Monthly Archives: September 2015

UX Tips for Mastering Your Next Website Redesign

ux-redesign-thumb-300x200Businesses can change a lot in just a couple of years. 24 months ago, mobile represented about 10% of all internet traffic. Today, it’s jumped to 25%, and Google has rolled out ranking changes that prioritize mobile optimized websites on search engine result pages. Buyers have changed, as well. Today’s website visitor expects a different experience than those of the past.

There’s a risk in frequent redesign, however. They become willy-nilly and lack strategic end-goals. Whether you work with an agency or revamp the site in-house, it’s crucial to make your website a revenue-driving channel and not just another pretty, shiny homepage.

Do Your Research

Before investing time and resources into revamping your website, map out what you want to change and ask yourself why these need to be made. Be careful with redesigns that happen because “I just want it to look more modern” or “I just felt like a change.”

A website should not only look better, but work better as well. Before doing anything, open up your analytics and record your starting position (also known as benchmark) for visits, search rank, conversion rate and other key website metrics. Create a goal and a strategy for how each of these metrics should change as a result of the redesign.

Having clear growth goals will give you an objective framework to measure the effectiveness of the redesign and process for future improvements moving forward.

Get Personal

Another change in buyer behavior over the last two years is the growing expectation of a personalized experience. 74% of online consumers get frustrated with websites when content that has nothing to do with their interest appears.

Groomed by websites such as Netflix, Amazon, and other adaptive websites, visitors seek out content that is specific and relevant to them. Even YouTube can recommend videos that it thinks you may enjoy. A 2013 Monetate/Econsultancy Study found that in-house marketers who personalize Web experiences see on the average, a 19% rise in sales.

Adding a personalization engine and strategy to your next redesign can help address weak conversion rates. Say you run a clothing business and a visitor recently purchased a shirt on your website.

If they visit your website again and see a promotion for the same shirt design, there’s a chance they’ll just ignore it. To attract and keep their attention, you could display related products, like pants or a bag that matches the shirt, to that specific visitor.

The companies that cut through marketing clutter today aren’t the ones with the flashiest ads, but the ones creating a unique and personalized experience.

Be Responsive

As noted above, buyers are increasingly using smartphones and tablets to find information online, and companies that don’t optimize their website from screen to screen are losing out.

According to a study conducted by Google, 79% of users who don’t like what they find on a mobile site will go and look for the information they need on another site. This shouldn’t be a surprise; if you walked into a store that was messy, unorganized, and had unhelpful salespeople, you’d probably leave immediately to shop somewhere else that was easier to navigate.

Use responsive design to create a site that adapts to fit a variety of screen sizes and be sure to incorporate behavior patterns of mobile users into your redesign strategy.

As part of your redesign, look to lighten the load on your site and ensure it appears properly on a variety of devices and browsers. In addition to load time, look at the structure of your website. Is it easy to navigate? Is there a clear route from research to purchase?

Mobile visitors in particular are action-oriented and need a clear route between point A and B. Use this redesign as a chance to make your site easier for visitors to move around throughout the sales cycle, instead of making them jump through hoops to become a customer.

Visual design choices are often the first to cross your mind (or your boss’s mind) when it comes to website redesigns, and for good reason: the visual experience of a website is significant.

In addition to that, however, make sure that your next website redesign incorporates functional improvements that reflect the way today’s viewers use your website. The improvements may not be as flashy or noticeable as new images or banding, but they can signify the difference between a good-looking website, versus a high-impact one.

Whether it’s the result of new SEO requirements or shifting brand values, you may have to redesign your site sooner rather than later. But how do you approach this monumental change? Well, it takes a mixture of caution and creativity.

Unleash Your Creativity

Once you’ve verified that you’re pursuing a website redesign for the right reasons, feel free to unleash your creativity and try something new. However, it’s also important that you take a calculated approach to your creativity.

Don’t be afraid to consult with other people and accept constructive criticism. By combining creativity and caution, you can increase your chances of redesigning an effective, high-converting website that attracts and converts leads.

Tips and Tricks for an Effective, High-Returning Redesign

If after reading through these points you believe a redesign is the right solution for your website, you’ll want to proceed with a careful strategy. Here are some specific tips to help you maximize your efforts.

  • Gather Lots of Feedback: Next, you need to work on gathering feedback. This includes insights from those within and outside your company. Those within will the company will give you a good idea of what is and isn’t working below the surface, while customers and focus groups can provide feedback regarding visual appearance and functionality.
  • Develop a Budget From the Start: You don’t want to get too far along in the process without developing a budget. This allows you to realistically see which issues you’ll be able to tackle, as well as which ones aren’t feasible.

Focus on UX and Functionality

Approximately 40% of all visitors will abandon your website if a page takes more than 3 seconds to load. That’s why it’s crucial to put user experience (UX) and functionality as your top priority.

If it doesn’t work to enhance the average user’s interaction with your company, then it shouldn’t exist. Use Google’s PageSpeed tool so you can analyze the site speed and optimize for best results. It’s not to late to prevent people from leaving too soon.

Exploring the Long Scrolling Web Design Trend

web-trends-long-scrolling-thumb-300x200The smaller the screen, the longer the scroll.

That truism explains the rise of the long scrolling: with mobile browsing overtaking desktop browsing in 2014, the popularity of small screens has urged designers to rethink their outdated “above the fold” mentality.

Long-scrolling creates plenty of new opportunities for storytelling, navigation, creative visuals, and a more immersive overall experience. As a result, we find several common techniques and strategies start to emerge:

  • Parallax Graphics — Borrowed from the video game industry, this strategy of moving the backgrounds at different speeds creates a 3D effect and stimulating visuals that are more enjoyable to interact with.
  • Screens as Pages — An important way to organize information on a single page, differentiating concepts into screen-sized sections, usually by changing the background, makes sites more cohesive.
  • Sticky Navigation — One of the biggest drawbacks of long scrolling is disorienting the user, so having a navigation system that always stays in the same place on the screen gives users control and security to prevent getting lost.
  • Animated Interactivity — Scroll-triggered animations add a fun level of interactivity that engages the user to a point where they enjoy scrolling regardless of content.
  • Atypical Direction — Due to the recent trendiness of long scrolling, sites can set themselves apart by scrolling left, right, or upwards.
  • Indicators — Some users will not think to scroll on their own, so quick instructions like “scroll down” or another indicator avoids confusions — just be sure to distinguish these from other links or calls-to-action.

As described in Web Design Trends 2015 & 2016, these are the techniques that made the sites below among the best examples of long-scrolling sites.

Twitter

One of the pioneers responsible for breaking the page-by-page mold, Twitter remains among the best and most-recognized long-scrolling sites today. This format allows the tweets to be arranged chronologically while still seeming new and fresh.

For social media sites and others with user-generated content, long scrolling is not just a trendy choice but a practical one. The neverending loading of new content from infinite scrolling allows otherwise chaotic content to be organized.

Heart Kids NW

The New Zealand charity Heart Kids pulls out all the stops. The long-scrolling site combines animations (some scroll-activated), stunning color usage, poignant imagery, and cursor interactivity to promote its life-saving message.

Notice the unobtrusive “Scroll” icon and instruction on the landing screen, and the sticky call-to-action that always remains at the top.

The Boat

One of the most creative uses of long scrolling is SBS’s The Boat, something like an interactive novel. The continual animations and clever use of motion and angles when new content appears draws the user/reader into an immersive experience that traditional, stagnant scrolling sites can’t match.

MCA Leicester: The Seven Types of Motorcycle Rider

This offshoot site for MCA Leicester demonstrates a smooth method to indicate scrolling without actually scrolling. The grayed out helmets on the left side, stacked vertically, indicate (along with the title) that the user has only to scroll down to see more content.

An additional tactic is the clever animation that presents each new screen, making the site somewhat of a long-scrolling/page-by-page navigation hybrid.

Thirteen Reasons Why Your Brain Craves Infographics

The natural style of long scrolling, where different sections and concepts are intrinsically united in a continual stream, makes them great for infographics.

As Thirteen Reasons Why Your Brain Craves Infographics shows, the single page format allows designers to fluidly present heavy doses of information in smaller, digestible bits.

Moreover, scroll-activated animations, such as the eye that moves with the scroll as well as background animations, negate the sometimes boring aspects of learning information.

 

Is Web Design a Dying Trade or Can it Still be a Viable Career Option

web-design-dying-05Yes, web design is dying. It died a few years ago, it is dying now, and it will die again in the future. What does this mean? To put it simply, this means that web design is an ever-evolving career field that is impacted by many different factors.

A web designer relying on skills and education that they developed five years ago would find their career dead in the water. Likewise, a web designer who believes that the skills they have today will hold up five years from now is fooling themselves.

Web design will remain a viable career option for those that are willing to continually pursue new educational opportunities, work to form solid business relationships, respond to consumer needs, adapt to new technology, understand marketing and branding, and understand that web design is as much about art as it is technology.
Educational Trends Impacting Web Design Careers

The educational trend that is having the deepest impact on the web design industry is continuing shift from the traditionally classroom-based educational model to an open source model of education that is consumer driven.

This new education model offers online, self-paced classes for students who want to learn how to design websites. There are no academic advisers dictating the classes students must take or in which order they must take them. Students simply pick and choose the classes that they believe will be the most beneficial to them.

Khan Academy, Tuts+, Treehouse and iTunes University are just some websites that are adding new layers of innovation to education, especially technical education. Students who take classes provided by these entities won’t receive degrees. To be honest, that usually doesn’t matter to them, and it matters even less to their clients who are much more interested in skills than diplomas.

Bottom Line: Web design career viability depends on the designer’s willingness to increase their skill set via new educational opportunities. As the availability of these educational opportunities has exploded, stagnancy is inexcusable.

The Importance of Designer/Client Relationships

As industries go, the web design market is significantly saturated. There are also increasingly sophisticated tools and templates available to those that wish to ‘roll their own’ websites.

This means that web designers who wish to maintain and grow their design businesses must focus energy on fostering positive relationships with their clients and being responsive to their needs. After all, it is the customer today who has many more options, not the designer.

Bottom Line: Technical prowess is no longer a substitute for communications skills and customer relationship management.

Web Design and New Technology

Web designers that are profitable today are likely profitable because they responded appropriately to the mobile technology boom that began a few years ago. Those who wish to be profitable in a few years will likely adjust their design methods to adapt to new innovations, such as wearable technology.

Another way web designers will use new technology in the future is by adapting the use of tools such as Macaw to design websites over coding websites from scratch. This will be both in response to new technology and response to the increasing demands of customers that website delivery times be much faster than in the past.

Bottom Line: Customer preference will determine the technical focus of the web designer. They must make sure they are paying attention.

Web Design: Addressing Branding and Marketing for the Future

While eCommerce will always be extremely important, the role of the web designer today and in the future is largely that as one who delivers or who facilitates the delivery of content and branding messages to website visitors. This is why in many large corporations, the web design team is part of the marketing department rather than the IT department.

This is because the ability to design web pages that forward the company’s brand is so important that management often decides that web design and marketing should be partnered together as one unit.

For the web design freelancer, future relevance means focusing on understanding marketing goals and learning to design with branding as a primary goal.

Bottom Line: The wall between technology and marketing when it comes to web design has been blown to smithereens. Smart web designers will embrace this by educating themselves about marketing, branding, and content.

The Future of Web Design as an Art Form

Many business owners now use the term ‘user experience‘ when they speak of what happens when customers visit their website. This is because internet users have higher expectations today when they visit websites and those expectations will continue to grow in the future.

These expectations begin with content, but they also include high expectations when it comes to the look and feel of the website. Some of this is related to website navigation, but a good portion of user experience depends on the art design of the website.

Elements such as backgrounds, color schemes, fonts, videos, infographics, and layouts are going to continue to grow in importance when it comes to web design.

Bottom Line: Web designers will need to incorporate art into their development process, or they will need to work closely with people who are able to do so.

Website design basics

If you are ready to get your business online, you are more than likely searching for information regarding web design. You want to make sure that you have a design that will draw attention and keep customers on your website. However, many people do not have the knowledge to create awesome looking web design, so they turn to web design companies. Before you just get on your computer and pick the first web design firm, you find you should gather some information.

First, you should know what you desire in a web designer. Do you want an entire website designed or only a logo? You may want to go as far as to hire a web design firm that will update your site on a regular basis or create a design that you can easily update.

Second, you should have a planned budget before you talk with a web design company. Here is where comparison-shopping comes into play. You can find a web designer that will charge far less than the top designers but you may not like the results. Always look at their portfolio, ask to talk with other clients they have worked with, and check out some of their designs. You can find a web designer in your budget that will be able to create what you need at a price you can afford. It just takes time and effort on your part to keep up the search.

Thirdly, do you have a specific timeline in mind? Some companies are booked up months in advance and if you are in hurry, you will have to keep looking. Be sure to ask for an estimated timeline and ensure that their timeline fits in with your own. Remember, according to the style, graphics, and other aspects it may take longer than you would believe to create an awesome website. You cannot expect to have an original quality design created in a day or two.

Fourth, if you tell your web designer he has all the time he needs do not believe for one minute he will not take the time. You should put some time of timeline for each portion of your website, such as a date for seeing a rough draft of your logo, etc…

Fifth, not every web design company are experts when it comes to all phases of design. One may be better with flash, while another might have experience in search engine optimization.