5 Keys To Making Beautiful Websites For Non-Designers

To Making Wonderful Websites For Non-Designers With 5 Keys

Although I have never been a designer, I did teach myself how to build usable, aesthetically pleasing websites. Here’s how you can, too. see Convertri

A few year ago I drew a feedback “Is this a joke?” on a cartoon. Someone else commented, “Not working.”

I have been  bad at art, composition, drawing, or even color schemes. When a kid I wore a purple sweatshirt and orange Zubaz.

I have been making for so many years to make the software, I’ve relied on other people designing things for me. I founded and had a talented partner who did the things I could not do or do well, like design at the first company. Until in 2011, I found myself trying to begin a new project.

This time, alone.5 Keys To Making Beautiful Websites1-compressed


You were beyond intimidating in the first days of high school. It were horrifying: all of people are freshmen, in my 8th grade class size of 30; I were into a locker of the guy who body-checked me to teach me what would happen when you walk on the left side of a hallway against the flow of traffic; the fitness test standing in front of our classmates in Speedos, to have our bodies pinched with body-fat calipers.

The most thing that I remember in the first day of Algebra.

Our teacher, Mr. James Serpe, with a predilection for Luden’s cough drops and the term “Judas Priest” to avoid breaking one of The Ten Commandments, began with a review of Pre-Algebra in our first day.

Expand the expression:

(x + 1) * (x + 2)

Hold on. There’s Pre-Algebra?

When I am trying to figure out what the word “expression” means, every single other kid is yelling out, “FOIL!” and chanting, “First. Outer. Inner. Last.”

Someone had took a terrible mistake placing me in this class. My worries were firmed up when I did my homework with my mom in the first night.

We’re both stuck. FOIL got us nowhere. Although how hard I tried, I could not do that homework or the next night’s or the first quiz. I was definitely failing at Algebra.

So I met Mr. Serpe, and told qualified I was at math. The different the other kids, I did not have the background, and I just was not taking it. I should go to a lower level math class.

Although Mr. Serpe obliged the request, firstly I had to promise: after school I will meet with him for office hours.

Then I illustrated to try and rapidly learn what the other kids already knew. But, it still was not clicking. And again I brought up moving classes. My teacher asked me to keep on for just a few more days.

Everything began to make sense.

Before I was taking the problems right, and I did not need to go to office hours anymore, weeks of after-school office hours. In the class I got an A+ and high grades in all my math courses throughout high school, even take part in math competitions. I became a math-savvy engineering student in college.

In 2011, we began our second business designing and building corporate-branded games as advertising for customers. However, it was not a solution people truly need, and we had to close the project down.

To find a new idea people would like to want I was back to square one struggling. Now alone, I had no idea how to play all the parts I had need to play to design a successful business—especially the part of designer.

I took a break from the struggle of starting a new business and participate in the Obama re-election campaign. The commute to the campaign office gave me needed time to just read. I plowed through books on design, such as Steven Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think and Don Norman’s Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. In my little free time, I would practice designing.

Before I returned to building my one-man company, the election. I began Draft, to help people write better through an online word processor.


I went from that kid in purple and orange Zubaz to being able to design something people actually think and call it is wonderful:

I had become a designer.


I began to design rather late and my way to learn my lessons was so hard. However, People like to look at and search to use what I have been able to make. There are five important things I have learned. Although it will not automatically make you a designer, it can help me make my work a lot better.

  1. DO not decide

I read a story of why Apple’s products are so easy. The hypothesis was Steve Jobs was terrified about making the wrong choices. He removed as many things in Apple’s products as he could where he had have to decide

It is inspired me in making Draft. This is everything fights to be on the page. I think it would look good so I do not add a line or a color or a fancy navigation bar. It HAS to be there. When I introduce a line, it is because it separates two things. If you had nothing, you would be confused.

It is fine with many people add bits for merely aesthetic reasons. When you are confident in your ability. But I am not. I am terrified about taking the wrong choice. Therefore I give myself as few choices as possible.

If it has no utility, do not put anything on the page.


People remark factors that are not well aligned. Usually, the result looks messy or haphazard.

So, I designed this exercise to teach myself how to realize and design harmoniously aligned pages:

To take a website or webpage, not one of your own, and to change the alignment of the factors. This is an example I designed by nudging things around on 37signal’s Basecamp page.5 Keys To Making Beautiful Websites2-compressed5 Keys To Making Beautiful Websites3-compressed

The changes are subtle. I will highlight them:5 Keys To Making Beautiful Websites4-compressed5 Keys To Making Beautiful Websites5-compressed

You can discuss which one you like better. Some colleagues liked mine. However the point of the exercise was to make myself aware of how factors can be aligned and their impact.

Today, I spend large time experimenting with alignment. Currently I did a split test of Draft’s homepage:

Although people already liked it and it converted well, I centered everything:

My conversion rate improved 10% like many split tests, I cannot define why one is better than the other, and change as this might have different consequences for you. But just something as simple sounding as alignment has improved how my work is noticed and the amount of people making use of my software.


When I cannot read the text, I do not care how beautifully crafted your page design is. Then I am clicking the Back button and never coming back. So, do not worry about anything else until you have made your site easy to read:

  • To learn to create in em’s. It’s a scalable size so your work reads properly on different resolution machines.
  • A font size of 12px was easy to read 10 years ago, but for high-resolution monitors, you need something bigger: 1em or larger.
  • Readable text requires contrast. Designers are trained to think of text as a dark rectangular element against a lighter background (or sometimes reversed). Gray on gray isn’t going to work.
  • Think about line length and spacing. For instance, how’s your favorite book formatted? Most likely there aren’t more than 50-75 characters per line of body text. It’s hard for the eye to find the next line if the line length is too long. Similarly, it’s hard for the eye to pick out the next line if lines are too close together. 150% of font size is one rule of thumb for comfortable line spacing.
  • When the keys to readability make sense to you, start exploring the huge variety of font choices available from services like Google Web Fontsor Typekit. You don’t have to stick with the defaults of Arial, Helvetica, or Times New Roman, which everyone else is using.
  • Don’t forget my first point, which applies to font choices, as well: Don’t make decisions. If you can, stick with one font for everything. If you must, pick two contrasting fonts: one for headlines, one for body text. Choosing one serif and one sans-serif face is the most obvious way to assure typographic contrast. In Draft, I wanted a fixed-width font for writing, so I chose “source-code-pro,” but the headlines looked ridiculous. A nice contrast was my favorite headline font: Futura.

When you are not trained in color theory, you’re going to need help picking your color palette. So I advise you: do not trust your own taste to make color choices. Because I knew the color palette could make-or-break decision, I picked a triad based on a simple systematic rule for Draft. A Triad color scheme makes use of any three colors that are equidistant on the color wheel—they can be connected by drawing an equilateral triangle.

Finally I found a blue I loved and a couple shades of gray. So, since I needed a couple more colors to help signify other things in my application such as successful notifications or error messages, I turned to a beautiful color tool, Kuler, picked the Triad color rule, set my two grays and blue I already had, and after that used the rule’s constraint to discover a red and a green.


When you have ever watched Top Chef, you know what happens to contestants who fail to taste and correct their seasonings. Padma tells them to pack their knives and leave.

The world’s most brilliantly created UI is worthless when your users discover it hard to use. you can watch a video of someone failing to use your application for about $25, and I guarantee you, they will fail.

I relied on services like UserTesting.com and BetaPunch.com to capture video of people using early versions with Draft. It was not beautiful.

Because people were confused, things did not work as I expected or did not work at all. Users even got angry, when, as part of the test, they were asked for $5 after clicking a button they thought would share a simple document with their friend. However, payment was only meant for Draft’s premium copy-editing service, which was not clear. The ensuing ordeal was both humbling and enlightening, and the solution was remarkably easy. Then I changed the label for the premium editing service from “Share with an Editor” to “Ask a Pro.”

There is no video to give me an over-the-shoulder view of users’ struggles, many issues I fixed would have been much more difficult to identify and locate.

To learn what YOU CAN

That are not rules, just guidelines that have proven helpful. On these topic Jarrod Drysdale’s book, Bootstrapping Design is another great resource. It is important to realize that good create is available to all of us. The fortunate few seem to be design by genuine talent and train designers will have many skills most of us can only admire.

In contrary, we can learn how to design websites and webpages that are usable and useful. And we also can practice, even become developers like me, can gain considerable skill at turning out aesthetically pleasing designs.

I struggled, too, it is not easy, and there will be times when you would like to give up. Although Mr. Serpe did not just teach me Algebra, instead of he taught me to believe I could learn anything.

Note: I would like to meet you on Twitter.