4 Usability Principles Designers Should Learn From Most Popular Websites

usability principles designers should learn from popular websites

This post was last Updated on June 19, 2022 by Himanshu Tyagi to reflect the accuracy and up-to-date information on the page.

When someone lands on your website, do they instantly know what your website does, how to interact with your brand, or what actions you want them to take next? Can your users navigate easily through multiple pages and consume content on any device?

If your answer to these questions is “no,” you might not be making the most of your web design. A well-designed website doesn’t just look good. It also ensures your audience gets the best possible experience when interacting with your company.

A great experience means you’re more likely to convert visitors into long-term customers and brand advocates. Nowadays, user experience (UX) is a web property’s key differentiator, yet only the best designers know how to optimize for UX.

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4 Usability Principles Designers Should Learn From Most Popular Websites

So, how do you design a website primed for success with usability in mind?

We’ve examined the designs of some of the globe’s most visited websites to bring you a list of the most effective design principles you should already be using.

1. Plenty of Clean, White Space

White space has more value than you’d think. It can help prevent a website from becoming overwhelming and distracting and ensure you can guide your customers easily through each stage of their journey. Look at Instagram.com, for instance.

While we often think of social platforms like mobile apps, their web apps are also enormous traffic draws, and Instagram.com is currently the fifth most visited website in the world.

usability principles - clean space - instagram

Through a highly visual social media app, the homepage for the website is straightforward, clean, and straightforward. Even the profile pages have plenty of breathing room and a sense of spacing that conveys visual hierarchies.

Instagram ensures anyone arriving on the website has an instant insight into what they need to do next (log in or sign up). The company also minimizes the friction for the customer by allowing them to log in with Facebook if they don’t want to create an account. It’s streamlined and straightforward.

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2. Prioritize Easy Navigation

On any website, users are looking for a streamlined, simple experience. Your customers don’t want to spend forever trying to figure out how to get from your homepage to your eCommerce shop and vice versa. With that in mind, navigation should be one of the first things you prioritize when designing an effective website.

With Google.com, the world’s most visited website, the minimalist homepage design is a master class in usability. All we see is a search field, making it abundantly clear that we need to start with a keyword search to navigate the rest of the website.

google homepage - easy navigation for users

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Or take a look at YouTube’s homepage, for instance. The navigation of this site couldn’t be more straightforward. Finding the content you need is accessible, even if you’ve never used YouTube.

There’s a search bar right at the top of the page, plus a handy sticky navigation bar on the left-hand side of the screen, allowing customers to “Explore” popular videos, check out their existing subscriptions or click back through their video history.

When designing your website, think about making navigation as simple and convenient as possible for your users so that you can guide them on their journeys with minimal friction.

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Make the Most of Visuals

Studies consistently confirm that visuals (videos and images) are the best way to engage an audience, capture their attention, and even help them remember your content. Adding visual content to your website doesn’t just make it look more attractive. It can also help your users to navigate more effectively too.

Look at Amazon, for instance. The company knows its customers might not always have something specific that they’re searching for, but it can help them narrow down their options with images. Every recommended category for shopping comes with a visual attached to it, offering inspiration and context.

make the most of visuals - amazon

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As you click through and search for products, Amazon continues to leverage visuals to provide users with more helpful information.

Pictures appear not just on product pages individually but on the search pages for customers browsing through hundreds of options in search of whatever they need.

Imagine how long it would take to find something on Amazon if the pictures weren’t there to help you.

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Always Be Responsive

Currently, mobile browsing accounts for about half of the web traffic worldwide.

Your customers are more likely to browse through your site and products from their smartphones than using any other device.

With that in mind, you must ensure the experience is mobile-friendly. Don’t just shrink the mobile version of your website down onto a smaller screen.

facebook - always be responsive

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Take a leaf out of Facebook’s playbook. Even on the desktop site, there’s tons of information to explore, a built-in Messenger widget for company pages, and an ever-evolving newsfeed.

It would be practically impossible to squash all that information onto a smaller screen, so on mobile, Meta maintains a separate app for Facebook and Messenger.

The way content is organized on the Facebook mobile site is different, too, allowing you more room to concentrate on what’s happening in your news feed rather than being distracted by surrounding ads and information.

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Make the Most of Your Website Design

While there’s no one-size-fits-all way to ensure your website is an absolute success, getting the basics right regarding design elements is an excellent first step.

The four simple tips above are taken directly from the world’s most popular websites.


Follow our advice to leverage white space, enhance navigation, ensure mobile-friendliness, and always make the most of your visuals. You should be able to build a more effective website.