Websites have come a long way from the gray, flat, blue-hyperlink-everything look of the 90s. Today’s sites have grown to be much more user-friendly and continue to expand their designs based on persona-development, industry trends and new technologies – all things that we keep up with and put to practice.
Unlike other mediums, websites have far fewer creative boundaries. As design and development software continue to improve, so have websites.
Fundamental elements like color, hierarchy and white space lay the groundwork for good design, but websites possess design capabilities that can take a brand to the next level. Whether you’re redesigning your site or looking to ramp up your existing site, we’ve laid out five of those capabilities.
Use Original Visuals
Before looking at your website, look inward. If your business doesn’t already have its own photography library or illustrative brand style, a website redesign is a good place to start building a library.
Photography, illustrations and even typography are fundamental design elements that, when considered, can set a brand’s visual identity apart from the competition. Stock imagery and stock illustration are amazing resources, but you risk looking like every other brand using the same visuals. Taking the time to focus on custom visuals will expand your brand’s visual identity, create more consistency and set the groundwork for a more creative website.
Consider content, tone and mood when creating your photographic library in order to visualize your brand’s story. Illustration is the ultimate tool of expression, and there’s a large spectrum of styles to consider when developing your brand’s mood and language. More brands are opting for custom typography for its flexible capabilities and personalities.
These elements have the ability to describe, visualize and convey your brand’s values. Applying them to your website will enhance your brand and online presence.
Break Out of the Boxes
Wireframes are critical to the development of a website. They provide the necessary structural flow to make a user-friendly experience and consumer journey. It’s important, however, not to live and die by the frames and grids while designing the visuals of the site.
Use creative freedom to experiment with arrangements and alignments. Look at the website as a blank canvas, rather than as a coloring book. Playing with white space, using different layer techniques and applying organic shapes and containers are some ways that can bring a website's layout to life.
A good way to think about wireframes is to look at the website like an infographic. Infographics are visual depictions of information that are designed to give the reader a clear and quick understanding of the knowledge provided. Using the same layout techniques as captivating infographics can give your website visually engaging rhythm and movement while effectively telling your brand’s narrative in a quick, user-friendly manner.
Put Things in Motion
The homepage is the face of the site, and the header is the eyes. Eyes always tell the story. If your story isn’t coming through with a still image or graphics, consider telling it through animation or video. Through movement, you can expand on your communication while drawing the user in by applying motion to your imagery.
Videos are how most people in today’s world consume their information and content, so having one (or more) on your site will create a familiar, yet engaging experience and will allow you to communicate your brand, idea or product.
Animation can be applied to just about any graphic element of your site. If your site is utilizing a lot of graphics, you can add more interest and character by putting them in motion. Animation can also be applied the small details such as buttons, search bars or menus.
Motion provides another layer of style to your brand’s tool kit and can give your website more depth and engaging content.
Scroll. Click. Type.
The one constant of a website’s user experience are actions: scrolling, clicking and typing. Scrolling effects are a great way to activate and navigate a site. A parallax scroll provides extra life to imagery or other elements. You can build type, illustration or photography onto the screen as the user scrolls or even create a horizontal scroll effect to break out of the boundaries of a browser window.
Activate where the user clicks by animating buttons, type or imagery to add interest to the details. This can be done in a hover state or when the action is taken (or both!)
Animation is also useful in drawing the user’s eyes to where to click by using highlighting or emphasis features. Creating unique transitions as the user clicks through the pages can bring further entertainment and satisfaction that leaves them wanting to interact more.
Typing may seem like such a small thing for you to consider, but that’s exactly why you should. Explore different ways you can bring the user’s typing interactions to life. This could mean a full-screen search bar or adding custom emoticons to your comment or email pages.
Every little interaction matters in web design. Scrolling, clicking and typing have become so routine and, therefore, a little mundane. But adding these extra effects can surprise and delight your user and bring charm to your site’s experience.
Next Level Interaction
Interaction is key in a brand’s relationship with consumers. Websites provide unique opportunities to grow user-brand engagement.
User-generated content creates a trust and connection to a brand or product. This content gives the consumer the chance to connect the brand with the “real” world – whether they are generating the content or viewing it. Look for ways to allow your consumers to create the content for you.
Creating gamification on your site through surveys, polls and quizzes are a win-win. Brands have the ability to learn and understand their audience further, while the user gets the opportunity to give in their input. These sorts of tools are great, sharable content that leads to social sharing and further discovery.
Gaming continues to get bigger and bigger as more people are picking up the controllers and stepping into another world. Gamification is a great method to add entertainment and enrich a user’s experience. Finding ways to relate your brand to a gaming interaction will draw further interest and keep the user engaged.
Overall, these design systems, methods and actions are what will separate your brand and your brand’s website from the competition, and allow your brand to relate and interact with your consumers further. Websites are an opportunity for you and your brand to reflect who you are, tell your story and promote how you can help the user. Through creativity and proper design, you can enhance these assets and create an engaging environment in the digital realm.