Happy New Year.
Now Pay Attention.
Just like the shock of going back to work on the 5th, let’s get straight into it. Digital has forever seen the emergence (and decline) of web trends that have all helped shape what we now consider to be modern and even standard.
Specifically over the last few years, things like responsive development, parallax scrolling and flat design have all been well documented and greatly understood. Coupled with new and evolving technology, users have become so sophisticated that it only takes a glance at a website which doesn’t provide a modern appeal for them to bounce. Websites in 2015 must be engaging as users don’t tolerate anything less.
So why develop anything less?
Typically, a client will come to us with either a problem or an idea. An out-of-date website or one which doesn’t resonate with its audience are extremely commonplace. It’s our job to plan and execute a solution that will effectively solve their problem by applying the digital principles that we’re immersed with everyday.
On occasion, what a client wants and what their problem dictates can be different things. Whilst we certainly aim to please our clients, making them happy can prove challenging given this fact. What many fail to realise: Client satisfaction is not just saying, “Yes” to every request they make. It’s the result, or byproduct, of solving their problem by delivering great work.
So with that said, our core focus is to do just that and with every project that we undertake, we consider the following to be fundamental.
Responsive or Die
Well, you probably won’t die. But your website will not perform very well if its not responsive. I shouldn't really need to say much more.
Google has openly recommended that websites be developed responsively and over the last few years, responsive web development has certainly solidified itself as a web development standard. It's no longer just a trend!
Despite this however, many website owners still fail to understand why and even opt for other, quicker mobile website solutions. Forget for a second that Google has stated that you should develop your site responsively and just consider the following benefits:
Usability & Engagement
Discussed in more detail below, a website with high engagement will reflect that of a website which is relevant to its audience and provides a strong user experience: Meaning more people will increasingly visit the site and convert into more business.
Ranking For Mobile Search
Google has said that it ranks websites optimised for mobile higher in mobile search.
Being accessible is the overarching principle of responsive development. Having a website developed with standards compliant markup that can be easily and consistently accessed by a growing range of devices and browsers means omnipresence of your brand.
Its Best Practice
Of the three recognised configurations for developing a mobile web solution, Google has stated that responsive web design is the recommended mobile configuration and even goes as far as to refer to responsive web design as industry best practice. This is because responsive websites have one URL and the same HTML, regardless of device, which makes it easier and more efficient for Google to crawl, index, and organise content, as well as provide a great user experience.
E.g. A mobile user who shares content from a mobile site with a friend on Facebook who then accesses that content using a desktop, which results in that user viewing a stripped down mobile site on their desktop. Let's be Frank, this is less than an optimal user experience and it's essential to take into account.
Being as obvious as these points are, it comes as little wonder why Google has suggested something so candidly. Make sure your website is developed responsively.
Engagement & Task Completion
Every website must serve a purpose. If you’re an ecommerce business, you need to sell online. If you’re a service-based business, you need to generate leads. Every website has a goal and the more goals you achieve with your users, the more relevant the website must be to their search queries.
It then comes as no surprise that strong user engagement metrics such as goal/conversion tracking, time on site and bounce rates all reflect a website which is relevant and provides a good user experience. Websites with strong engagement will generally have several traits in common, such as:
- They’re easy to use and understand.
- They provide easily consumable information and a strong call-to-action.
- They’re professionally designed, responsive and accessible to all modern browsers and devices.
- They deliver legitimate, credible and high-quality content.
Search engines such as Google score and interpret these metrics as a signal of quality and relevance to a user’s search query. If a user enters your website from Google and engagement is high, the higher it will then rank in Google and the more traffic you will increasingly acquire.
Make sure your website serves its purpose effectively and engages its audience.
User-centric Design & Architecture
An extremely common mistake that a lot of websites make, is present their outward facing information in a manner that simply mimics the organisation or their departments, offices, etc. This is hardly ever a user-centric approach.
Because users have to “live” inside a website for a period of time, some real-world architectural principles apply to a website’s sitemap. Context and “place” will help a user find what they’re looking for more than any visual or graphical element.
Simplifying and streamlining a website’s sitemap in a logical and scalable manner will therefore be as closely related to the success of the project, as the design and development itself (if not more so).
Taking the time to research and understand the project’s target audience, along with then defining the design direction and how best to layout its information will prove invaluable. Subsequently, calls-to-action can then be explored and defined re Task Completion (above) and used as focal points of the design concept.
Engaged for our extensive web knowledge and expertise, every design concept that we present is the result of meticulous thinking, planning and pixel-perfect execution. Below are some examples of current design trends that we use, which we believe will have the staying power in 2015:
Material Design Direction
Unveiled this year by Google as their new direction for mobile (and design in general), its safe to say that material design will have some staying power.
Material design, which is mostly flat design and its advantages, uses very subtle gradients, layering, and animation to retain a sense of the tangible world (physical space and objects). If the success of flat design wasn’t enough for you to adopt this design direction, the lengths that Google has gone to produce their living specification is proof enough that this design style will remain current for some time.
Ghost Buttons/Empty Buttons
Ghost buttons (or Empty buttons) are a prominent design feature on our new website. Minimal, stylish and with a very subtle hover animation, they add a level of sophistication and futuristic feeling to any design concept: They make you feel like Ironman... there it is!
A Large & Beautiful Background Image
Another great design trend of ours that will continue in a big way across the web in 2015 is the use of large and beautiful background images (or videos). This is a simple, yet very powerful and elegant way to make your website stand out. And please, no more sliders or carousels!
Pageless Design/Scrolling Design
With the rise of mobile web and their enjoyable experiences, scrolling has now surpassed and dominates clicking. Being asked, “does a user know to scroll on my website?” is much the same as asking, “how does one know to turn a page of a book?” They just do. Pageless & Scrolling design is engaging and welcomes visitors by prompting them to keep scrolling through the website for more information.
With this design style, there is no longer a need for users to hunt for links and/or click on a series of pages in order to then find and read the information they’re after. This design style will illustrate and even animate, the various points/items of a webpage by way of utilising the latest in web & browser technologies with succinct/to the point, body copy.
An inherent risk associated with any digital project is a failure to consider future growth and development. The central theme of any project should therefore be to provide and accommodate for change, typically enhancements, whilst minimising impact to existing system functions.
The choice of CMS for your web development project will then greatly impact on its extensibility. We always look to alleviate this risk thanks largely to our choice of platform for any given project and our proven skillset when developing with it.
Don’t fight your developers on this point, but by all means question their recommendation and preferred CMS direction. Make sure your website is extensible.
Blogging & Content Marketing
When executed correctly, blogging and its subsequent content hub can drive valuable inbound links and social media shares to a website, as well as capture additional, “longer tail” traffic and grow your brand.
Ultimately, the success of any blogging or content marketing effort will come down to the quality and value of the content that is produced. In recent years, Google has been very explicit about good-quality content and this trend will carry over in full force into future years. With regards to content quality, the metrics of measurement are:
- Uniqueness of the content/topic.
- Resourcefulness and information richness (i.e. no thin content).
- Engagement factors as discussed above (i.e., what did users do after they read the blog post? Did they share the article? Link to it? Etc.).
Content marketing is one of the most effective forms of inbound marketing that focuses on getting found by customers by earning their trust. In stark contrast to traditional outbound marketing methods, inbound marketing focuses on earning, not buying, a person’s attention which is done through social media and the development of valuable content (via an extensible website and well developed blog).
In an SEO era where links to your website must be earned, content marketing can prove fundamental in driving quality inbound links and social shares to your site, as well as capturing additional “longer tail” traffic. Furthermore, by syndicating and promoting content that you develop, you will start to acquire readership and position your brand as a thought leader within its space.
Ensure your website has a blog and that you have plenty to say about your industry.
A lot has been said here and I certainly didn’t intend on writing a blog post that would exceed 1,600+ words. But the reality is that web development in 2015 is extensive and there are a number of ways to interpret and implement web development standards and trends.
Ultimately, if you have a website or are planning on developing one, make sure it’s:
- Developed responsively,
- Engaging and serves a purpose,
- User-centric design is modern and appeals to its audience,
- Extensible and allows for future development.
And above all else, you’re ready to work hard and develop genuine and interesting blog content.