Essential Design Elements for a Modern Website
Over the last few years, the expectations of the average web user have evolved significantly, as has the way that we engage with the websites that we visit. Thanks to the development of AJAX, CSS4 and HTML5, we can now interact with websites in a much more fluid and flexible way than ever before, customising the user experience and enjoying smoother and more personal ways of accessing the content that interests us.
More and more webmasters are adopting these new design elements. Even small-business owners are starting to offer sleek, professional-looking sites that employ these technologies. Here is a quick look at some of the most essential design elements that every website should have.
Responsive designs are website designs that look great on any screen – whether it’s a small mobile screen or a large desktop display. Responsive design is essential because mobile devices are near ubiquitous now, and a lot of people prefer to use their mobile or tablet devices to access the web instead of their desktop computers. If you are not using a responsive theme for your website, then you will lose out on a lot of visitors.
One of the most interesting <a href=”http://www.rouge-media.com”>creative web design</a> trends of this year is hidden menu items. This trend is a simple usability change which has greatly improved the end-user experience. Instead of the homepage containing a massive menu, the navigation for the website is hidden behind a button, tab or mouse-over element. The menu reveals itself when the user hovers over the correct part of the screen. This design change is something that can really help to reduce your bounce rate, because the user is more likely to explore the content before trying to leave the page. If the menu is right there, it’s more likely to get clicked on.
Visual headers – which can sometimes include video – are becoming increasingly popular, but these must be implemented with care. The best visual headers are slow-moving ones that are silent. Anything that automatically plays a sound must be avoided, and you should not use anything that is fast or distracting, because this will irritate your users. Ideally, the visitor should be able to ignore the video if they are in a rush, but get some value from it if they do decide to sit and watch it. Take a look at the desktop version of the PayPal website for a great example of this implementation.
Endless scrolling is a great usability feature. Facebook implemented this very well in their timeline, and it has proven to be a very “sticky” feature for them. When users reach the bottom of the page, more content loads, and then more and more, until the user runs out of content, which is something that is highly unlikely to ever happen unless they have just one or two friends and those friends rarely post. Endless scrolling removes the need for users to navigate from page to page and allows the user to keep on reading content forever.
Endless scrolling can be used for home pages too. If you want to sell something, put all of the information on one page – start with a header and set of images that acts as a poster/banner, and as the user scrolls down, go deeper into the sales pitch. The trick with implementing this sort of thing is to make sure that the user always feels like they’ve seen a complete page, but if they keep on scrolling, they are tempted to read more.
The creative use of white space and minimalistic design elements is something that a lot of designers are working with at the moment, and with good reason. The less you include on each page, the easier it is to draw attention to the bits that are most important on the site. Clean, simple designs are easier to maintain, more likely to look good on mobile devices and more likely to load quickly too.
One of the most interesting designs that is in fashion at the moment is the split screen. This design divides the page into two horizontal (or vertical) sections, and gives equal prominence to two sets of content. It can be done in a magazine-style fashion or as two discrete areas, and it allows the webmaster to devote equal screen real-estate to each section, leaving the users free to make their own decisions about what they want to read.
Another thing that is becoming incredibly popular is giving the user the ability to customize the website. While this is not new as such, it is getting easier for webmasters of all levels of experience to do, so it is becoming more commonplace, and users now expect it as a basic feature. Letting people hide certain pieces of content, change the colour of the theme or even change the font size is not difficult, and it is something that will make them more likely to stick around and explore the website.
Functional improvements, such as accepting the user’s address and showing accurate shipping information, are important too. These are things that will make life easier for your customers and therefore remove potential barriers to conversion.
If you have not updated your website in a while, then it is a good idea to look at these creative design options and implement the aesthetic and functional improvements that you think will appeal to your visitors.