If you have a website that needs to be updated often, or that a lot of people will have a hand in maintaining or updating, it’s a good idea to have a web design style guide in place. This helps to ensure that everyone who deals with your site will be on the same page and understand how to keep everything looking consistent.
But what is a web design style guide, exactly? What does it entail? And how can you create one for yourself? Those are the questions we aim to answer right here.
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What is a Web Design Style Guide?
Before we get into the specifics of how to create a style guide, let’s take some time to explore what they actually are. A web design style guide is a page on your website that outlines everything that goes into the creation of a new page or blog post on the rest of your site. This includes branded graphics, logos, fonts and font sizes, text and background colors, and anything else that pertains to site updates and content creation.
This is especially vital when you have more than one designer or developer working on your website. This ensures everyone stays on the same page. Plus, it actually streamlines development, as you can reference this style guide to create new content faster and more efficiently.
How to Create a Web Design Style Guide
Here are the steps you need to take to create a web design style guide for yourself:
1. Familiarize Yourself with the Brand
Whether you’re creating a style guide for your own website or for someone else, the same principle still applies: you need take time to assess what the brand is about. This means, understanding your target audience, knowing the values of the company, and have a solid idea of how this should be represented visually. If the company has done A/B testing for certain designs in the past, now is the time to leverage that info to create a more robust and more effective style guide.
2. Choose Colors
As you evaluate the brand, you’ll need to think of colors. If the company already has a palette they work with — perfect. Add the hex codes for the colors in the style guide. Be sure to break this information down into categories for text, links, hover links, backgrounds, buttons, etc. Make it clear what colors should be used where.
3. Select and Identify Typography
Along with colors you need to make it plain what fonts should be used (and where they should be used). Within your web design style guide, clearly identify the font names, sizes, and line height. This makes it super easy for future designers to recreate the appropriate look of your site. Better yet, create a Photoshop template that has these elements established as presets or identified as a note within the file itself.
Your every effort should be to eliminate the guesswork here.
4. Establish a Content Grid
Another thing you should add to your web design style guide is to create a content grid. This is the perfect way to identify how pages and blog posts should be laid out. Showcase where pictures and graphics should be positioned among the text. You really need this for understanding how your content should be spaced out.
Now, some of this can be taken care of by blog and page templates. Even so, it’s still a good idea to include that information in your style guide.
5. Set Photo Specifications
Another thing you can do is set photo specifications. Many websites will apply filters or effects on images they include in blog posts, for instance. So, if you want to ensure whoever is managing your site’s content knows how to keep everything looking consistent, you need to call out these specifics in your web design style guide.
Identify the specs each image should follow, including image height, width, color filters, opacity, and whether or not text should be added. Should you wish to include text on your graphics, be sure to call out the font, style, size, and color specs (as noted above) as well.
6. Logo Specifications
The last thing we’re discussing here that your guide absolutely must include is information about logos. A logo is perhaps the most identifiable part of your brand and website, which makes it super important to discuss here.
Logo specifications require including the minimum sizes as well as a variety of different logo styles. You should have a text option as well as a graphical one for small spaces. A logo with a tagline might be a good idea too for larger size options.
You should also provide logos with different backgrounds, including transparent. This way, your logo will look great no matter what background it’s sitting on. Each of these logo options should be included on the style guide page itself so they can be accessed and referenced quickly.
10 Awesome Web Design Style Guide Examples
Now that we’ve covered what should be included in your web design style guide, let’s take a look at some examples that really excel in showcasing how these guides can and should look.
The Material.io style guide is comprehensive. It breaks down every aspect of what their website should look like. It includes information about themes, icons, color palettes, typography, shapes, and even sound.
The MailChimp style guide is super straightforward, and that’s exactly what yours should aspire to achieve. It includes menu options on the left-hand side of the screen that you can select including color, data visualization, grid, type, buttons, dialogs, and more.
Lonely Planet offers another great web design style guide to reference. It prominently features a color palette, icons, UI components, JS components, widgets, and CSS utilities.
The United States Web Design System also provides a great style guide to reference. It includes the details for creating pages for most government websites, including utilities, page templates, and more.
The Yelp Styleguide is even more to-the-point. It provides clear typography information, colors, layout info, links, buttons, navigation options, and more that make it easier for people working on Yelp to make pages and update content.
Another style guide you may want to reference is the one put together by A11Y. This guide includes information about how to format cards, forms, media, navigation, and offers up some additional resources as well.
Barnard Levit Optometrists has a super simple web design style guide that gets the job done. It provides full typography details, including headers, columns, and bullets, as well information about how to format tables, forms, and buttons. Additionally, it covers how to handle images, videos, and a number of other aspects of the website.
The Ben Brignell style guide is super aesthetically pleasing. It offers information about company colors (with hex codes), typography, blockquotes, bullets, buttons, links, videos, images, and so much more.
The style guide on the Beeline Design System website is another great example to reference. It includes everything that all of the other style guides listed here have covered but adds on modal, notifications, and tabs for extra measure.
Last on our list is Ceasefire Oregon. This style guide is another exceedingly simple one but don’t let its look fool you — it’s incredibly comprehensive. This guide covers stylesheets, colors, grids, utilities, icons, logos, masthead info, and more.
Use This Info to Create a Web Design Style Guide
By now, you know what a web design style guide is. You know why you need one. You’ve learned how to put one together and you’ve seen some examples of the best currently on the web. Now it’s turn to turn that information into something practical. If your site is lacking a style guide, now’s the time to put one together.
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