The world of web design is always evolving, and trends go in and out of style faster than most brands can keep up. New technologies, new trend-setting apps, and new consumer demands all shape what constitutes the “best” design and user experience on the web, and since these concepts are in constant flux, it’s only natural that last year’s best practices either become obsolete or develop differently in the new year.
Today’s Web Design
We’re entering the second quarter of 2016, and it’s the perfect time to run an audit of your current site design. Are you doing everything that you can for your customers? Is your brand up-to-date?
If not, now’s the time to correct it. Start by checking your site to see if you offer any of the following features of modern web design:
- The drag-n-drop. The concept of “drag-n-drop” isn’t entirely new, but it’s becoming more practical, more popular, and more important to be included in your web design. You’re probably already familiar with this construct: a user clicks and holds a certain “item” on a website (a file, for example), then guides its movement to a specific destination on the screen to complete an action (uploading, for example). This is a simple change to the traditional, but it’s powerful for a few reasons. First, it gives users a more interactive experience, which makes them feel more invested. Second, it makes the mobile experience easier.
- Scroll-jacking. It might sound illegal, but don’t let the name deter you: scroll-jacking is a design element that compensates for the “infinite scroll” habit that users have developed. Thanks to Facebook and most other social apps, users have become accustomed to scrolling indefinitely, whizzing past meaningful information toward a bottom that never really comes. Scroll-jacking interrupts this process by “snapping” different slides into place as a user scrolls, segmenting your information and helping users to see the full picture of your site. This is especially important on mobile devices, where users have the smallest screens and are most tempted to scroll forever.
- A background video. The background video has been popular for a couple of years now, but it’s becoming more important now that users are accessing auto-playing videos more often. It’s come to be a user expectation, and if you deliver on that expectation with a compelling visual in context with the rest of your brand and website, they’ll remember you forever.
- Large typography. Large typography is probably the strangest item on this list, by virtue of its simplicity. Some of these features, such as scroll-jacking and background videos, have evolved from the advancement of technology, but large typeface has been around forever. It’s growing in popularity for a number of reasons, not the least of which is mobile visibility, so include a handful of powerful words on your site in a much larger font than the rest. If you need a good example of a site with large typography, look no further than Curt’s Special Recipe.
- Vertical lists. There are two consumer demands that dictate the efficiency of the vertical list format throughout your site: the need for fast and specific information (thanks to low attention spans), and the prevalence of mobile devices. When presenting information to your users, try to boil your data down to the simplest possible entries, and make an itemized list from them, such as with wish lists for a crowdfunding campaign as offered by an organization like Plumfund. You can do this for almost anything that you can imagine; it makes the experience more streamlined and organized – especially when a level of user interaction is required.
- Interactive experiences. User interaction is more important than ever before. Users don’t want to experience a site passively; they want to engage with it. They want to click and to see an effect from that click. They want the content and visuals to change based on how they interact with it. This leads to greater consumer investment and shows extra dimensions to your brand, resulting in higher engagement rates and an overall better brand reputation.
- Unique navigations. If you want your users to stick around, you need them to remember you, and for that, you need to stand out from the crowd. One of the best ways to do this is in your navigation, a necessary web element that’s been reduced to only a handful of common arrangements. There’s the header bar, which offers the main pages (and sub-pages upon highlighting those main pages), and the “hamburger menu,” which you usually encounter on mobile sites. Get creative, and present your navigation in an unfamiliar format; as long as it’s relatively easy for users to grasp, you’ll distinguish your brand and become more memorable for your users.
There’s no hard rule that says that you need to include all seven of these items on your brand’s website or that you need any of them to be successful. There are plenty of old-style designs that still manage to achieve a decent revenue stream. However, if you want to maximize your potential returns and to improve your brand’s reputation at the same time, you’ll need to step up your web design game in 2016 and beyond. Pay close attention to how these trends grow and develop; it doesn’t take much to turn the industry on its head.