With the world of website design changing so quickly, how on earth are we supposed to keep up with “what’s hot and what’s not?” It feels like every guideline we come up with gets broken and every web trend that comes along is just a fleeting fad. The reality is, the rules of website design change so quickly that marketers have to rely on a flexible platform that can change and adjust with new trends, growing with your brand vs. holding you back.
Gone But Not Forgotten
Let’s take a look at some of the strict guidelines and cool features that were common just a couple of years ago and are now extinct.
1. All of your important content must be crammed and forced “above the fold” until you are so confused with what you are seeing that it all just looks like a jumbled mess! Please don’t.
2. Do we create an M-Dot mobile version of our site that we have to manage with an entirely separate CMS and create duplicate content for, or do we go responsive? P.S. – what does “responsive” even mean and do I need to hire a new graphic designer?
3. How can I expand our main menu and fit 10 more subcategories into the header? Maybe we can create a menu that goes 4-6 subcategories deep…yahhhh, customers will love that. Wrong!
4. Classical music playing as I land on the homepage, letting me know that the brand is classy and upscale. I mean, do I even have to say it? Auto songs are like matching velour pant suits with your partner…you just don’t do it. That should’ve died along with the crazy animation you’d see when landing on a Myspace page.
At one point or another, the examples mentioned above were guidelines, rules or considered cool features that everyone wanted, but now we know better…don’t we?
If we do know better, then it means we are approaching the design of our websites similar to a game of chess – two moves ahead. Web trends are changing so rapidly that we can’t afford to be fast followers, we have to be innovative and constantly re-evaluating how to simplify, customize and engage. So how does this new, innovative thinking apply to the way we design our websites? Well, we can start by taking a look at the trends that are happening right this minute.
The New Hotness
Here are a few of the top web design trends we are seeing:
1. The Consolidation Project
Previously, if you asked a marketing team what they needed on their website, the obvious answer used to be, “I want to add a page on our new product line,” or “I want to add a new page about our Corporate Social Responsibility project.” Now, the name of the game is consolidation, and the question is, “how do we remove pages from our site?” Less is more. The goal is to have a really clean interface with a simple menu structure that takes the user straight to a call to action without having to click six times to get to the page they want to see.
Chartboost uses the minimalist approach by keeping their nav simple and focusing their menu on main calls to action.
2. Microinteractions – No, This isn’t a Science Term
One design agency explained it like this, “The best products do two things well: features and details. Features are what draw people to your product; details are what keep them there. Microinteractions are those details.” They are the small bits of functionality on a site that give the customer a special touch that makes them smile, or allows them to understand how something works in a very visual way.
For example, giving something a star rating, filling out an email signup box or “liking” something are all microinteractions. However, when it comes to website design, microinteractions can be used to highlight a call to action on your site in an extremely powerful way.
Another design agency has explored how big brands are starting to use microinteractions purely for user delight. One designer noted, “The other night I was browsing the Zappos iPhone app for a new pair of boots. I found a pair I liked and added it to my favorites…and that’s when a kitty cat surrounded by hearts flew across my screen.” It’s silly but it evokes emotion. If your brand can do something small to make your audience smile, then you are #winning, my friend!
As long as it doesn’t affect performance in any way, then you can make room for cuteness within your website design budget.
3. It’s Never Too Late to Abbreviate!
Websites have a tendency to become ridiculously crowded! Too much information —> too many options —> TOO MUCH TEXT! So why on earth would anyone want to recreate that crowded and overwhelming feeling on their corporate site? Think of it this way; your website is a compact parking space – the shorter the better! Content needs to be summarized, giving just the right amount of data to inform but not overwhelm the user. If you still have pages on your site that are long columns of text, you can be sure they aren’t being read and the bounce rates are high. The key is to give the power to the customer; let them choose how much information they want to see.
For example, if you offer numerous services, give a brief description of each and showcase a thumbnail for a visual summary of the service. Provide a call to action that allows the customer to read more. You’ll be surprised how well this works to keep a customer engaged on your website because you handover the power and let the customer choose the next level of information that displays content applicable to them.
Appurify’s website highlights their core products with a beautiful, clean, white space canvas and simple icons that help direct the user to what they are looking for.
4. Everyone is Down with the Scroll
As we’ve already stated, the idea of keeping content “above the fold” is dead and gone. In today’s world, people are used to scrolling down web pages, because that is what we do every day on our mobile phones and tablets. It is second nature for a user to land on a page and scroll down to see the rest of the content.
In fact, the art of scrolling is slowly taking the place of clicking in a major way. Businesses are coming up with innovative ways of using the long web page to their advantage, because you can showcase a robust amount of content to the user while they scroll, without forcing them to click and possibly bounce off the site.
A recent trend uses infographics to make the scroll a fun and engaging experience for the user. Take the Kontiki website for example. They make the page come to life by using a dynamic infographic that animates as your scroll down the page, imparting knowledge about their services in a really entertaining way.
5. Say Goodbye to Stock Photography
I remember the days when I would search through stock photography looking for pictures of multi-ethnic men and women sitting at a conference table, and THAT was meant to be a depiction of our company and our office. Not anymore! The days of posed Colgate smiles are slowly fading.
“Be original!” “Be real!” This is the sound of the new generation, and website users are expecting to see more of this type of photography on corporate sites. They want to see real pictures and videos that depict your brand’s personality and your everyday office life. This is a web trend that customers can relate to and it establishes trust.
If you want to relate to your audience more effectively, then make sure to capture activities that really show an accurate depiction of your company culture. SumoLogic took this idea to heart when developing their “Who We Are” page.
6. Even Your Font Can Be Fun!
The future of website production allows graphic designers to break free from the chains of Helvetica and other boring fonts. There is no need to be a prisoner to a specific website font any longer. Graphic designers are taking liberties with the overall design of the website by incorporating bold, unique fonts that tell a brand story on their own. Expect to see more typefaces with personality to attract attention and make it easier to convey your message.
If you want an example of a website that has really done a great job of experimenting with different fonts to help tell a story about their product, check out Wearality!
7. Nothing Stays Static!
I’ve already made a solid case about how quickly the website design world is changing, so why on earth would we want to fill up a website with something static? I am referring to more than just updating content, I’m talking about making a website come alive by replacing text and static graphics with video. Don’t be alarmed, I’m not telling you to use Flash on your website. There are numerous other options available, like HTML5 video players that can create visually stunning canvas video effects across your site.
I had to reference SumoLogic again on this one. They took this video idea one step further, by adding dynamic video reels of their employees across multiple pages of their website.
Checking Our Crystal Ball
So what does the future hold for web trends, beyond 2015?
One possibility: pageless design.
What does that mean? Well, we won’t be counting pages in the future, we’ll be telling stories beyond page limitations. Storyboards will come to life as a user moves through interactions – not pages. Every piece of content will be displayed based on a customer’s interest or who they are as an audience.
Imagine landing on a website and every single interaction you have with the site naturally guides you closer to exactly what you were searching for, without ever reading text that didn’t apply to you. Interactions display content that is focused on how you engage with the site, allowing you to move seamlessly through an experience as if the site was developed just for you and your needs.
The site isn’t developed around a concept of “pages,” but more-so, becomes a beautifully customized experience that provides a unique interaction between the brand and the customer.
Now that will be something to talk about!