Web design is an ever-evolving field. When the web was first created, it was like a Wild West of design, with the prevalence of the bad and ugly far outweighing the good. In the days when browsers didn’t support the same HTML tags or rendered them completely different, designers would often have to choose which browsers they would support.
Now, however, the sky is the limit. The main choice facing web designers is whether to create a mobile site to serve the growing needs of smartphone users. Social media integration is also a concern when designing sites and can help draw visitors towards profitable conversions. Minimalist designs are a major trend and, when used effectively, can improve the user experience and can draw attention to actionable items. The use of HTML5 and CSS3 started to take off this year, allowing designers to replace some of the functionality of flash while decreasing loading times.
According to Mary Meeker, an Internet analyst heading up the global technology research team at Morgan Stanley, mobile Internet usage will overtake desktop Internet usage by 2014. In light of this prediction, it becomes clear that designing web sites for mobile designs is essential. Designers should give mobile visitors access to the most popular and useful features of the main site in a streamlined interface that makes efficient use of small screens. Collecting mobile analytics data is imperative when determining which features are most important for mobile users.
While social media doesn’t necessarily play a huge role in web design, the ability to tightly integrate social networks into a website can improve site visibility and can help funnel users toward desired conversions. Many sites feature a real-time Twitter feed, showing the latest tweets from the company or displaying Twitter users’ messages to or about the company. Adding the ability for users to share a link to an article or product page, via Twitter or Facebook, allows users to share information they feel is relevant and can lead others in the network to visit the site. While not strictly part of social media, including text marketing in site design can help users connect with a brand, offering regular reminders of the products and services a company offers. Staying in a potential customer’s mind, whether through social networks, texts or emails, is an effective way to increase conversions, and those features should be placed prominently throughout a website.
Creating an elegant, simple user experience is a growing trend. Some people use single page designs to provide clear, concise information to visitors. Others make use of a grid layout with heavy use of white space that is easily scannable. Removing large amounts of text and links make items remaining on the page stand out. It can be a bit of a struggle to simplify a website, while making sure visitors don’t have to click through 15 links to get to their desired page, but it’s definitely worth it. Using a minimalist design also allows designers to place actionable items, like “Add to Cart” buttons or newsletter sign-up forms, front and center, drawing visitors’ eyes and increasing the chances of a profitable conversion.
HTML5 and CSS3
The primary purpose of HTML5 is to make it easier to embed multimedia in web pages while being a standardized, human-readable language, supported by a wide array of computers and devices. Though it is still being developed and its features aren’t universally supported, 2011 has been a big year for the language. Companies like Google are pushing innovative ways to use the standard, such as OK Go’s video for “All Is Not Lost”, which resizes and realigns windows using HTML5’s canvas technology. CSS3 is gaining traction on the web, too. Among its features are the abilities to perform 2D transformations, special transitions between states, 3D transformations and Web fonts, and the ability to specify font faces for specific text. There are many examples of creative uses of CSS3 on the web. The usefulness of CSS3 is only limited by the designer’s imagination.
Web design techniques are constantly evolving. Therefore, techniques used today may not be effective or fashionable tomorrow. Mobile usage is ramping up year after year, making mobile sites a requirement for nearly every business. Social media is used by millions of people and provides an easy entry point into user’s social experience. Minimalism takes a page out of print design, making use of clean lines and concise content that increases readability, which will always increase the chance of conversions. Though design tastes may change, these simple principles are here to stay.
Danielle Russell has a passion for web design and finding new ways to incorporate a wide array of technologies, like social media, text marketing and the latest advances in HTML and CSS to create an integrated, user-friendly experience.