The web has come a long way from the GIF-intensive, visually assaulting “GeoCities” style designs of the late 1990s. As coding languages evolve and high speed access reaches further around the world, website designs have become infinitely more complex and aesthetically pleasing.
So if it’s been a while since you last delved into the world of website design, it might be time to freshen up your tactics. The following web design trends should get you up-to-speed:
Trend #1 – Simplified website designs
One of the most striking features of the new website designs seen rolling out throughout 2013 has been their emphasis on simplicity. Today’s website designs are sleek and streamlined – capturing visitors’ attention quickly and redirecting it to the most important elements on the overall site.
When it comes to website design, think of it as if you were Coco Chanel, who famously advised women to remove one accessory before leaving the house. As you build your website, look around for unnecessary and extraneous features. Then, remove them before launching your site in order to keep visitors focused on your website’s top priorities.
Trend #2 – Mobile-ready and responsive website templates
Given that mobile website usage is expected to surpass desktop access as early as 2014, it’s only natural to see the growth of mobile-ready and responsive website templates. Both of these technologies – which serve to make traditional websites more easily read on digital devices – represent a growing website design trend over the past few years.
No matter what industry you’re in or what type of business you run, it’s vitally important that you jump on this trend and create your own mobile-accessible website version. If your site’s template design isn’t inherently responsive, try using website plugins (like WPTouch for the WordPress platform) or third-party mobile site creation tools (like the Mobify program) to build a mobile site version yourself.
Trend #3 – QR code usage
QR codes – those square barcodes that can direct viewers to images, web pages and more – have struggled to gain traction over the past few years. But that’s all starting to change as more and more consumers purchase smartphones and other digital devices that are capable of downloading the reader programs needed to scan these codes.
There are a number of different ways you can use QR codes to promote your website or products. For example, you could:
- Use QR codes to release special coupon codes to your customers
- Create QR codes that provide viewers with more detailed information about your products
- Release unique content to your customers that is only available via QR code
Really, the sky’s the limit. Give QR codes a try and see what kind of an impact they’ll have on your business.
Trend #4 – User-generated content integration
As the web becomes more social, it’s only natural to expect that website design principles would change as a result. In particular, one major trend that is affecting web design in 2013 is the growing integration of user-generated content on business sites.
User-generated content can take a number of different forms, including:
- The opportunity to leave reviews on product-specific landing pages
- Commenting systems that are tied to users’ personal social media profiles
- The submission and publication of guest posts, blog articles or news items from website visitors
What’s important to remember is that user-generated content isn’t just some nice feature that you can integrate. Today’s website visitors expect to be able to engage with the sites they frequent. Don’t frustrate them by creating a bland, static website that offers no opportunity for input.
Trend #5 – Emphasis on content
Another major trend impacting the world of website design is the increased emphasis that many businesses are placing on their content. This is occurring for two reasons… First, the more content you add to your website, the more opportunities you’ll have to connect with your visitors. If your website is static – like a billboard – potential customers eventually learn that stopping by your site won’t result in seeing anything they haven’t read before. On other hand, when a site is updated frequently, they’ll stop back over and over again to engage with your new content – leading to more buying opportunities.
And second, Google has recently made it clear through several major algorithm updates that it wants to reward sites that produce great content. As a result, if you commit yourself to updating your site frequently and placing an emphasis on your site’s content, you could stand to receive increased website traffic by achieving higher placements in the search engine results.
So how can you emphasize content on your website? Consider any of the following ideas:
- Add a blog or news page to your website and commit to updating it at least once a week
- Frequently swap out the content on your home page to give visitors something new to read
- Create a resources section that features plenty of helpful “how to” information for your customers
Trend #6 – The use of big buttons
It’s a subtle change, but if you visit a large number of websites on any given day, you may have noticed that many of them are starting to shift towards using larger buttons on their sales pages and internal navigation features.
There’s one big reason behind this web design trend – the ever-growing increase of mobile website access.
When displayed in miniature on digital devices, smaller buttons frustrate users and can lead to missed clicks. By making these buttons larger, websites that don’t offer a mobile version and those that allow visitors to access the desktop version of the site from their digital devices become more usable – resulting in happier customers and higher sales.
Trend #7 – Increased video file presence
Finally, be aware that video is huge when it comes to website design these days. Just a few of the different places you might encounter video clips include:
- On website home pages, providing visitors with an introduction to the site’s purpose
- On product pages, giving potential customers the chance to see each product in action
- On sales pages, providing a compelling, attention-grabbing sales appeal to would-be buyers
Video files are becoming popular for one reason – they’re much, much more engaging to visitors than plain text or static image files. If you aren’t yet taking advantage of this trend, it’s time to get started!
Given the number of free tools available, making videos is much easier than most people realize. Free screencast tools like Jing and automated video production systems like Animoto make it possible for even beginning webmasters to create high quality videos in minutes. These clips can then be uploaded to Youtube and embedded into your site’s pages – dramatically increasing your website’s ability to engage readers in under an hour’s time.
While it might sound overwhelming to try to build all of these different trends into your new website (or to integrate them all into a site you’ve already built), start small. Making a single one of the changes described above can make a big difference in your site’s ability to get noticed in your marketplace.
Have you seen any other website design trends occurring recently? If so, post your observations in the comments section so that everyone can benefit: