In speaking with other web designers and online marketers, I’m sometimes asked if I have any basic web design rules I like to follow. This is always a tricky question, since every rule of marketing can probably be broken in some situation or another. However, there are a few guidelines I consider to be almost written in stone.

What’s more, the basic web design rules that I like seem to overlap pretty well with the ones my colleagues follow, too. In other words, these are just my opinions, but best practices that seem to come up again and again in my business.

So, whether you’re an aspiring creative professional or a business owner who wants to get the best possible work from your creative team, here are a few of my favorite basic web design rules for 2018 and beyond…

You Have 3 Seconds to Make Your Case

In multiple usability tests, researchers have determined that a random searcher will take around three seconds to decide whether to stay where they are or to move on. That means if a visitor comes to your website and doesn’t understand immediately what it’s all about, there is a good chance they will take their attention elsewhere (probably the next search engine result). You should remember that and organize the information on your website accordingly.

Clean and Simple Designs are Best

This ties into the first point, but I can’t stress enough how important it is for your website to feel like it’s clean and simple. Cluttered designs don’t help your credibility at all, and can confuse buyers. That’s particularly true in the age of mobile computing. If someone is viewing your website through a small screen and it seems like there is simply “too much” of everything, they probably aren’t going to stick around for very long.

Web Designs Must be Mobile-Friendly

Streamlining your website layouts isn’t the only way to create pages that are mobile-friendly. You should also optimize your image resolutions, use navigation bars that can be tapped with fingers, and avoid long forms and other nuisances. It’s easy to forget that mobile web users now make up the majority online. If your site doesn’t do a good job of appealing to phone and tablet customers, then you are effectively turning away more than half of your market.

Don’t Overlook the Power of Content

Often, business owners and creative professionals alike tend to think of the web design process as something magical. It certainly can be, but even the most talented designer won’t be able to make something out of nothing. In other words, if your content (in the form of images and text) is underwhelming, then your website is going to be, as well. A good design takes what you have and makes it better and easier to understand, but it can’t replace strong messaging.

As I’ve already mentioned, there are probably exceptions to these rules. Usability and customer experience have to be the strongest guiding principles when designing a website or making revisions. Anything buyers will like is generally good, and things they don’t like are less positive. Still, sticking to these pieces of established advice can probably lead you in the right direction more often than not.