Website header: Learn the basics and why it matters

You have just a few seconds to impress a potential customer that visits your website, so what they see first is an important way to bring them into the fold. That’s where your website header comes into play. This prime real estate, the first thing a customer sees when they come to your website, should capture your visitor’s eye and entice them to keep reading while delivering key information. Whether you know how to code or if you use Namecheap’s free website builder, creating an enticing header is among the most important aspects of web design. Here’s what you need to know as you get started.

What is a website header?

At its most basic, a website header is the top section of a website that your customers see first when they visit your site. When talking about a header, you can be referring to the navigation bar that contains your logo and your website menu, the first “section” of the page that appears when your website loads, or both together. Either way, the website header emphasizes the most important elements of your site while setting the tone for the look and feel of your site as a whole.

grey macbook
Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash

What you put in the header depends on your business. If you’re selling a product online, you may want to use the website header space to showcase your newest products and quickly encourage people to buy. For example, the home page of a furniture store may feature a well-designed room in that first section of the site to showcase its wares along with a call to action to buy something. Those who sell services may use the website header to capture their audience with good copy and a complementary image that entices them to learn more or act.

Why is a website header important for a website?

Good web design means that your website is functional and aesthetically pleasing. Though there are many schools of thought when it comes to website design, headers are almost always considered the keystone that ties a site together. Here are some additional reasons why your website’s header is an important part of the design.

  • It displays key information about the site. Important information like navigation links, your company branding, or copy about your company quickly delivers the information that may entice someone to stay on your site.
  • Headers showcase your branding. The navigation bar will appear on every page of your site, while that first section underneath it will likely change depending on the page’s purpose. The consistent navigation bar is the perfect place to put your logo (and your tagline, if you have one) as this will further reinforce your branding. A good logo creator can help you design a logo that makes your header even more memorable.
  • It drives people to action. You’ll want website visitors to do something when they visit your site, whether it’s to download a demo of your software, make a purchase, or share the article they’re reading. Having a call to action on your header, such as “sign up” or “download free demo,” reminds the user to engage with the content you’re dishing out.

5 tips for creating a good website header

As you sift through your choices and select the designs that work best for your website, keep these five tips for your navigation bar and main header image in mind

1. Use fonts and colors strategically to improve readability

black and white website header
Photo by Ben Kolde on Unsplash

Your website is an extension of your brand, so it naturally makes sense to use your brand fonts and colors as part of the design. While you make your selections, double-check that the text is easy to read while staying true to your brand. Consider using darker font colors against lighter colors in your color palette to ensure that visitors can see your content without issue.

2. Keep it clean

simple website header
Photo by Le Buzz on Unsplash

Since your header is going to convey some of the most important information on your page, you want it to be readable. To that end, keep your header simple, clear, and concise. Get to the point quickly by using brief text and simple images that immediately drive home what you’re all about. You may choose to make use of white space, also called negative space, to make it even clearer.

3. Create intuitive navigation tools

website navigation menu example
Photo by John Jackson from Pexels

As a consistent part of your site, navigation should be an ever-present feature that helps your web visitors find the next page to visit. Whether you implement a drop-down menu, use a “burger” menu, or opt for the classic category-based toolbar, your header should facilitate a person’s journey through the page.

Similarly, there are some aspects of your navigation that your customers expect off the bat, such as contact or customer service information, shopping pages, or information about your company. Keep these labels clear and easy to find to deliver this content to your visitors that much faster.

4. Make the navigation bar shrink on scroll

navigation bar shrink on scroll
Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash

As people explore your site and move along with your content, you’re going to want that header to minimize and let the information on the page take center stage. If that’s the case, you can always set your header to shrink to only the most important bits of information while a visitor scrolls down a page. That way, more real estate on the screen can be used for the content itself.

5. Make sure it fits on smartphones

website header on smartphone
Photo by PhotoMIX Company from Pexels

Your design should be “responsive,” which means that it automatically adapts to any screen your visitor is using to view the website. This ensures a positive user experience in an increasingly mobile world. While you’re designing, double-check that your navigation bar and main image shrink, expand, and adapt as needed so your visitors are getting the full intended experience.

5 website header examples

If you’re looking for inspiration on how you could design your header, check out these examples that can show you some of this guide’s tips in action:

AirPods Pro

The AirPods Pro website is sleek, simple, and easy to use — not unlike their products. This header fits their brand by delivering the streamlined experience Apple products are known for, letting the product take center stage. As you scroll, the navigation bar fades away and turns into a “buy now” button as the page doubles down on product features.

Paster Properties

This Minnesota-based real estate company, Paster Properties, designed a transparent header that allows high-resolution photos of some of their properties to take center stage. When dealing with the header, it has the burger menu on the left for general navigation options, while the header itself focuses on the company, its partnerships, and its mission.

Louis Vuitton

The internationally acclaimed designer brand prioritizes the user experience and harnesses its design to direct people where they want them to go. White space focuses the visitor’s attention on the simple header, which directs visitors to a search bar to easily find products and promotes recent products in that all-important first section of the website. When you visit the website on your phone, you’ll see the menu move off to the side while reorienting the main image, so focus says on the product without compromising ease of navigation.

Digital Horizon

Investment firm Digital Horizon features a simple header up top with a simple call-to-action right underneath. What really makes this stand out is a captivating animation of a boat on the water coupled with simple copy that immediately tells the visitor what the firm is about. Calming visuals paired with the white text on the crystal blue water are designed to stand out.

Tiffany & Co.

World-renowned jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co. uses a very simple and easy-to-read header. Tiffany’s signature blue instantly reinforces this iconic brand, serving as an excellent example of using brand colors while prioritizing ease of navigation. White space is utilized to showcase new releases, a menu to find products, and get in touch with customer service.

Get ahead of the competition with Namecheap

Whether you’re creating a new online shop or unveiling your latest venture to the world, your header can make or break your website’s visibility. Namecheap’s free website builder makes it easy to design your own user-friendly website without learning how to code. Simply drag and drop designs, color choices, font selection, and much more as you put together just the right look to hook new customers. It’s time to get creating: Visit the Namecheap Visual Maker suite of branding tools to get started!


Nick Allen

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is a writer, photographer, and content marketer. He’s also the founder of BrainBoost Media, a boutique content and operations studio. With a wide range of interests, he enjoys reading and writing about sports, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.
More articles written by Nick.

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