Let’s rewind a few years. I remember buying a new PC that was outdated within a year or two and needed to be replaced to run modern software. These days, unless you’re a serious gamer, computers seem to be far more future proof; they do evolve and improve, but at a far slower pace.
To some degree web site design has followed the same trend. When I first started making commercial websites back in 1997 their design was usually considered old fashioned within a couple of years. These days a contemporary website design is respectable for years and just requires the odd touch up.
Yes of course if you want a cutting-edge website design, for example one with parallax scrolling effects, then you’ll need the latest design methods, but ‘regular’ websites seem to hold their own for a fair while.
So us web designers are all going to be out of a job soon, right?
Luckily no, and despite the many new web design agencies starting we’re all pretty busy. One of the reasons for this is that, although website design quality doesn’t date as quickly, other components do.
There are three areas of website design that spring to mind; firstly, and most obviously, mobile websites and responsive website design. What I mean by that is websites that are optimised for mobile phones and tablets. The recent explosion in smart phones has meant that this has turned from a luxury in to a necessity, and recently even Google have started using it as part of their ranking criteria.
Secondly, and a bit more subtle, is the user experience (UX). As there are so many websites, and as users are more internet-savvy, they become fickle, and if a website doesn’t grab their attention straight away they’ll leave and go elsewhere. From a web designer’s perspective it’s important to consider the user along each step of their journey; it’s important that they see exactly what they want, where they want, and that it is clear what they should do next.
Then finally comes the controversial subject of search engine optimisation (SEO). With more and more websites emerging it’s vital that websites are found by users, otherwise they’ll never get to see the stunning design, how well it works on mobile phones, or the beautifully considered user journey. The issue is of course, only one person can be number one in Google for any desired term, and there is often a lot of competition. Google are continually changing their algorithms, and luckily these days they are concentrating on the website’s content, and the user experience, meaning that perhaps a well-designed website isn’t a redundant as you’d think.
These days a website’s success is not determined by how ‘pretty’ it is, but a variety of factors on how it interacts with users and machines; I suppose its function over aesthetics to some degree.
So although classic website design may have plateaued, i.e. how a website looks, the term ‘website design’ is far broader, and covers all of the areas covered above, plus of course many more.
A good web designer should consider all aspects of a build, starting by enquiring about the business it is advertising, and the purpose of the website. The look and feel of the design is only one of many vital components required to make a website successful.