Nothing has revolutionized the world of website design quite as much as the revolution in smartphone technology and mobile Internet access has. For over 2 decades website designers have stuck to the core design principles of engaging content and ease-of-use when designing any new site, or revamping an existing one. Their customers were happy, the search engines were happy and the web surfers were kept happy too – everything worked nicely.
What we’re going to take a look at here today are the biggest changes in web design over the last 2 years or so, and how they can and will impact the future of anyone working in the web design industry. These days website usability is still driven by the search engines and web surfers, but for different reasons.
The explosion in the use of mobile Internet devices now means that engaging content is far less important than having a website that’s compatible with mobile devices. That’s not just idle speculation either because Google themselves are predicting that any business without a mobile compatible website by 2016 is going to find itself left behind very, very quickly. In short people who are accessing the Internet via their smartphone or tablet are usually shopping for a product or service (well around 85% of them), and they want the easiest and most streamlined mobile shopping experience they can find.
So if they reach a website which doesn’t present them with a nice, neat XML-based interface they’re not going to bother zooming in to scroll through your navigation menu – they’re just going to find a competitor’s website that is mobile compatible instead. Basically to get the best of both world’s, in a commercial sense, you’ll need a website that’s viewable on both desktop computers and mobile devices too.
The standard “left-aligned menu, header and body content” style of website will exist for the foreseeable future, but you need to be looking past that and look at what the big media companies are doing instead. What you’re going to find is that most of them are now offering a modular or magazine format on their sites, which are also fully compatible with mobile devices. Oddly enough a lot of ecommerce companies tried this approach to design in the late 1990s, but the market simply wasn’t ready for it at that point in time. Now that the Internet audience from those days has matured (they’re now all 30 and 40-somethings) the need for websites with a professional magazine-styled, modular layout is more in demand than ever before.
Basically you need to approach designing most new websites with a tabloid layout in mind – you need to engage your audience almost immediately, or you risk losing them to the dreaded “Back” button. Website design purists aren’t going to like designing sites in this way, but it’s less about what you want and more about what the customer is willing to pay for. The beauty being that if your customers do change their mind on the layout (which they always do), then it’s simply a matter of using a different design and importing their content into that – something which you can bill them for.
If you take nothing else away from reading this article then it should be this: Embrace mobile website design – it’s the future of online commerce.
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