Get Your Web Design On: Best Practices for 2017 Part Two

Last week we touched on website design trends for 2017. We talked about color. We chatted about duotones and minimalist design. This week we’re continuing the discussion with best practices for functionality and structure that our DC web designers believe will be all the rage in the new year. So strap on your seatbelt and let’s hit the road to creating a more impactful online presence.

Part 2: Functionality Trends

1.   Lose the hamburger.

In an effort to streamline website menus, many designers have gone the hamburger route to hide all the options. (In case you’re not familiar with the lingo, hamburgers are those vertical lines you see tucked into the top corner of a website. When you click on the lines, the menu opens up. See Siena Construction for an example.)

The issue with hamburger menus is that oftentimes, browsers can’t find them, or if they see the lines, don’t realize that those represent the menu options. In the Siena Construction example above, the company wrote “Menu/Home” next to the hamburger icon for those unfamiliar with the symbol. However, most websites using this style don’t do that, leaving many site visitors scratching their heads.

More critically, the Neilson Norman Group, which conducts user experience research, has found that hidden navigations hurt UX metrics, cutting discoverability almost in half. Alienating your site visitors immediately after landing on your URL is not good. Hence, many designers prefer to leave those hamburgers off the menu design. Our Maryland web designers agree with this assessment. While hidden navs many look more artistic, design should never trump functionality.

2.   Speaking of menus…

Just like images and content, less is more when it comes to menus, too. Previous best practices called for a maximum of 7 menu items. For 2017, 3-5 menu items is considered optimal. The idea is to better organize your content into broader categories and eliminate those that you don’t truly need. In order to do this properly, you need to have a good website design strategy in place that delineates a clear mission and goals for the site. Then, include only content that serves your mission. Otherwise you run the risk of cluttering your site and overwhelming consumers. Concise, clear content is the way to go.

3.   Parallax is on the outs.

Parallax design, which involves background images moving slower than foreground images when you scroll, was big a few years ago. It certainly looked cool. Unfortunately, according to our Virginia web designers, parallax and its neat effects will be following in the footsteps of the Dodo bird in 2017. This technique slows down website load speeds and doesn’t allow for the quick conveyance of information—items that are critical to good web design and low bounce rates.

However, long scrolling sites will continue to gain favor. With the increasing popularity touchscreens on laptops, long-scrolling sites make a whole lot of sense. There’s much less clicking involved. Plus, you can configure long content into sections that can be browsed with a simple finger swipe. Long scrolling goes right along with the use of minimal menus. Your website’s functionality should always strive to improve the user experience.

4.   Videos are worth a thousand pictures.

Video is killing the image carousal, and this is a good thing. Carousals are bad for SEO. Videos, on the other hand, are beloved by Google. Sure, a high quality video can slow down your site, and lower resolution versions may not look so hot, but there are a number of techniques like overlays that can improve the appearance of your video without slowing down site load times.

Related to incorporating videos is the new love for animation. You can expect to see more animated gifs. Not the freebie clip art ones. Gifs have come a long way in terms of sophistication. You can now animate images and intricate illustrations to add some movement to your website. Gifs are a great tool for attracting attention and explaining processes. Just be sure to use them wisely and sparingly. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing.

5.   The need for speed.

Slow websites turn off visitors. So while images and videos and other design trends are definitely important, you need to make sure your homepage isn’t so heavy that it takes forever to load. And, as our web design Charleston team says, forever on the Internet is mere seconds.

Speed is important because it leads to increased user engagement. According to the Financial Times, you can increase engagement by 5% if you can make your site load 1 second faster. So while your website may have great reach according to your metrics, be sure to check the engagement numbers. These will tell the true story of how your website is performing. Our web design Baltimore team is constantly striving to increase engagement and decrease bounce rates for our clients. There’s no point in doing all the work required to get visitors to your site if it takes so long to load that they leave without learning about your company.