Web design sells – there is little doubt about that. Often described as the ‘Virtual Shop Window’ of a business, your website should showcase your products and services in a manner which is appealing to your customers. If you fail to achieve this, you run the risk of your prospects going elsewhere to procure what they seek.
Successfully converting prospects to customers via your website is closely associated with two things: Your website design and layout, and your actual written content. These two key elements of the website should work together to create a satisfying customer experience.
Today however, we will take a look at the design and basic elements of your website and uncover the questions that you should be asking to determine whether what you offer your prospects is on par with current standards. Website design trends are continually evolving and so one needs to constantly review not only your own site, but that of your competitors too, in order to determine whether you are indeed offering a relevant experience for the customer – and one worth returning to!
Tech Leaders and Devices Lead the Trends
Customers are often not aware of it, but the influence that global technology leaders such as Microsoft and Apple have on website design trends, has been clearly evident for many years. This often leads to one feeling somewhat lukewarm today, about a website design that we were raving about just a few years ago. For example where a 3D look and feel was hot stuff in 2011, a simpler more ‘flat’ design is considered appropriate today.
In addition, the evolution of the mobile devices which now increasingly connect us to the world, require regular updates to the functional aspects of a website. This means that what was acceptable and accessible from a mobile device just a year ago, has swiftly become outdated or even redundant today.
With the recent release of Windows 8 and Microsoft’s earlier self-entitled ‘Metro Design Philosophy’, website design trends have once again, been following suit. In addition, the proliferation of tablets and smartphones in the market place (and this is set to increase significantly in the next year) has dramatically altered the ideal website layout today.
Look at the following few examples which illustrate the above statement.
and compare those to:-
The Top 10 Latest Trends in Website Design
Though you may be inclined to want to simply leave design trends in the mind and hands of your website designer, it is imperative to understand what current trends should influence your final decision. It is really less about keeping up with the Jones’s (your competitors) and more about ensuring that you meet the needs and expectations of your target audience.
The following pointers should steer your design and layout considerations:
1. Flat Design
The trend now is toward a flat, more responsive, simpler and easier to use website design – one which includes as little shading and 3D effects (skeuomorphism) as possible. While some people think this is just a fad, we do believe that this trend will inform the basis of all design going forward. For some inspiration, visit the Flattrendz website. A minimalistic, simplified look that amplifies your content will grab more attention and drive your message home quicker.
2. Mobile First, Responsive Design
In an earlier post we wrote about the fact that websites need to be designed for your mobile users and scaled up from there – see what your website looks on a mobile device in this online screen emulator.
3. Large Image Backgrounds
Using creative, clear images as the background of your website creates great impact and helps to let your audience quickly and easily connect with your company and your services. Simple, but also relatively large text is often coupled with a large image background to help drive one or two key messages.
4. Creative Colour
The use of highly defined colour palettes is very much on-trend at the moment. Plenty of white space with the addition of clearcolour icons and shapes are used to define sections, functionalities and messages and this adds a fresh, neat and orderly appeal to the website.
5. The use of ‘White Space’
Also known as ‘negative space’ white space is considered any large blank area of colour (one does not necessarily need to use the colour white) and has long been used by the magazine industry and other leading design oriented industries to help hone focus on specific themes or content. The use of white space and a simple layout is often associated with the perception of modernity and style.
6. The Fall of Flash
While it was once considered the high-end of website design owing to its ability to integrate nifty animated features, Flash has thankfully become almost redundant in website design. With a list of anti-best practice features, such as being difficult to navigate, taking too long to load and being virtually impossible to optimise for search engines, Flash is in addition, not visible on an iPad or iPhone. User friendly websites which deliver a clear message and are highly practical, have become the key focus today, so be sure to say no to Flash for your website!
7. Bold, Simple Typography
An extended range of fonts are today considered as being ‘web-optimised’ and this has enabled website designers to add creative impact to key messages.
Take a look at the Google Fonts collection for some inspiration.
8. Engaging Headlines
One fact that has remained unchanged over time is that individuals have far more of a habit of gawking at gripping headlines than they do at pictures. Think about a newspaper headline or magazine front cover. People are engaged by a simple message that leads them into detailed content. Using bold, simple typography, a few key messages should stand out on your website and encourage your prospect to read further.
9. Content Blocking
The use of a grid format in which concise content is placed into blocks which are then accompanied by relevant images has been used as an effective way to draw attention to multiple aspects of a product or service. Rollover effects can be used to reveal additional information, a supporting image or links to more detailed content. For this approach to work however, a logical flow of information needs to be considered and incorporated.
10. Video and Social Media
Audiences today expect variety and they are increasingly being engaged by visual material such as video’s and images. In addition, Social Media is set to remain a prominent means of interaction for many individuals. Research has shown that people impulsively want to click a play button when they see one and so a simple introductory video of your product or service is often a great way to engage an individual. Social media provides a means to share virtually all forms of content and so no content marketing strategy should ignore social media.
When to upgrade
Knowing that our online world is headed in yet another revolutionary design direction, you may be feeling the need to upgrade your website. Even if you are doing your online marketing right – from blogs to social media, internet advertising and more – without the basis of a professional, relevant website, you could be undermining your efforts.
In Europe the art of window dressing, visual display, or ‘visual merchandising’ as it is termed in South Africa, is still widely used as a marketing tool by leading department stores and even smaller retailers. Shop window displays are changed on a bi-weekly or monthly basis and this marketing cost is something that is incorporated into the overall budget. Considering that your website is your virtual shop window as we mentioned earlier, to budget for a refresh of the look and feel of your website every two or three years is not unreasonable.
As much as a good website designer, such as The Formula, is able to anticipate trends and gear your website design to these trends accordingly, the fact remains that technology is continually evolving and will therefore continue to determine the evolution in how we present ourselves online.
In addition, if one compares this cost against that of a once-off print advert for example, one soon realises that budget reserved for a new website layout, considering your website is your central marketing asset, will always be budget well spent.
Keeping up with marketing trends is a challenge, but by capitalising on the expertise of a leading digital agency such as The Formula, you can rest assured that your business will remain ahead of the curve in your industry. Give Garth Dahl or Shiraz Khatib a call on 021 556 5661 or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org – our consultations are always free!