At the beginning of each year, web design blogs and journals are packed full of ideas about which trends will become popular and most widely adopted within the web design profession. There are a lot this year which follow on from the emergence of design tools such as parallax scrolling, storytelling, animated backgrounds, cards/tiles, infinity scrolling and so on and so on and so on…
We write our blog however largely for the benefit of businesses who aren’t web designers and our focus is on the type of objective thinking and commercial planning that drives websites to be successful business assets, not the mechanics or veneer of the site (those parts are our job after all). As far as commercial evolution works, purpose always comes before success. There is a very simple way to give your website purpose and that’s to focus on this:
The one part of web design that will count in 2017 is engagement.
Engagement with your user is what you should be thinking about most of all. That’s not to say visual tools aren’t going to help get you there, but they must be treated as tools to achieve this first and most critical goal.
The right mindset is all that’s required to make design decisions which will produce a successful site. As for getting it wrong, that’s easy. As long as you allow people to get frustrated, bored, impatient, annoyed or confused you’re on the right track.
However, let’s instead have a look at how to get it right:
1. Know thy audience.
To understand why people are visiting your site is invaluable. When you can interpret what people want from a site and more specifically their intentions when they arrive, you are able to align your design with those intentions. Speak to the users directly, through the image they are greeted with, the opening header, the navigation and the on page calls to action. Use all of these opportunities, but always use them to empower the user.
2. Respect the user.
This follows on directly from point #1. Giving people what they want is a model that doesn’t often go wrong and especially when your site should exist to inform and provide, hiding information, tricking users or only working towards statistical goals such as pages per visit or isn’t a worthwhile exercise when you’re running a site. There are so many examples of this on the web, galleries that use dozens of pages instead of just one, indiscriminate pop-ups and pre-content advertisements, auto-play videos and the other horrors that we loathe. Think about a user’s trust level constantly during design decision making and aim to make them comfortable and at ease. Attention span on the web is a delicate thing and easily destroyed.
3. Plan individual journeys
They get called other things too, but the user journey is a map of the steps which a user will take in order to fulfil their reason for visiting your site. Simple in theory, very detailed when you get right into it. It’s crucial to remember the different types of users you’ll be thinking about. Some know exactly what they are after. Some have no idea. Some sort of know but aren’t sure where to find it. It’s very difficult to produce a clear journey when a user doesn’t know what direction to go in to begin with, so making some choices about what type of users you would be best suited to accommodating will inevitably come into play. There’s rarely a “one size fits all” so it’s crucial to remember, you’ll never win over every single visitor and should build exit points into journeys if the user does not fit the profile of a potential client or partner.
This year, give something back to your lovely users. You’ll be pleased with what you receive in return.