It may have seemed like an eternity since websites first began changing our lives. Over the past 20 or so years, web design has reinvented itself more times than the likes of U2 and Madonna. With changes in technology and development, to societal and economic changes in our daily lives, the world has a strong impact on how we conduct business.
It’s no secret that websites have been evolving since their inception. What was once totally unique and intriguing is now cliché and out of date. (see animated gifs) Trends dictate how we convey our businesses online. You can bet that there are some definite changes coming for modern day websites, and you better be paying attention. Here we will discuss the top three most important trends you should be paying attention to.
Responsiveness isn’t anything new. For the past few years, or really ever since the invention of the smartphone, responsiveness has always been a focal point for good user experience. But this trend is here to stay. Responsiveness isn’t some neat feature of websites anymore; it is the rule by which any website must live if they hope to stick around longer than a year or two. I would even venture to say that not having a responsive website could ultimately be the downfall of your business. It’s that important!
But responsiveness goes much deeper than having your website display properly on a phone or tablet. Designers have begun to look at the radical shift to mobile consumption of web content and changed their designs to facilitate a better user experience. One example of this change has come from the fact that mobile users don’t have a mouse. At one point in time it was assumed that everyone who was viewing the website had a mouse; this lead to fancy roll over effects or image swaps based on the position of the curser. But with the majority of people now viewing sites on mobile devices, the greater numbers of people aren’t using a mouse. This is leading to the abandonment of such functionalities in favor of more click generated functionality.
The “click” is described by Smashing Magazine as the activate function. This can be a tap, swipe, waving your hand in the air, voice command, etc. All of these actions activate something on the phone. Thus, the new default is activating. Moving forward, designers are thinking of new ways of user input. Not everybody uses a mouse anymore.
Also, not everybody is connected to high speed internet all the time. People who are using mobile technology are often out and about without being connected to internet at the home or office. Because of this many 3g users suffer when viewing complex designs on mobile. This has given rise to longer scrolling pages. Users find it easier to scroll rather than click a link to get additional information. It also cuts down on load time, which leads to the second major change in web design.
Because more and more users are on mobile devices with less than ideal connections, designers have taken this fact into account when designing and we see the emergence of flat design or minimalist designs. By stripping away all of the non-essential elements to a website, it will in turn function better than a website that has tons of elements to load.
As Nathan Weller notes in his blog for Elegant Themes, even Google has taken notice of this by bring about what they call “Material Design”. Essentially it is flat design with a few dynamic elements like gradients, layering, etc. But the premise is on simple design that conveys a direct point and is easy to understand.
Everywhere you look now you see personalized content being delivered directly to the user. Log in to your Netflix account and you’ll see everything from your recently watched videos to a list of popular videos that you might enjoy. Your Amazon account delivers items you might be interested in based on your previous purchases. In addition to the old practice of using cookies to determine what content will be delivered, websites are now able to tailor their content directly to you with Smart Content.
HubSpot defines Smart Content as: “…also referred to as dynamic content, is website content that changes based on the interests or past behavior of the viewer. Smart content is designed to offer a more relevant and personalized experience to your website visitors -- one that static content can't provide.”
This practice has been proven to increase engagement and ultimately generate more leads. It does this because it creates a personal connection with the website visitor. How much more likely are you to enjoy a website, if when you went there you were greeted with “Hey James, welcome back!” as opposed to “Hello and welcome to our website”. Smart content has been used in emails and newsletters for ages but in the last few years, we’ve seen it becoming more prevalent with websites. Look for this trend to continue and become even more fluid in the coming years.
All in all we are seeing web design move toward a cleaner more simplistic view that is focused on the message and clearing away all the clutter. Due to a shift in internet consumption moving toward predominately mobile usage, there are many different factors that are starting to influence web design. But the one constant is the objective to deliver your message directly to the person you want, when they want it and where they want it. By personalizing it, we increase engagement and delight customers who in turn will be evangelists for our business. We can guarantee that trends will once again change, but by staying up on how technology is affecting our daily routine, we can anticipate these changes and design for the best user experience possible.