Web Design trends – are they fit for purpose?

November 21, 2012 3:14 pm

Much like the fashion industry, web design is predominately led by trends and statements. Initially put together by high-end “boutique” agencies for their super brands, these trends soon find their way into smaller scale projects, where they transform the way we look at sites. Today I’ll be exploring how these elements are being wrongly used on the web, and how to avoid using them, for the sake of conforming to design patterns. Below are a handful of some trends which took the design world by storm, yet, as you will see, may not be the ideal choice for your project.

1) Lightboxes. These clever little galleries have, for several years now, been used continuously to give your photographs a sense of interactivity. The idea is, you click on an image, a nifty box appears with your image enlarged on the page, the website is darkened in the background and full focus is given to the image. Lightboxes also expanded to include code and advertisements for sites, popping up when a user accessed a site. Once a fresh discovery in web design, the overuse of Lightboxes has now become quite boring for users, and is an expected find on a high number of sites visited today. Not only can this bore your user, it can also become quite tedious for them when popups consistently appear throughout the journey of their browsing.

ALTERNATIVE : Try including a traditional slider with a difference. There are a number of CSS or Jquery based sliders out there today, which offer a new, innovative approach to displaying images. Keeping traffic on your website is vital, so maintaining the users focus on the site itself is much more important – a few nice sliders will open up opportunities to do so.

2) Mobile Websites. Like everything, mobile websites took off very quickly. The introduction of 3G, saw more and more users getting online whilst on the move, so it was important that websites were converted to make things easier for users to explore their services in this way. Yes, we fully agree that mobile optimisation is everything these days, but it doesn’t mean you have to totally develop a new website.

ALTERNATIVE : Go responsive. In our experience, responsive design has much more profitable results than mobile websites, and will allow your site to be viewed on a higher number of devices. Make sure it is competently designed with the end user always in mind. It must be simple to navigate, efficient and accessible to all audiences.

3) Flash Slideshows. Completely out of date and highly inaccessible in this day in age, Flash sliders are vastly evaporating from the web. Those who do have flash sliders should be aware that these cannot be accessed (unless developed using the latest HTML5 techniques) on mobile devices. With mobile becoming the most popular route of browsing the web, it’s vital that your service slider is visible to as many people as possible.

ALTERNATIVE : A CSS or Jquery based responsive slider. This offers your user options to view the site on a range of devices, as well as giving a fresher edge on your services. There is a huge choice to select from these days and many are available free of charge.

Keeping up with the times…

There are a huge number of problems which still exist from the “early days” which some agencies still refuse to update to, mostly down to laziness and an unwilling nature to learn. It’s vital that the industry continues to move forwards with the times, and adopt the new methods of designing and building sites, not only for the design agencies sake, but for the clients who need their sites to be in a strong position to bring in business.

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