Shawn Spartz, Director-Creative, Development & IT Operations, Graydient Creative
Why a Website?
A website is the reflection of a brand and with more than 3-billion users worldwide, the internet provides the greatest reach available to marketers and advertisers today. With access limited only by connectivity, this is truly the age of global reach. Since its initial public release in 1991, the internet has seen a world of changes, while it’s integration with daily life has become more and more involved.
“Ranging from projected screens to mobile devices and everything in between, having a website that will render beautifully across any sized screen will ensure a positive brand interaction for all users”
To gain perspective on the transformations we’ve experienced thus far, let’s take a look at computing devices, both then and now. In the same year of the internet’s launch came Apple’s Powerbook 100, the first laptop of it’s time to feature a keyboard with the pointing device positioned beneath it (a trend all laptop makers continue to this day). This piece of history debuted with internal memory of 2-8MB and a monochromatic 640x400 pixel display. For comparison, the latest iPhone 6S boasts internal memory of 2GB (a 1,000 percent increase) with a retina display resolution of 1920x1080.
If there’s one thing that’s constant about technology, it’s change, and that goes for the web industry as well. Trends in content, design and development are coming and going, which is why we have a dedicated web team to keep up with what’s current.
Respond with Responsive
In the past, websites occasionally had a mobile version that would display when specific screen dimensions were detected. These sites were often a condensed version of their desktop counterparts, with limited navigation and an equal maintenance required. Given the literal difference between mobile and desktop websites, information readily available on a desktop might often be redirected to a mobile version, leaving users confused and likely to navigate away.
One trend that is not new, but continues to grow as screen sizes shrink (and expand again) is responsive design. Ranging from projected screens to mobile devices and everything in between, having a website that will render beautifully across any sized screen will ensure a positive brand interaction for all users. In addition, responsive websites are a hit with recent Google search updates, as they meet and exceed all mobile friendly requirements, and require content updates in just one place. Easier to use for your customers and content managers? What’s not to love about responsive?
Embrace the Scroll
In the day of newspaper design, the term “above the fold” was coined to indicate the portion of the paper that was visible, even while folded in half. Many great minds have this idea engrained, leading them to believe that all important information needs to be listed in the initial viewport of a web page.
A recent analysis of 25 million user sessions by ChartBeat* notes that with today’s mobile generation, scrolling often begins even before the page fully loads. Provided you have quality content, people will seek it or be led there by intentional placement of the content surrounding it. The only way users will see a fold is if you create one, so avoid boxing in your content and ensure you are leading your users to all points of your page.
Déjà View: Patterns for User Experience
Given the number of choices one is surrounded with daily, it’s no surprise that accommodating for decision fatigue is a current best practice. The use of icons and patterns allows users to easily recognize functions and form without any additional education required.
One example of a commonly used pattern is full width imagery with supporting copy and information available when scrolling further. This trend aims to enhance emotions, with breathtaking visuals that allow visitors a more immersive web experience.
Among the web community, there is much debate around the mouth-watering menu icon: the hamburger. Depicted by three horizontally placed parallel lines, if you’ve used the internet on a device other than a desktop computer, you have seen it at least 100 times. On the other hand, it may have taken you a moment to envision it when simply described. The fact that you may not identify this list-like image with a menu, outside the context of a mobile website, demonstrates the effective use of icons.
You are Not Your User
In the past, websites were seen as the place for personal promotion. Things have changed, however, as Generations X and Y demand businesses to instead make it all about them. To satisfy this, content strategy has emerged.
Definitions of content strategy vary, but in context of the internet, it can be summarized in the same objectives as a website: Achieving business goals, objectives, and brand awareness by providing users the information they seek - whenever and wherever that may be. In other words, anticipating the needs of the user and giving them what they’re looking for, wherever they’re looking for it (location or platform), will increase business and buzz. A related trend and best practice is a content-first approach to website design. This ensures the user is put at the forefront and that content, which includes copy, imagery, and other elements, is considered from the very beginning, with graphic design created to make it flawless and functional.
Sharing is Caring
With new applications being launched daily, social media platforms are more popular than platform shoes. Luckily there are tools out there like AddThis, which easily integrate with your website, and allow your carefully crafted content to be populated on any number of the more than 250 platforms currently available! The benefit to this type of social integration aids in the reach of your brand. When users share your messages or products with their friends, you can receive trusted word of mouth advertising with little extra effort and help identify brand advocates.
Weaving the Web of Tomorrow
While there is no crystal ball to indicate what’s next, we predict personalization will be the next big trend in web development. With recent reports estimating a near 2-billion smartphone users, the possibilities for a custom mobile web experience is on the rise, as are demands from Generations X and Y. With the use of beacons and other proximity sensors, businesses can offer a truly customized experience based on real world surroundings, allowing for on-site guests to receive an enhanced experience. As increased data is obtained, AB testing may become obsolete as individual versions of perfect from one user to the next may soon become a reality.