The rise of mobile devices and new interfaces has brought about many changes to the way we experience and interact with websites. In particular, the use of responsive design rather than a simple mobile website has emerged as a preferred way to ensure a great user experience that is seamless from desktop to mobile device.
In 2015, Google officially updated its mobile search algorithm to reward mobile-friendly websites with better search rankings. But more importantly, your visitors are interacting with your website from phones and tablets more and more every day – and you may be losing customers before they even pick up the phone or walk into your store if they have already had a bad user experience on your website.
Incorporating a responsive web design (as opposed to a simple mobile site) allows consistency between a user’s desktop and mobile web experiences. More than likely, incorporating a responsive design will require a full redesign of your site — simply retrofitting older code is usually neither efficient nor practical, and may cost nearly as much as starting from scratch. That said, the web has come a long way in the past decade. Browser and device standardization ensures that web pages will look and act the same across all devices and platforms, meaning your new site will be easier to develop, easier to maintain and much more enjoyable to use. Now is the time to “go responsive” and put your brand on solid footing for an ever-evolving web.
Additionally, several other trends are emerging in the website design arena to reinforce this enhanced user experience. Here are four that I feel are most important.
- Long Scroll. In years past, the typical aim was to have as much content as possible “above the fold,” meaning visible to the user without having to scroll down the page. Usually, this meant pages were shorter in length, but there were more of them. Today, with touch screens everywhere, it is much easier to simply scroll with the flick of a finger and digest long pages of content than to click links and load a bunch of subpages. Long scrolling pages with multiple sections of content are very popular today.
- Tap vs. Hover. Hover states (the little interactive color or motion changes) that are commonplace when using a mouse no longer make sense in the context of a touch screen. As such, designers and developers must rethink interaction to target an audience that must touch, tap and swipe without any mouse interaction.
- Navigation. With limited space on many smaller devices it is necessary to restructure navigation menus. The most common technique is called an ‘off-canvas’ menu, where the menu is tucked away and hidden from view until a menu button is clicked — at which point it either slides in from the top or the side of the screen.
- Panel- and Column-Based Layouts. It can be very easy for every site to end up looking alike in a responsive world because the structural requirements often lead to using panel and column blocks to organize content on the page. This layout scheme means block grids can re-stack for smaller screens, but it also means designers need to get creative if the client doesn’t want the site to look like everyone else’s.
Zach Cheatham is the owner of Z-Axis Creative, a web design firm based in Little Rock, Arkansas. Want more information about ways to enhance the user experience? Reach out to Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org.