When it comes to designing your website, first impressions matter a lot. And there is no better way to make a lasting impression than with a good website header design.
The website header is the first thing that people will see when they land on your website’s homepage. Thus, the header sets the tone for the entirety of your website.
Granted, it’s a lot of pressure to place on a single element of your website, but that’s just how it is. Here’s why:
- It takes about 50 milliseconds, or 0.05 seconds, for users to form an opinion about your website.
- For 90% of people, the visual dimension of a website is the number-one factor affecting purchasing decisions.
- 25% of consumers will stop engaging with your content altogether if it doesn’t display well on their laptops, smartphones, or other devices.
In this post, we will talk about strategies to maximize and optimize your website header design.
What is a Website Header?
A website header is the topmost section of a webpage, and it is usually the first thing that people will see. Much like a reception counter at a store or office, the header acts like a gateway to your website, providing all necessary information and navigation tools, this is why ensuring you have an effective web layout is so important.
People use the header as a way to gauge your business within the first few seconds of landing on your website. It offers them an instantaneous recognition of the products and services your website offers.
As such, your website header design should be as welcoming and captivating as possible.
The best way to do this is by imagining yourself as a customer and mapping out your journey from the time you visit the website to the time you close it. Think about what header features will best encapsulate the key touchpoints of your website from the point of view of a customer.
Of course, that’s just the start.
10 Ways To Optimize Your Website Header Design
Whether you’re using a professional website builder or a free content management system,there are countless ways you can design your website header. Here are the top ten ways for you to optimize your website header design.
- Emphasize the Most Important Elements
There are plenty of elements you can include in your website header, including:
- Company logo
- Tag line
- Navigation links
- Social media links
- Contact information
- Shopping cart
- Search button
- Countdown clocks
But if you try to incorporate all of these elements at once, you will end up overwhelming your customers.
Instead, you want to include only those elements that are most integral to your business. So, think about the number one action that you want your customers to take. Then, emphasize the elements in your website header that will facilitate this action.
For example, if you run a restaurant, you might want to foreground a “book a table” or “place an order” call-to-action in the header. Similarly, if you run an e-commerce store, you need to put up a shopping cart in the header— no exception.
The graphic design and aesthetics of your website header also plays a key role when it comes to visibility of the aforementioned elements. It’s vital to not confuse your visitors with unnecessary graphical elements so they can easily find everything they need in the header.
Naturally, you can hire a company to help with this, or use a graphic design platform that you or one of your employees have training in to accomplish what’s needed.
- Use Clear, Readable Fonts
Web typography is an art form in itself, and using the right font is crucial for a successful website header design. With over 100,000 different fonts and 16.8 million colors at your disposal, it’s easy to make the wrong choice.
It’s a given that the text in your header should be clear, concise, and easy to read. But how do you achieve this?
The truth is, your choice of font heavily depends on your brand image and the content of your website. For example, if your brand image is formal and business-like, you should stick with serif and sans-serif fonts and avoid script or cursive fonts. Cursive fonts are difficult to read generally, so try to avoid them regardless of your brand image.
Then, there’s the matter of font color. The color contrast between your font and the header background image should be easy on the eyes. You can either go bold and use highly contrasting colors, or you can tone it down a bit while still making sure your text is highly visible.
Lastly, and most importantly, we have the font size. Generally, a font size of between 14px to 16px is standard. However, you can create a text hierarchy in your header by using large fonts to make a statement and smaller fonts for further elaboration. Just be careful not to use too much text in your website header, as it can be off-putting.
You can even go the extra mile and incorporate ADA guidelines in your website header, if possible, to make your website equally accessible to people with vision impairments.
- Choose Compelling Images
Images, videos, animations, and other visuals are the heart of an effective website header, perhaps even more so than texts.
It is a well-known fact that people’s brains understand visual information far better and quicker than a textual one. Moreover, images help you to build your brand’s character, and your choice of images can make or break your audience’s first impression of your brand.
Therefore, a compelling header image communicates your brand image, if not its principles and ideologies. Indeed, header visuals are more than just eye candy; they offer a preview for your website’s content and help new customers familiarize themselves with your brand.
Hence, you should spare no expense for using the highest-quality images for your header. Moreover, your header image and other visuals should be fast-loading, unless you want almost half of your viewers to stop engaging because of slow-loading images.
- Add A Compelling Message
A compelling image needs an equally compelling message to drive the point home.
The message can be a famous quote, a unique tagline, or anything that is evocative and capture’s your brand’s ideology.
The main message should be displayed in a large font size to immediately catch the eye. You can then proceed to include other relevant information in a smaller font size beneath the main text.
- Use A Transparent Header
If your web page is reliant on impressive imagery that you want to showcase, you might want to consider using a transparent header (also known as an overlay header).
A transparent header merges with the body content of your website, and they are very popular in website header designs. The main background of the header essentially becomes transparent, and the main content area merges up with the header, as is visible in the following image:
The purpose of a transparent header is to foreground the images you use on your website. If you run a photography website, for example, a transparent header directs attention to your business’s main purpose: photography.
Moreover, transparent headers also allow you to create some very unique website layouts, as it minimizes your limitations for the header space.
- Use A Sticky Header
Another feature you can implement in your website header design is to make it stick. Sticky or on-scroll fixed headers follow the user as they scroll through the page.
This feature is especially useful for e-commerce stores, allowing the customer to access different categories of products as well as their shopping cart at all times.
Generally speaking, sticky headers allow your users to easily navigate your website. They will have constant access to the search and utility-navigation tools without having to scroll back up.
Furthermore, you can even incorporate fun animations to optimize a sticky header. For example, you can highlight certain navigation tabs to indicate to the user where they are. If they scroll down to the “contact us” portion, you can highlight the “contact us” tab on your sticky header as well.
A sticky header can be transparent or opaque, depending on your personal choice. Furthermore, you can even implement a different version of a sticky header, which appears on the screen only when the user starts to scroll up.
- Shrink on Scroll
If you want to keep all key information visible but feel like a sticky header is too space-consuming, consider the shrink-on-scroll header feature instead.
This feature is somewhat similar to a sticky header in that it keeps the header visible at all times. The difference is that shrink-on-scroll headers reduce in size as you scroll along with the page.
The shrink-on-scroll header is especially useful for websites that have really big and impactful headers. This space-optimizing website header design feature allows you to keep the key information available at all times without it taking up too much space.
Once again, you can incorporate fun animations as the header shrinks and returns to its original size.
- Use Call to Actions
We’ve already briefly discussed the call-to-action in the “emphasize important elements” section, but the importance of this marketing tactic can not be stressed enough.
A call to action (CTA) is a marketing term for any design that prompts the desired response from a customer. Generally, a CTA can be in the form of anything, from buttons to texts and even images and visuals.
When it comes to maximizing your website header design, you should stick with a button, as it is the most straightforward and least space-consuming CTA design. With a simple click of a button, your customers can:
- Add products to their cart
- Complete their order and checkout
- Download content such as a report
- Submit a form
- Follow you on social media
A good CTA design should allow your customers to identify the CTA in less than three seconds. Moreover, it shouldn’t have clutters of text and images surrounding it, so it stands out more.
- Carefully Plan Your Layout
Once you know what content, images, and text to include in your website header, the next step is to design the optimum layout.
Where should you place your logo? What about the tagline? And the ever-important call-to-action? These are all questions you need to consider carefully.
By and large, the header layout needs to be adjusted around the shape of your logo. Round and square logos look best in the center, while rectangular logos look good on either of the top corners.
It turns out that the placement of the logo is more important for brand recall than you would think. Users are 89% more likely to remember logos shown in the standard top-left position than the top-right position.
As far as the placement of textual content goes, keep reading patterns in mind. Our eyes tend to scan content in two specific patterns: F-pattern and Z-pattern.
This means that you need to focus on the important content in the top-left, left, top-right, and edges of the header. Any images and other visuals will fare well on the right side of the header.
All in all, your layout should be such that your website header design doesn’t look too crowded or clustered.
Need a new logo for your business or startup? Use our logo generator to get started.
- Frequently Change Up Your Website Header Design
Website headers are quite flexible, and once you get the hang of them, they can be very fun to play around with.
If you have a treasure of ideas you want to implement in your website header design, hold on to them. Then, every so often, implement those designs and change up your header design. There are great web designing tools available to help you accomplish this.
You can even change the theme of the header for holidays such as Christmas or Halloween. Or, you can even make a political statement with your header according to world events if it suits your brand image.
You don’t have to completely overhaul your current header and make an entirely new one. The key is to make minor changes that indicate to your customers that your website is active, thereby keeping them engaged.
Website Header Designs for Smartphones
You might be surprised to find out that your perfectly-designed website header looks horrendous on a phone screen or shifts dramatically when tested for cross-browsing capability. The font becomes too small, the images are all over the place, and the header takes up half of the phone screen.
Even though we are such avid smartphone users, we tend to forget that things look way different on a small phone screen as opposed to a large computer screen.
But if providing a mobile-friendly browsing experience is an afterthought for you, you’re neglecting nearly half of all website traffic that occurs on smartphones. So, you should instead approach your website header design with a mobile-first approach.
Here are some other tips to maximize your website header design for mobile devices:
- Use hidden navigation and expendable menus to save space.
- Use large enough fonts. A font size of at least 16px is standard for the main body of the website, but your header should have even larger fonts.
- Similarly, call-to-action buttons should be much larger for phones since our fingers are less precise than a mouse tracker and cursor.
- If your image tends to crop out on a phone screen, resize it for phone users. You will have to crop the image yourself to make sure you can at least include the main subject of the image.
- Optimize the design for both landscape and portrait modes.
- Use hidden navigation and expendable menus to optimize the minimal space available on a phone screen.
- Limit the use of form fields and text inputs where users have to painstakingly scroll until they reach their desired option.
- If you’re unsure how your header looks on a phone screen, test it out yourself. Open your website through a phone and try to determine what looks off.
The Don’ts of Website Header Design
We have discussed some of the best ways to get the maximum use out of your website header, and there are probably even more.
Indeed, you can go a lot of different directions for designing your website header. But there are some things we recommend you try to avoid:
- Don’t use sliders or carousels for displaying multiple images in your header. While they were all the rage a few decades ago, only 1% of users use the slider or carousel function.
- Don’t fill the header with lengthy text. The header is just a preview for the actual content that will follow, so don’t jump the gun by including too much text.
- Don’t overuse visuals and animations. Once again, this will overcrowd your header and will come across as too try-hard and off-putting.
- Don’t try to copy the header design from other successful websites. The only reason they’re successful is that they customized their header according to their brand image, which is why it’s probably not going to work for yours.
Your website header design can make or break your website’s overall performance.
Since it’s the very first thing people will see on your website, you want to make it as captivating, evocative, and provoking as possible. This doesn’t mean you should overload your header with texts and images— quite the contrary!
An effective header gets the message across with as little content as possible.
If you’re still unsure about your website header design, why not give it a test run yourself? Once you open the website, is the header alluring enough without seeming too desperate? If yes, you’re good to go.
PJ has a background in management consulting and software development. At DesignBro, he combines both. Personal favorite brand of PJ is Jeep.