Everything’s smarter now. Name a medium, add the word ‘smart’, and you have a device that our generation loves. The smarter web, smartphones, smart TV, and smartwatches. The web has evolved, it has a mind now, and it’s detecting your mood even. Audiograph certainly claims to be able to detect your mood and reflect that with appropriate colors on their website. Jazzy graphics, peppy animations – their days appear to have ended. Certainly, the minimalist school of thought did let us in on that secret long back. So, where’s web development headed? As we start preparing for the transition to a new year, we decided to explore what’s trending and what works.
Content Design is In
The web is all about users, and we have known it ever since. Designers have always been designing for the end-user and what does the user consume? Information, of course! And, well, since all websites provided information, the creative ones wanted to differentiate. You can’t get lost in the crowd, and you need to be unique. The differentiator grew to be methods that could capture the user’s attention. So, things were popped up, bells and whistles added and wireframes became important. The content was later fitted into the designed wireframe.
Transition to today and the user has convincingly rejected those differentiators. After all, what they want is just information and then again only the ones that are relevant. A static, non-living web doesn’t know each of their users. So, how does it serve relevant information? Well, talk to your user, and that’s how the conversational web is evolving. Think Alexa, think of Amazon Echo, or Google Home.
Traditional web designers are making the transition – designing for all forms of media. The relevant information needs to be delivered irrespective of the type of the media. The content, the data has become the driver of page design. With that, it is data visualization techniques that are becoming important, starting at the top with salient information and then allowing the user to choose the path to dig deeper. That’s why Virgin America revamped their web design to a consolidated, single-page view of the minimum information that a user would need to start off with.
Show me the information, quick!
Kill time waiting for pages to load? Never happened, the web user has always had a disdain for sites that made them wait. Google too wants to make it faster, loading elements in milliseconds. That’s where user patience is going to go. Companies are rethinking the utility of each piece of script that they need to have, building strategies around speed.
A report by the Aberdeen group shows that a one second delay in page load leads to as much as a sixteen percent decrease in customer satisfaction! That’s a split-second error potentially leading to millions in lost revenue. For example, Amazon reports that a performance improvement of a hundred milliseconds leads to an increased income by one percent. Such is the power of speed. Websites have, therefore, started leveraging technologies like Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to enhance performance.
As people expect information to be delivered fast, web developers have started using browser caching techniques that allow content to be stored on the visitor’s machine temporarily. Google’s open-source AMP project promises to make the web “blazing fast”. Their stated objective is to “enable the creation of websites and ads that are consistently fast, beautiful and high-performing across devices and distribution platforms.”
Making things clean and removing the clutter is where the hustle and bustle come as companies scamper to meet the user needs of faster delivery of content. Videos as backgrounds are being re-assessed to address the question of whether the video serves a purpose or it’s been put in place to look trendy. Are all the images on the website required or could a lesser number of images tell the same story? Instead of imagery, font design is being looked at to enhance aesthetics and enhance performance.
Interactions are the in-thing, conversations in the virtual world. Feedback, explanations, and entertainment, all in one place, at one moment. That’s the user experience that developers are creating. These interactions start small, instead of micro but could lead to conversations that engage. Engaging discussions mean increased chances of conversion and so everyone is lapping it up.
Micro-interactions are now an indisputable facet of the web. Facebook uses them, well you ‘like’ posts and Amazon and TripAdvisor uses these micro-interactions to prompt users to rate a service. It is now a fundamental part of website design, adding functional parts that make a user’s experience better. Designers are looking at user personas and creating visualizations that would be intuitive and responsive to the user. Each event in a user journey is now deconstructed to handle one task, and design interactivity around it. Any interaction triggers further processes and instructions lead the user to information discovery.
Dutch airlines company, KLM’s microsite ifly50 has drawn wide applause for its carefully thought through and well-executed micro-interaction design. A call-to-action is prompting the user through each micro-interaction that they execute on their site. Cleverly crafted and uniquely designed to capture the change of user states and preferences and deliver relevant content that gives them more reasons to travel.
Web design as classicists would consider it for example, where web designers created the framework and then put in the designs, is dead. However, web service is where the creatives are adding value, not by arranging things on a page but delivering content that a user needs. Siri and Android M are perhaps the future interfaces. Web development is moving towards designing web services to speak to each other through APIs, the way Google Now notifies whether it is time for you to depart to be at the meeting at the right time. The switch from web design to experience design is gaining ground. The user needs experiences delivered across different touchpoints, whether they be the smartphone, smart watches or even virtual reality platforms. Increasingly, web developers are scaling up to manage these integrated ecosystems and deliver content across channels.