If you’re reading this, you’re probably in the process of creating a new website or thinking about how you want your website to look. Maybe you’re tired of your old one or it is simply outdated. Whatever situation you are in; your website layout is a major decision to be made in the web design process. As a web design agency, we would like to help make this process for you easier

This is why it is useful to know what makes the perfect website layout and how you can achieve it. Luckily, the grid system for website layout is the ideal way to learn how to create a website that not only looks good but also guides customers on the journey from discovery to purchase.

Grid systems

In web design, grid systems are an invisible structure that helps you to organise, collect and present your website elements in a way that flows fluently. Sticking to a grid creates a set of guidelines which you must follow to position different elements to form a rhythmic layout for your website. It helps your visitors realise where to find the next most relevant piece of information, making accessibility and navigation a breeze.

In particular, a grid defines and emphasises proportion in a fluid web design. They make it so every element is placed exactly in the right place for the perfect website layout. You can also think of grids like a roadmap for your website as they set out a foundation for the layout of your website. Grids define the rules for placement, synchronises elements and helps to build usable user interfaces.

There are several terms related to the composition of a grid which is helpful when coming to a decision on what pattern you would like to follow:

  • Format– The format refers to the area in which the design is placed, i.e. the size of the browser window on desktops or mobile devices.
  • Margin– This is the negative space that sits between the outer edges of each piece of content on your website.
  • Modules– These are the individual units of space created from the intersection of columns and rows.
  • Alley– Alleys are the narrow stripes that separate each of the units. They are a form of micro whitespace that gives the grid breathing room.
  • Column– These are the basic building blocks of every grid and multiple of them form the overall grid.

The columns, modules and margins of grids can be merged in more than one way to create distinct forms of grids. Here are three examples:

  • Manuscript Grid– This is the simplest form of the grid structure and it’s basically a large rectangular area that takes up most of the space inside of a format. It is also known as a single-column grid.
  • Multicolumn Grid– As the name implies, this is a grid that contains more than one columns and the more columns you add to a grid, the more flexible it will become.
  • Modular Grid– In the same sense that a multi-column grid splits a website layout vertically into columns, a modular grid subdivides a layout both vertically and horizontally creating modules within the layout.

What should you keep in mind when designing a website layout?

When designing a website layout, it is important to pick the right grid style. This would be one that complements the content and it is a good idea to sketch out possible layouts and see which style best suits the needs of your website. You should also design with constraints, as it is important to know what your audience expects. This will inform the constraints you place on yourself when designing a website layout.

Place emphasis on strategic elements by putting them in direct view and giving them more visual weight. Elements like calls to action should be framed and have colours that highlight them to emphasise them. However, you should also be careful with space in your website layout, as both horizontal and vertical space needs to be balanced with your grid. Inconsistent spacing can be off-putting for viewers and cause them to leave your website.

Mobile compatibility is a must in 2018, as search engines move towards mobile-first indexing. Grids should be optimised to be responsive on mobile devices and be adaptable to the interface it is being viewed on. On this note, testing is very important, as the more you know about your website’s and customer’s behaviour, the more you will learn about your website layout and what to change.

Finally, you shouldn’t be afraid to step outside the grid sometimes. This will allow you to be creative and experimental. You should feel free to highlight, randomise or twist elements as needed.