In this age of diminished attention spans, most Internet users are loathe to linger on any website for too long. The good news is that many are still willing to take the time to view relevant content displayed in a visually compelling way.
In an environment where everyone is competing for a sliver of attention, today’s websites need to be highly organized and uncluttered, with messages delivered more clearly and in a way that resonates with visitors. There are a number of ways to accomplish these goals. Here are six often overlooked design considerations that should be incorporated or added into your website.
Minimalist design & navigation
Minimalist design entails the generous use of open space between design elements, which is achieved with white or limited color palettes. It gives web pages a refreshing open feel. It also can increase legibility, highlight important design elements, separate sections, and promote an orderly and eye-pleasing appearance.
Navigation has been getting simpler to accommodate ever smaller devices. Extremely minimalist navigation actually enhances the usability of the website. Instead of wasting time figuring out how to get around – and possibly giving up – visitors tend to spend more time on the website.
In minimalist design, imagery is becoming more important. The use of large photos and videos that use a minimum of text goes a long way toward capturing the attention of visitors and leading them through the website.
Motion and interactivity
Since our eyes instinctively zero in on any moving element of a website, the use of animated content is an effective way to grab and hold visitors’ attention. This is routinely done with full width videos and rotating image headers, but animation can also be applied to most any other design element.
For example, as visitors scroll down the page, various content blocks can slide into view from the left or right. A carousel can be used to display summaries of the most recent blog posts. Animations can also be used to provide feedback when visitors hover over or click on various elements.
A couple of caveats… One, too much motion can divert attention from your message, so apply it with good judgment. Two, it is not advisable to flash, flicker or strobe content anywhere on a website because this can trigger the condition known as photosensitive seizure disorder among those susceptible to it. If such a person can prove harm, the website owner risks being sued.
Visuals are no longer just placeholders to mindlessly add eye candy to a website. Instead, web design purposfully uses imagery to support your brand and message. This starts by choosing images that most closely reflect the points you want to convey to visitors, and then fine tuning them in ways that make your website stand out as unique.
For example, the full width image banner displayed on the home page can be overlaid with a content block that might include such elements as a logo, brief message, form, menu, and link. These elements may even be selectively animated to only appear when a visitor hovers over the banner area or starts to scroll down the page.
Oversized type and elements
To facilitate communication, websites are using large, prominent elements. This design trend applies to just about anything on a webpage, from big, bold typography, to full screen images and videos, and even oversized website menu icons. The intent is to help visitors quickly understand what the website is all about.
As part of this trend, more websites are using a full screen image or video on the top half of the page, paired with large typography. This eye-catching layout delivers a message plainly and efficiently, making sure that the most important information not only comes across, but truly resonates with website visitors.
Full screen forms
The trend of using large elements surrounded by extensive amounts of whitespace is also being applied to the usually very boring online form. While still playing an important role in many web interactions, filling out forms is often a tiresome chore, even with the aid of a browser’s auto fill feature for the most common fields. Expanding the form so that it takes up more room on the page can greatly improve the user experience by making it more inviting to interact with.
Another feature that can increase the willingness of users to complete and submit a form is building in interactions that respond to users’ actions in real time. This can help guide users through form-fill process. For example, subtle element changes can indicate that a certain field has been filled in correctly or incorrectly, and feedback messages can signify a successful or unsuccessful form submission. Offering a “Congratulations” pop-up can even provide the visitor with a sense of accomplishment.
Accessibility for those with disabilities
Accessibility is becoming a priority in the world of web design because it is a legal requirement. Specifically, today’s websites must be designed to be accessible and functional to visitors who have hearing or vision impairments. Website owners who fail to address this issue run the risk of being sued for noncompliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Since the vast majority of websites are not ADA compliant, such lawsuits are on the rise.
With more businesses becoming aware of their social obligations, there has been a corresponding effort to include the disabled in their marketing efforts, starting with responsible web design. This is increasingly seen as not only a good return on investment, but something that can be advertised to elicit feel-good sentiments among all potential customers.
Staying current in web design trends will enable you to better communicate your expectations to developers, in turn minimizing the possibility of false starts, project delays, and change-order costs. With everyone jockeying to attract an audience with a dwindling attention span, staying current with the latest web trends will help you to stay ahead of the technology curve, enabling you to delight your visitors while causing your competitors rethink their own websites.
Nathan Muller is the author of 29 technical books and over 3,000 articles that have appeared in 75 publications worldwide. He also writes articles, blogs and social media content for tech companies and their executives.