of heading types in the code, and so does Webnode.

All headings are automatically coded as H1 so that you only need to worry about what words to use.


In modern web design, speed goes hand in hand with user-friendliness. Google changed its algorithm in January 2021 to rank websites with optimized loading speeds higher than those loading more slowly.

Webnode websites are coded in such a way that a maximum loading speed is automatically reached on all devices.


User-friendliness, also known as eye-friendly guidance, relates to how pages are structured within the website and how intuitive the navigation is.

Webnode’s templates emphasize clear and concise navigation that is limited in the number of tabs. Subpages are limited to a maximum of 3 to reach all pages and get to their content quicker.

Furthermore, subpages have a short path to make the web address easy to read and remember. Long paths with several dashes that fill the address bar of the browser are outdated.

Even if your page is a subpage of a subpage, the web address of your gallery will still show as “”. The aim is that a minimum number of clicks will lead the reader to the desired content.

Responsive web design

Responsive web design makes it possible for websites to automatically adapt their appearance to the screen sizes of all devices. This allows the typesetting and text flow to change from a wide screen with fewer line breaks to a narrow screen with many line breaks. Photos in landscape format are also adjusted to portrait format without losing quality or meaning.

To describe the behavior of responsive web design, imagine all the elements of your website are laid out like chess pieces on a flexible gameboard. The board can be squeezed and stretched anytime to any rectangular dimensions while the pieces move to their new positions relative to changes in the dimensions of the board.

At Webnode, all our website templates are automatically programmed as responsive. The website editor automatically formats the text to flow correctly, without the need to implement extra line breaks.

Mobile-first design

This goes hand in hand with responsive design. Rather than designing a website traditionally, with desktop and laptop versions getting designed first, mobile-first websites are adapted to desktop and laptop versions after the mobile versions are made. People who used their mobile devices to visit websites reached 4.3 billion globally in October 2020, and those numbers are continuing to rise.

Google already prioritizes mobile-friendly web design in its rankings. Mobile-first design is not only responsive design, it also incorporates easy structure and navigation as well as fast loading speed. The latter is one of the most important elements of modern web design, which we will talk more about in the following section.

Test often

As we’ve seen over the course of the past 30 years, website design is continuously evolving. What has worked well in the past might not work well in the future so it’s important to test often to find out what is resonating most with your website visitors and adjust anything that isn’t. Also, since website visitors have high standards when it comes to speed and intuitive navigation, it’s essential to revisit your website from time to time to ensure that everything is still working as it should.

Good web design practices

Using a website builder template is a great option if you’re just getting started as it provides you with a style framework and the essential functions for your website. Preselected images, fonts, and colors are included as inspiration for how your website could look like. 

While templates are a great jumping off point, you’ll want to customize your website so it accurately represents your business. When making any changes to a template, you’ll want to keep these modern web design 


People expect different things from different types of websites. That’s why one of the most important principles of web design is to understand the purpose of the website. While the fundamentals remain the same, your approach will be very different if you’re designing an online store versus a corporate blog, for example. Understanding the website’s purpose will allow you to employ modern web design principles and techniques in a way that will guide the visitor towards the end goal–for example, making a purchase or subscribing to a newsletter.

Color and typeface

It’s important that your website is visually captivating, but also that it’s readable. Using highly-stylized fonts and incompatible color combinations may make it difficult for website visitors to get the information they need from your website, negatively impacting their user experience. Be sure to avoid this web design faux pas by doing your research on what fonts and color schemes perform best with your target audience.

Font style


Texture refers to the background of your pages or text elements. It does not need to be white nor monochrome. It can be an image of a landscape, some animated flowing water, or just some pattern, for example. In Webnode’s CMS you have an array of different textures for your backgrounds to choose from, and you also have the option to upload your own images.

Structure and guidance

In modern web design, it’s a best practice to keep information on your main pages short and sweet to create interest. From there, you can link to pages with more detail.

An option to give your site more structure could be adding a grid of images following the card grid design. Each image displays a topic or service, which links to more detailed pages. This way you are leaving your visitors in control of what information they want to see and making your page interactive.


Let the sections guide your visitors. For example, on your team page, you can start by sharing a story of how it all began. From there, you can share more information about company milestones and follow that with bios of key team members.

When it comes to good website design, less is more. This relates to all content on a single page, such as length of text, number of varying backgrounds, fonts, and colors. For example, headings are no longer a must in the header of a page– sometimes an image can speak for itself.

Use negative space

White space or empty space on a page, also known as negative space, will give the eye a break. This space is typically a white or subtle colored frame spaced between sections of a page. Use negative space to give the brain time to take in the message.

The rule of thirds

This rule originates from fine arts and describes the ratio of spaces in which features are sketched. Divide each side into equal thirds of a page. The intersecting lines are the guidelines for eyes to follow and where one strategically places an object.

“The Cliff Walk at Pourville” by Monet shows two ladies looking out to the sea of Normandy. They are standing to the middle right side with a perfectly clouded sky in the upper third of the painting.

The Cliffwalk at Pourville (1982) by Claude Monet (Art Institute of Chicago) is the perfect example of how the rule of thirds applies.[/caption]

The Cliff Walk at Pourville (1882) by Claude Monet (Art Institute of Chicago) is the perfect example of how the rule of thirds applies.

It is not a coincidence that such images are balanced and easy to comprehend.

You can apply this principle to web design by filling in your most important information in one-third of the page and balance the opposite side with something less intense but complementary.

Example of rule of thirds, the grid line indicates the nine possible areas, where one can place an object.

Example of the rule of thirds, the grid line indicates the nine possible areas, where one can place an object.

Luckily, the Webnode editor helps you with positioning your content within a single section by letting you choose the sector of the nine possible placements when applying the rule of thirds.

Consistency is key

Consistency is essential to all aspects of your web design–from the color, texture, and fonts you choose, to the amount of information you display and your topic. Remember to keep it simple and give the reader one topic per page. 

For example, if you have a carpentry company and you want to present carpenter-related stories and tips; no one needs to see the boozy pictures of the last company day out. Instead, include videos of customers who tried your product or your own video demonstrations. Be a bit creative, but be consistent.

Visual hierarchy

Another best practice in modern web design is to prioritize the visual hierarchy. Using visual elements to strategically draw the website visitor’s eye and direct them where to go can be very impactful when it comes to website design. Arranging the elements on a website page in order of importance can better help the visitor grasp the most important information and flow through the content.

Good content

The web page content is also an important part of web design. You can have the most beautiful and functional website, but if the content falls flat, you can expect a high bounce rate. Keep visitors engaged with high-quality content that effortlessly flows throughout the website structure.


One of the biggest web design trends is simplicity. Too much clutter or information can distract website visitors and make it difficult for them to find the information they’re searching for. Minimalist design is best when it comes to getting the website engagement you’re looking for.

Flat design is a form of minimalism in web design, giving each element more space and background. It shows everything in clear, harmonious colors. Additionally, the intensity of text fonts, lines, and backgrounds is brighter, sharper, and highly defined. Think about Mies Van de Rohe and the open, wide, and light Bauhaus-style architecture of the 1920s and 30s–but for websites.


In addition to simple forms, 3D effects have emerged. Neumorphism is a type of design that gives shapes, such as buttons and icons, shades to enhance their outlines. It gives the shape an elevated appearance relative to its background.

Example of neumorphism

Example of neumorphism

Webnode incorporates such nuances by giving you the option to add a decorative border to sections and shade effects to uplift buttons.

Decorative border example and shade effects

Decorative border example and shade effects

Dark or gradient

When it comes to the website background, dark designs with gradient colors are becoming increasingly popular. Soft hues that grade from light to dark, contrast or complementary colors, and dark backgrounds are easier on our eyes and make our ever-increasing screen time more bearable.

Storytelling web design

It is not only the visual part of a site that will make it interesting. It is also the story behind the images. Website creators use illustrations, animations, and memes to tell a story.

Why not tell your business history on how you became a chef, a carpenter, a hairdresser, a craftsperson, or a mechanic by utilizing the life story of a hero character with playful images?

You’ve probably already met the faceless folk in muted colors on our pages and social media posts who tell you about a new feature or function.

Memes and emojis are no longer restricted to social media and chat. They make us see things lightly, with a sense of humor and they help bring the point across. Websites thus blend more harmoniously with what is presented on their social media equivalents.

AI chatbots

These are the little helpers for your site to engage with your visitors in real-time. You may have closed that chatbot bubble, skeptically thinking that such automatization is impersonal. Website chatbots are limited in their responses. Artificial intelligence is now taking things to the next level.

Interactive web design

Any website that creates an interaction with the visitor; be it through a bot, a poll, a quiz, or a form, uses interactive web design. True interaction goes a step further by making the visitor feel empowered and in control. They know where to get intuitive navigation. They can ask questions anytime or give feedback.

The aim is to make interaction with the site much smoother and at the same time more advanced. This ranges from analyzing the path of a visitor from opening the landing page to the purchase of a product, to including the use of chatbots and app-like features on the site.

From a marketing point of view, interactive web design has the sole purpose of having calls to action and making a conversion. 

Unconventional styles

In a wider sense, interactive web design is also challenging some new and unconventional ideas about the website standard styles. For example, new web design offers the possibility of creating websites with non-traditional scrolling where the movement is like a swipe. It is directed sideways instead of top to bottom.

Diagonal web design is the other rising trend that incorporates diagonal shapes into the background to guide the user from left to right and help to scroll downwards to points of interest. For example, a diagonal line leads to a desired button to encourage action.


Micro-interactions are often triggered by an action that the website visitor takes, such as clicking a button, and require a small action like toggling a switch. They are designed to encourage or discourage the user from doing something.


Animations are another modern web design feature that help guide website visitors to take action. They draw attention to particular areas of a webpage and provide added engagement to the user experience.

Modern web design examples

Webnode’s professionally designed website templates incorporate the best practices and principles of web design. From clean-cut blogs to e-shops designed to convert, our website templates effortlessly combine the essential functionality and captivating aesthetics of modern web design.

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