From innovative to overused: 5 design trends to avoid in 2015

web design trendsTrends in website design change from year to year. Yet in an age of unrivalled digital creativity there are many elements and styles applied by creative design services which reappear in hundreds of places; what was once an innovative or new take on web design can become omnipresent and stale very quickly. In this article we take a look at 5 of the main design elements which were used – and overused – in 2014.

1. Dull typefaces

In the good old days when websites were in their infancy, everyone used the same two or three typefaces, and there’s been an unfortunate return to those days – whether it’s seen as good practice to throw some Arial or Courier fonts at your homepage, it is dull to view, dull to read and definitely lacks both creativity and imagination. Sure it may look functional, but often a website is used to generate interest or lead to a purchase – and few things are less appealing than dull blocks of text that look like they’ve been reproduced from a technical manual!

2. Use of stock photos

Few things are as big a turn off as seeing the same imagery used across hundreds of websites. In an age where digital photography is ubiquitous and cameras and phones can deliver great images in seconds, why pay to use the same stock photos as everyone else?

3. Making your site compatible on all systems

Internet usage on mobile platforms has now grown to the point where it has started to outstrip conventional desktop or laptop browsing – from smartphones to iPads and other tablets, users are accessing content in increasing ways. Any good website design agency will push its abilities at making sites compatible on all devices, yet sometimes websites that have been optimised to work on all platforms can lose that extra sparkle. There are lots of ways to scale and deliver content; don’t dumb down your site simply to tick the compatibility box.

4. Full screen photos

Full screen images on specialist photography sites can look incredible, selling a product or an ethos most effectively. Using a full screen photo on your law school page or a site advertising accountancy services – perhaps not. This is one growing trend that really ought to be restricted to where it works best.

5. Load screens

Broadband and network access has generally become faster year on year; with ever more savvy designers and programmers who know how to write efficient code, why on earth would a website take so long to load that you’d need to show the visitor a loading screen? Sort out your code, optimise your imagery, and get back to basics!

With a little care and attention, it’s easy to produce a dynamic, exciting website which not only adheres to correct standards and good design principles but doesn’t simply become another formulaic web presence. One or two of the elements discussed here are appropriate for certain types of website, but think carefully before incorporating them on a site which could be better served with other designs or features.

How good is your mobile site? Quick health check

mobile website, responsive design

Statistically speaking, there’s every chance you could be browsing this article on a mobile device, like almost 60% of today’s Internet users. And with on-screen real estate at a premium on mobile devices, there’s literally no room for site-design errors where tablet and smartphone access is concerned. So here are a few of the defining attributes of a mobile site to discuss with your brand design agency:

Micro Design

Simply downsizing your desktop website is not the answer, you need to modify your approach to work in the smaller environment. There’s often a need to streamline your content, you might also need to redesign navigation systems, consider the volume of copy and the size of your text. Remember too that users experience variable loading speeds and many people won’t even bother with a site that places heavy demands on mobile resources.

Touch Navigation

Unlike desktop machines, most handheld devices use touch-screen navigation, so your site must be optimised for this feature. Menus, buttons and other touch targets must be well-spaced to ensure your visitors can access the features they want, and thus give you the conversion rates you anticipate.

Searchable Solutions

Some sites cram in too much content, which can make the information you need tricky to find. If your website is an information resource that’s heavy on content, it’s far better to have a prominent search function that is highly visible and easy to access. And if it’s a ‘sticky’ menu that remains on top during scrolling, that’s even better. Having a search function can not only frees up valuable space on in your navigation, it can also save your visitors valuable time and effort.

Mobile-optimised Functionality

You will know the most common features your mobile customers are looking for. Therefore your design should aim to make these high-profile items on your site which are both unmissable and extremely easy to execute.

Review and Refine

Accommodating your mobile customers must remain a business priority, which in turn means your mobile site should be fine-tuned to behave predictably in order to serve this purpose. So, test frequently to assess cross-platform reliability, as well as speed and convenience.

The handheld digital world is moving rapidly so a digital agency represents the quickest and most efficient way to translate your real-world ideas to the small-screen digital domain.

Worried about your site getting hacked? Google Webmaster Tools can help

website hack, hackingAfter spending time working on your ideal site with your design agency, the last thing you want is for your site to be taken down as a result of hacking. Worse still, sensitive information or customer data could be leaked, which can be a major blow to any business. The other issue with hacking is the fact that it will result in major traffic loss in the longer term, as it will damage your search engine rankings. Finally, any good brand design agency will tell you that it could also seriously damage your brand as a whole if the issue is not resolved urgently. So what steps can you take to limit security risks?

Verify your site on Google Webmaster Tools

Verifying your site will give you access to the many tools and warning systems available on Webmaster Tools for free. Alert messages will be issued in the event of a threat or malware.

Google alerts

Some search queries are associated with hacking and alerts will ensure that you’ll get a warning if your site is linked to any of those.

Keep software up to date

This is perhaps one of the most important security measures to take. Out of date software can often quickly be circumvented by hackers, so making sure all your software is up to date will help increase your website’s security.

Change passwords often

Changing your passwords regularly, as well as using different passwords for different logins, is a good measure to take. This means that even if one of your passwords gets stolen, you won’t be handing access to everything overnight.

Avoid pirated software

While this is a given, the temptation is often there for free software that might otherwise be expensive. However, pirate software can often contain hidden viruses, which will ultimately make the cost much higher than simply buying the software from a retailer.

Set email forwarding

Google Webmaster Tools enables email forwarding, which allows you to receive all messages directly in your inbox. This is a simple step to take to ensure that you are directly informed of any issues with your site.

Overall, there are many ways to counter and limit the damage hacking can do. Of course, there is never a guarantee a site will be 100% safe, but by using the Google Webmaster toolkit, you can certainly limit threats and be more in control of your website.

Website content: how to create the right landing pages for your customers

website contentGrabbing customers’ attention is the crucial first step to growing your website’s visitors and generating potential sales and business. However, it can often be difficult to know which approach to take when designing landing pages. A number of things need to be considered – what first impression do you want to give, how much information is needed on a landing page, and so on. A website design agency will often approach a landing page by focusing on one of 4 types of content: Entertain, inspire, educate and convince.

Long Vs short content

Focusing on one of the afore mentioned content choices should be the first step, while taking time to make sure that your chosen content fits well with your overall brand. Next, it is important to choose whether the landing page will contain long or short content. Long content may often seem like the obvious choice, as it will contain far more information and could help draw a user further into the site. That said, recent studies found that the average attention span of a user is 8 seconds when browsing a new web page, so sharp, catchy short formats may often be preferable.

Knowing your customers

Your website design and content will work best if it is tailored to appeal to a specific profile of visitors. Identifying your customer base and understanding why they have come to your site is therefore fundamental, and can have wide reaching impacts on almost all creative design services you will need and select. If enterprise is your main customer base, then educational or inspiring content focus is often a good choice. Of course, there are many ways to engage all manner of consumers, but knowing as much as you can about the needs and problems your stakeholders have will make them stay on your site longer.

Testing

Even if your design choices appear airtight on paper, testing will provide the best feedback. Testing your site, and experimenting, will greatly help to zero in on the kind of consumers that you want to attract (and keep). Visitors and specific metrics such as bounce rate for instance will quickly let you know if a design choice is successful or not, and responding quickly to feedback is crucial.

What Impact Does Responsive Design Have On Users?

There’s a very good chance that you’re already familiar with responsive design. If not, the brief description is web design that adapts to any screen, providing optimum viewing and user experience. What this means for users is that, whether they’re seeing a site on their phone or on a desktop PC, the experience is never compromised. But with the increase in popularity of responsive design within the design services industry, how does it affect users? Could responsive design have a positive impact on consumer behaviours? In this article, we aim to find out.

responsive design

The stats don’t lie

If you’ve talked with a web design company, you’ve probably heard of the benefits of responsive design – but why exactly is it better? Well, there are a number of stats that categorically show that consumers and web users prefer responsive experiences. To begin with, here are some compelling facts and figures:

  • If a site doesn’t offer a mobile-optimised experience, 61% of users said they would use a competitor.
  • 62% of companies stated that having a site optimised for mobile led directly to increased sales.
  • 88% of mobile internet users have had a negative experience in the past with un-optimised sites.

Why responsive works

As you can see, there are a number of reasons why responsive web design just makes sense – and you don’t need a specialist web agency to understand that. What you may need them for, however, is to come up with a responsive design solution that fits with your business objectives and your audience. Responsive is not always a winning solution – you still need to be sure that your site provides a good user experience. Extensive testing on a range of devices is key. It will help understand how users interact with the site on various devices, depending on the design options available. In this way, you can be certain that responsive design is working hard for you by offering a universal experience to all of your website’s visitors.

So… has your site gone responsive yet?