One of the great things about digital marketing as a whole is how fast and dynamic the entire industry is. Admittedly, it can be frustrating at times, but the constant challenge of keeping up with what is happening is what keeps many people connected to the industry for their entire lives. Many people don’t associate web design & development with digital marketing, but the reality is that this is where everything begins.
In the absence of high quality web design & development, there is no platform for strong SEO, social media, content marketing, or anything else.
With this in mind, we’ve looked at the main changes and trends that we have seen across web design & development over the last 12 months.
People are increasingly using mobile devices both at work and in their personal lives. This has seen a surge in the number of businesses, both B2B and B2C, who are looking to make sure their websites are set up for use on mobile devices.
In the past, that used to mean developing a separate mobile site where mobile users would be redirected. While this still happens today, responsive web design is becoming much better understood and more widely used, so businesses can have one website and carry out optimisation activities across only this. The important thing with responsive web design is to ensure your site has impact on a desktop or laptop screen as well as on a mobile; it shouldn’t look like it is one or the other that just happens to be viewed on a particular device.
The 1990s and 2000s were like a race to see who could get the most features onto a web page. If it wasn’t a variety of colours and fonts it was different plug-ins, animations, widgets, and various other things that would simply take over the page.
Today, people don’t want that; they just want to see a simple layout that allows them to quickly find what they are looking for on your site. Ironically, many businesses are still resisting this keeping it simple trend, because they don’t believe these type of sites stand out and scream “big business” to the internet user. However, such businesses have failed to understand that users aren’t looking at what is on a website in that way anymore; they simply want great information and a call to action, both presented with no other noise in the background.
The use of images has grown massively in design & development throughout 2013, although it is one of the trends that is perhaps more surprising. This is because part of the “keep it simple” approach we’ve championed above is aimed at keeping loading times to a minimum. Today’s digital cameras are taking higher quality pictures than ever before – some smartphones are even better for this – which means visuals on websites are more striking. Faster broadband connections around the world mean that peoples’ devices can fetch high resolution images and videos quicker, which means the final piece of the puzzle is a high quality web hosting service.
Put all of this together while still doing things like minimising file sizes, and you can make the most of striking visuals without disrupting the user experience. This will be an important factor moving in 2014, too, as visual content comes to the fore within content marketing.
In previous years, using a custom web font just meant using something that wasn’t included in your standard Microsoft Word pack. Some websites even thought they were looking customised purely because they didn’t use Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, or Verdana. It was always easy to find the not so good sites, too, because they’d be usually using Comic Sans MS. There was also the option of downloading fonts related to popular brands, such as Coca Cola, or even the title font from the sitcom Friends, but what business would want to bring people onto their website and then immediately make them think of something else?
Designers and developers are better than ever before at creating custom web fonts, and if you have a logo or colour scheme to work around it, your brand identity online can be easily defined.
A website not working well in a particular browser or some on-page elements not working correctly was once a forgivable problem, but not anymore. While no browser is perfect, and probably never will be, they are all as a collective getting better, although people will naturally continue to use their preferred platform. While better browsers mean that developers need to have strong attention to detail and testing, it also means that complicated processes can happen on the site without having too much of a detrimental influence on user experience.
Many of these complicated processes can be put in place by improved code standards such as HTML5, which then works to make a website feel individual and unique and move away from an “all the same” feeling that can happen when everyone is following similar trends.
All of the points explored here aim at user experience and enhancing the quality of your website, something that is important to consumers as well as in the eyes of Google and the other search engines. These changes will all continue to be leading trends into 2014, and it is important you have them in place on your site, or at least have a plan to implement them at the earliest opportunity so you can make the most of your overall digital marketing presence.