Building a website to promote your company might feel like a one-time thing, especially if you’re not in the e-commerce business. But in today’s market, no matter what your organization does, the internet is typically the first place people go when they want to learn more about you. That means that their first impression comes from what they find on your website. Don’t you want your first impression to be a good one?
The best first impressions will come from a website that is up-to-date, both in terms of content, and in how its put together. For some organizations, that might simply mean optimizing your website to make sure if works across multiple mobile platforms. For others though, it might mean overhauling a much-loved design that was fabulous when it was cutting edge, but that’s no longer consistent with what you need to give your customers. Is it time for your website to catch up?
The earliest websites were text-based and utilitarian. Preparing content to publish on the Internet was time-consuming, and connecting to the web using a dial-up modem was tedious, so material needed to be simple. In the 1990s, developers began using table-based layouts, which allowed information to be organized into columns, making things easier to read, but most web site weren’t exceptionally attractive.
Through mid-1990s and into the 2000s, images and graphics were developed that made websites “pop”, and animation was used extensively to catch their readers’ attention. But just as technology evolves, so do user preferences.
Today, web pages that are too busy or crowded don’t retain the reader’s attention, and developers are now adopting minimalist designs that make generous use of white space and crisp imagery with simplified text layouts to make it easy for readers to parse information.
For a long time, designers squished everything they could on to a single screen, thinking users wouldn’t scroll down to read more. Part of today’s minimalist design approach is based on new thinking in user-centred design. Good designers don’t expect the user to conform to their way of thinking — they think through the user experience from start to finish, and build the website to intuitively match the user’s thought process.
And just like with mobile apps, today’s responsive designs recognize that readers are viewing sites on a wide variety of different devices and screen sizes.
As design options improved, we also began to see more complex navigation systems, like drop down menus, which made it possible for companies to include many more layers of information on their websites. This made it easier for organizations to share large volumes of material, but it also created new challenges for people trying to find information. Does contact information belong under “About Us”, or does it need a separate page? Does it need a page at all, or should it go at the bottom of the page — or the top? Multi-layered sites are fabulous if you understand the logic behind how they’re organized, but readers don’t all think the same way.
Modern websites now use redundant navigation, recognizing there are many different ways to reach the same destination. They might use menus, buttons, links in the text, etc. that all go to the same place, so users can take whatever path makes the most sense to them.
As well, savvy organizations will use analytics to track the most popular resources or links, based on recent user interactions, and put them up front where people can easily find them.
Other trends, like the increasing use of multi-media such as embedded video are also top of mind, but all in the overall context of providing a web experience that is focused on the user. As companies grow and evolve, their users change, which makes it vitally important for companies to renew their web presence on a regular basis, to make sure that’s is fresh and relevant to the audience you want to serve today.
Is it time to give your website a refresh to match your growing business needs?