Our website development team has identified a number of areas
in which trends continue to influence the state of the web.
Style and Design
A number of recent website trends focus on the style and design of websites. These include:
- Minimalist Design
- Horizontal Separation
- Less Stock Photography
- Custom Art & Photography
- Rich Typography
Minimalist design puts the focus on content, featuring generous use of "white space" around and within the content elements to make sure that users can find information easily. A 2004 study by D. Y. M. Lin concluded that using such techniques can improve reading comprehension by about 20%.
Racine Art Museum is an example of a site that makes good use of minimalist design.
Pages can be separated into horizontal areas with their own unique styling. This adds visual interest, allows content to use varied column widths, and gives an overall more spacious impression of the website design. Hospice Alliance is a good example of separating the layout into clear horizontal areas.
Less Stock Photography
Stock photography is useful in many situations, but it can easily be overused. Some images, such as the one below, can be found on countless websites. This dilutes the impact of the image. Unless carefully chosen, stock images fail to communicate the value of a business's brand.
Stock imagery can fail to communicate a business's unique value.
Custom Art & Photography
In contrast to stock photography, custom art and photography adds a personal touch to a site. When executed well, it makes a greater impression, and is especially crucial for successful product sales. Bendtsen's Bakery uses custom photography to communicate the appeal of their baked goods, whereas Stuckey Construction uses custom photos of their completed projects to showcase their expertise and quality work in the construction industry.
Bendtsen's Bakery uses quality custom photography to promote their products.
Years ago, only a handful of fonts were safe for the web. Now, sites can use custom fonts through services like Google Fonts. Sites like 20 and Oakes and Rule of Three use custom fonts to accentuate their unique aesthetic.
Layout and Navigation
Another wave of website trends involve more technical elements of website layout and navigation:
- Scrolling Pages
- Top-Aligned Navigation
- Mega Menus & Footers
- Responsive Design
- Increased Use of Video
Years ago, conventional web design wisdom maintained that pages should be kept "above the fold," meaning their content should not extend below the average user's screen size. Now, longer pages are acceptable and even preferable. Technologies like touchscreens and scroll wheels have made navigating long pages easier, and Google has started prioritizing long-form articles in search results. Now, many users find one long page easier to navigate than multiple small pages. Design firm Basecamp (formerly known as 37 Signals) popularized the scrolling single-page format and continue to use it on their website.
Left-aligned menus have been phased out in favor of top-aligned horizontal menus. This keeps the organization of content neater, and is more compatible with responsive design techniques. Image Management redesigned the Racine YMCA website to use top-aligned navigation.
Mega Menus & Footers
Complex websites are now organizing their dropdown menus into multiple columns, a technique known as "mega menus." This technique can also be applied to a website's footer. Mega menus are good for organizing a broad range of content, as seen on the websites for Starbucks and Master Appliance.
According to tracking service StatCounter, mobile Internet use has doubled each year since 2009, and is now on roughly equal footing with desktop computing. Web developers have responded by using techniques that dynamically adapt webpages to mobile devices' screen size. Image Management's own website as well as that of Norco Manufacturing Corp. uses responsive design.
Increased Use of Video
As Internet speeds have improved, web developers have made use of the increased bandwidth to deliver more rich video content to their users. Video has inherent visual appeal, and many prefer watching to reading. Videos are "sticky," in web development parlance — they keep the visitor on the page for longer than other kinds of content. Businesses can also find ways to utilize their custom video content beyond their website. Websites that prominently feature custom video to promote their products include HOST Dry Cleaning and Racine Railroad.
Browsers such as Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are in perpetual competition, and they are constantly adding experimental features on top of those approved by the international web standards organization, the W3C. This leads to a number of important considerations for website developers and owners:
- Browser Popularity
- Browser Updates
- The Fall of Adobe Flash
According to StatCounter, Google Chrome commands approximately half of the desktop browser market as of late 2014. Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox each vie for about one-fifth of the market.
As of late 2014, the three major web browsers all use automatic updates to provide users with cutting-edge browser technology. Internet Explorer, however, was by far the last to this innovation, as only IE10 and above update automatically. Prominent web applications such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google Apps have therefore dropped support for older versions of Internet Explorer, and other web developers have followed suit. It is important for web developers to make sure that their websites use coding techniques that are compatible with all modern browsers.
The Fall of Adobe Flash
Search Engine Optimization
Search engines are used by billions of people every day to find the websites and information they are looking for. Therefore, it is important for websites to be optimized for high ranking on search engines. There are a number of factors to consider involving search engine optimization, or SEO:
- Search Engine Market Share
- Understanding Paid vs. Organic Search Results
- The Importance of Being First
Search Engine Market Share
According to analytics firm ComScore, two-thirds of internet searches are performed with Google Search, while Bing and Yahoo together share almost one-third of the search market. This means SEO initiatives should target Google Search first, but Bing and Yahoo are also worth consideration.
Understanding Paid vs. Organic Search Results
A typical Google search, especially one for a common product or service, contains a mix of paid ads surrounding "organic" search results. (Paid ads are currently denoted on Google Search by an "Ad" icon to the left of the website's domain name.) Organic search results are generated algorithmically based on how relevant a website's content is to a user's search. The paid ads, on the other hand, are the result of bidding markets such as Google Adwords. Great organic search results can take years to develop as search engines gradually update their site rankings, whereas paid ads are essentially immediate.
The Importance of Being First
The top organic search result on Google tends to receive over one-third of all traffic generated by a given search. The tenth result (the last result on the first page) typically receives 143% more traffic than the result at the top of the second page. Therefore, it is important for a website to try reaching the first page for search terms related to that website's purpose.
Proven SEO Techniques
A number of techniques have proven increasingly important in search engine optimization:
- Optimized Content
- Blogs/News Feeds
- Google+ for Businesses
- Social Media
- Google Analytics
Focusing the content on key search terms, using content to add links between different pages on a website, and carefully using image "alt text" attributes all contribute to SEO. The Machine Tool Groups uses all of these techniques on their website. Long-form informational content is also an increasingly important part of many websites' SEO strategy.
Blogs and news feeds (which contain corporate news and do not allow comments, as opposed to blogs) leverage Google Search's priority on new information. They can also add genuine value for potential and existing clients by promoting upcoming events and specials. From a site owner's perspective, blogs allow new information to be added in an intuitive, organized way. The Racine County Economic Development Corporation frequently updates their blog to inform clients and improve SEO.
Google+ for Businesses
Google+ has had low success as a social network, but since Google wrapped their earlier Places service into it, it has become a crucial tool for local businesses to drive attention to their website. Google Search often shows Google+ business listings when searching for terms that relate to locally-oriented services, such as eye care. These listings contain links to the business's location, as well as submitted reviews. Businesses should claim their Google+ page, populate it with content and keep a close eye on its reviews to improve SEO.
Adding content on social media that links to the site improves that site's ranking. Depending on a business's purpose, it may be wise to utilize social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Image Management uses its own Facebook account to promote its new websites, speaking events, and more.
Search engines keep a list of which pages are on a site. When creating a new site, the old site's search engine ranking could be lost. Redirecting old URLs to their new equivalents maintains the pages' ranking.
Google Analytics allows you to track statistics about your site's users. It shows which cities visitors are coming from, whether they find your site by organic search result or paid ad, and many other demographics that help businesses plan and gauge the performance of their web marketing strategies.
As referenced earlier, AdWords is Google's paid advertisement service. Ads can appear at the top, side, and bottom of normal search results. AdWords participants set bids on placement for specific keywords. They can target users by device, location, and more. AdWords participants only pay when a user clicks their ad and visits their website.
The Business Value of Website Trends
A modern web presence increases sales and customer contact. Modern web design promotes your products and services more efficiently. AdWords and modern SEO techniques bring more potential customers to your website. Contact us today to find out how we can help you make the most of these website trends.