Being a website owner can be hard work. Moderating comments, creating content, and handling the design and performance of your site can take up a great deal of your time. But the work is worth the payout, and focusing on the elements of your site that matter can actually make your life easier in the New Year. With a little design overhaul, your site can be more responsive, more usable, and more visually appealing, driving viewers and customers to your doorstep, and validating all that extra investment.
If you haven’t yet heard the term “responsive web design”, it’s only a matter of time. The term refers to a range of HTML and CSS mechanisms that allow a web page to change configuration based on the device it’s being viewed on. For businesses in particular, this new development in web design is more than a trend, it’s a necessity.
Customers are going mobile. Between laptops, tablets, and cell phones, the range of devices used to view the Internet is growing by the day. Because of this, customers expect the Internet to adapt to their changing needs. If your website can’t be viewed on a mobile device, then your business misses out on valuable traffic and your brand appears behind-the-times in the eyes of customers.
For this reason, building a responsive website should be your top priority in 2014. Using liquid layouts and CSS grid systems, coupled with media queries, your code can facilitate the change with surprising ease. The key is to remember that each device has specific capabilities, and your site should reflect that. For example, enable large fonts for your mobile site so that smaller screens don’t result in a more difficult viewing experience. Adapt your business’s online storefront to the needs of your customers and your customers will thank you with sales.
Make Usability a Priority
The concept of responsiveness is only part of a growing trend in web design in the New Year. While previous iterations of the Internet focused on loading times, graphic flare, and SEO, growing availability of high-speed Internet, changing design trends, and an enhanced Google algorithm have rendered these concerns largely moot.
What users want in this new era, subconsciously or otherwise, is usability. The modern visitor is looking for an accessible site that’s easy to understand, allowing them to reach the information they seek without difficulty. While this does call for some additional accommodation on your part, the benefit of fulfilling this need is happier customers and better perception.
Explaining the concept of usability here would likely consume a dozen or more pages and a great deal of your time. However, there are some simple considerations to make when re-designing your website:
• Make the navigation, important information, and any “sign-up” or “subscribe” buttons as obvious and visible as possible.
• Use larger font sizes and expressive typography to convey a message without the slow loading times of images.
• Don’t be afraid of white space. It reduces visual clutter and makes a site more pleasing to the eye.
• Make it easy to contact your team and add sharing buttons to enable social traffic.
These are just a few of the ways that you can design your site around the viewer’s natural behavior. Above all else, look at your site and ask yourself, “If I were brand new, could I find what I was looking for in less than 5 seconds?”
A big component of usability is speed. Effective websites that fulfill customer wishes do not load slowly. After all, the Internet reader is impatient, and with high-speed Internet and many websites loading at light speed, it’s not without cause. Keeping up with your competitors and the web at large will improve your site and your conversion rate.
Currently, two primary schools of optimization are changing the way the web works, even without our realizing it. The first is basic website optimization in a growing age of visuals. With more and more sites using large-scale visuals, and a greater volume of visuals in general, page load times are the first casualty. Some basic rules to follow:
• Always use images on your site, uploaded at the resolution that they will be used.
• Multi-color photographs and detailed illustrations should be uploaded in JPEG format.
• Plain-color graphics and images with large blocks of identical coloring (the sky does not count) should be uploaded in GIF format.
• Use CSS rules to set the height and width of your images so that your content doesn’t load strangely before the image appears.
The second school helps page load times through typography. This occurs in two ways. The first: using large-format display fonts creates a visually appealing and eye-catching page without the hassle of loading an image. The second: icon fonts, fonts specially designed to display common, plain-color graphics, can be used in place of many graphics to help reduce load times. By implementing these two solutions, your site will look more distinctive, and appear quicker, satisfying the eyes and attention spans of eager readers.
Creating a website is not what it once was. From the early days of XHTML to the new era of expressive web design, users and businesses alike are learning the ropes and improving their appeal in the process. In 2014, make your website a priority with a visual and usability overhaul, and enjoy the extra revenue that such a simple change can bring.