From the desk of Danielle Lebo, Graphic Design Services Manager
We live in a digital age where people are constantly immersed in the digital media that exists all around them, especially in the palm of their hands. Your online presence (or lack thereof) says more about you than you probably think. Having a website makes you look up-to-date, legitimate, and credible. Chances are, you are going to pop up in a Google search whether intentionally or incidentally in response to a given search term. How you present yourself initially to a viewer—through your online web presence—will make or break their perception of you. Not just any old website will do. People expect fast, modern-looking sites, and they are easily turned off by a site that doesn't appeal to their high standards. If they feel that your website is dated, not relatable, difficult to navigate, or just flat-out boring, then chances are they will move on to the next result until they find one that seems more promising. After all, if you haven’t updated your website since 2003 (or even longer!), how can they really be sure you will even answer your email or return a phone call?
So, in this two-part series, we're going to explore a few of the top 2016 design trends to consider when evaluating your current website or planning to launch a freshly-developed one.
1. Responsive Design
The fact of the matter is that most people now access the internet first and foremost (or even solely) from a mobile device. The days of static web design—that is, a design that is built to fit only one type of screen size—are over. Now, it is not only standard, but crucial practice to utilize a responsive layout that will adapt appropriately to fit, whether it be different monitor sizes or devices.
Investing in a mobile responsive website will prove to be extremely beneficial, as it allows users to easily view the contents of your site in a layout that was designed to fit effectively onto their phone or tablet. Nothing is going to turn off your page's visitors like trying to view a desktop site from a mobile device. Nobody likes the inconvenience of having to try to zoom or click buttons too small for the tip of a finger to press. The more difficult you make this for the visitors to your page, the less time they will be willing to spend there. From a potentially dedicated new follower to somebody else’s client or congregant, your site's inability to respond to mobile devices could send people straight back to Google to look for someone who understands today’s technology standards.
2. Authentic, High-Quality Photography and Video
As the average user experiences increasingly fast internet speeds, it is more and more possible to support large, high-quality photo and video without significantly impacting page load time, which had been an issue in years past. Now that you don't have to wrestle between speed and content, first-rate, eye-catching, creative photography and videography is a great tool to draw people into your site and make them want to spend those crucial extra moments finding out what you are all about.
To maximize the potential of images and video, make them visible in the header area of your website and as background elements. This not only makes you look professional and shows that you pay close attention to the detail and importance of originality, it also calls upon the strongest human sense to capture the attention of users and engage them in your website’s content. If you really want to “wow" people, great photography and videography is definitely a crucial element to pay attention to.
Make sure, though, that the images and video interact well with the overall message and purpose of your site. If these glossy elements clash with what you mean to represent, you may turn people away at the door. An image of a wide expanse of nature may be beautiful, but it may play against you if your church or business is city-based. Try to keep in mind at all times what you think your visitor wants to see in those attention-grabbing pieces of media. Those pieces need to add up to an accurate image of what you represent.
3. Flat, Minimal Design
The appeal of flat, minimal design was probably inspired by branding introduced by Apple, Inc. Think of the clean look Apple presents the world: lots of open space on the page with a few sharp, clear images. This has become the preferred look across the web now, and users will reward you when they see it.
In an added benefit to the "cool" factor, a flat, minimal web design keeps your website from looking cluttered and focuses on quality content and information (along with those eye-catching images and videos mentioned above) that users find pertinent without the unnecessary, distracting bells and whistles.
While it can be tempting to throw all of the clever tricks you and your web designer know onto the page, keeping things simple and neat keeps users from having to constantly dig for what they are interested in on your website. As another nice bonus, it translates better into mobile-friendly layouts.
A word of caution, though. Minimal design reinforces the need for quality content with carefully chosen colors, use of white space, and intriguing photography to effectively engage and inform users. With fewer distractions, the quality of your content shows through—like everything else—much more clearly.
The flat, minimal design is key to any site that wants to look like it was made in 2016 and not 1996. But it's not as simple as copying Apple's use of space. There are a number of smaller elements required to really make the site's design come together. To get a clearer picture of just what those elements are, be sure to read part two of this series.