81% of shoppers visit a product or service’s website before buying. If that statistic doesn’t highlight the importance of an effective website, then perhaps the facts that 77% of the estimated 60 million UK internet users made an online purchase in 2015 will.
Having a website that not only works flawlessly but stands out from the crowd is an absolute must for businesses in 2017, with online spending set to continue in the growth pattern that saw sales increase almost 16% from 2015 to 2016 your company’s web design is of paramount importance. The same is true for non-commercial websites, with users often basing their interaction decision on an organisation’s web presence.
The key areas of web design
Web design has developed at a rapid pace since the first basic HTML websites appeared in the 1990s. With a huge jump from simple pages with lines of text and if you were lucky, pictures, to impressive layouts with embedded video and animations, websites are now a key element in driving sales and providing a new outlet for marketers to sell their product. The temptation to go for an all guns blazing website packed with features is limited however, with functionality now infinitely more important than those vivid colours and animated banners that haunted websites of the 90s and early 2000s.
Navigation and ease of access have become the most important watchwords in a company’s web design, with the purpose of the website coming way before more traditionally important aspects of web design. The trend for grid or image based designs and carefully chosen fonts has overtaken the information overload that you would experience in a clothes shop for example, with product ranges often broken down into categories to avoid too much information appearing on one page. The prevalence of simplistic platforms like WordPress is also clear to see, with easily customisable sites built on the platform accounting for upwards of 19% of websites globally.
The customer experience has also changed massively since the first e-commerce websites pummelled visitors with page upon page of product images and a gigantic buy now link. Now, selected products or services, user stories and messaging hierarchies help to create a story behind the brand, helping customers to engage and form a profile of the thing they are interested in buying. A visit to the Adidas website’s newest range of products designed in collaboration with Stella McCartney shows complex and intriguing chunks of information mixed in with images of the clothes themselves. The sales pitch is complex and more inviting than forced, driving the consumer to invest time and learn before being shown the ‘buy me now’ button.
Platforms and optimisation
Although 9 out of 10 people in the UK own a smartphone and 63% of households own a tablet in the UK, it may make sense for businesses to focus completely on web based apps. However, the humble PC (or MAC) still accounts for a lot of purchases and web activity, with users still seemingly favouring keyboards over fiddly touchscreens when inputting credit card details.
This mix of devices can cause problems for web designers, especially when it comes to optimisation for both web and PC. Different screen resolutions, display software, operating systems and even web browsers can cause chaos when it comes to page layout, menu navigation, and box and image formatting, leading to pages that look messy or simply fail to display on a phone or tablet. This is where responsive design or optimised design is decided upon.
Optimised design calls for a completely separate website from the desktop version, supporting tablet and mobile screen sizes and incorporating features such as the hamburger menu and buttons that are easier to press using a thumb or finger. Responsive design on the other hand is built into a website’s code and dictates how it should be displayed depending on the device and screen resolution. Responsive design has become a lot more prevalent, thanks to the lack of second mobile site needed and the ability to maintain brand values and design decisions without compromising for smaller screen.
Although having only two mobile operating systems to deal with (99% of mobile devices globally use Android or Apple’s iOS) may seem to make life easier, the operating systems are actually quite different. Apart from being built in different languages, the amount of browser choices on Android compared to the ‘safari or nothing’ option on Apple devices can make a difference to how websites are displayed.
A great example of a web service that has managed the platform problem well is Wink Bingo. Alongside the great selection of bingo games and thriving online community, the service is accessed very easily no matter what device is being used. Using multiple heavy duty servers and robust gaming software, games are as fast paced as they are in real life and without any lag or slow loading times due to cumbersome web design. Thanks to a mixture of dedicated mobile website and a desktop site with exceptional layout and design features as well as an optimised mobile app for both iOS and Android, gaming is slick, engaging and error free.
The future of web design
Without a doubt, mobile web design is dominating the development of new web design elements and technologies. As mentioned earlier, PCs and Macs will still play a huge role, but they are already becoming more ‘mobile’ with operating systems like Windows 10 designed with use on mobile applications in mind (you don’t download programs from Windows anymore, you download ‘apps’). It is innovations like Pageless Design, which relies on a single page that is scrolled through to create a website story, and rapid prototyping that are dominating the discussions about future web design, and it’s no surprise that all of these innovations are aimed at mobile users.
Rapid prototyping for example allows multiple layouts and ideas to be explored and tested using current branding and website, without a line of code being written. This is all thanks to endless templates and clever widgets and plugins that adapt depending on the requirement. Templates and purpose built UX and UI patterns are also fitting in with this ‘modular’ approach to web design, again using platforms like WordPress and simple-to-construct website building software to negate the need for expensive and hard to find code writers and web developers.
With such a focus on mobile and massive numbers of web users ready to spend online, a business without a decent website is asking for trouble. An estimated 50% of small businesses in the UK still don’t have a website however, just going to show how much potential there is for technologically disadvantaged companies and sole traders to start reaping the rewards from online web traffic.
It also seems that building a great website and keeping it in line with new trends is only going to get easier thanks to modularity, allowing this huge chunk of small businesses to finally get a website which isn’t just another hassle to sort out.
Your comapany’s web design is one of the most important parts of a business, if you have great web design, you will then look a lot more appealing to the public. Web design in Manchester, Brighton and Greater London, everywhere is now investing into great web design.