In the traditional days of the web, when a design idea emerged, it was simply copied without a second thought. A website was developed, the job was done and the designers went back to relaxing happily. There was no room for experimentation or no thoughts were given to new and innovative ideas, which would help find out whether there existed a different way to approach the design strategy to improve the user experience. This was mainly because everyone and everything was anchored to what looked like a never-ending saga of the same chain of website design strategy.
However, at some point in time, owing to the web revolution that was taking place, the users started evolving and their desires transformed into necessities. So with necessity, came change (necessity is the mother of all changes). And look, here we are – we have come a long way from the static web pages, which merely stared back at you when you landed on them, to the dynamic web pages that could shift and switch their shape according to the device on which they are being accessed.
Fact is that though web design might seem to be art, it is more than art – it is functional, which is what distinguishes it from art – meaning web design is to be viewed considering all the parameters that it would attribute to in order to offer the end users with exactly what they need. If you are a web designer, it is important to think of the design from the perspective of the user. A user or visitor has no or the least idea of what is happening behind the screen – they are merely aware of the code or database, or any other functionalities of the website design.
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As a user, if you truly want to understand the web design process, you must look beyond just the visual appearance of a website. Very few visitors consider what happens behind the screens, as the web browsers start interpreting the code to display the site on the screen. Delayed loading time, browser variations, the duration of the code, and the content itself can completely change a user’s experience and resulting behaviors on a website.
Of course, before you start working on a website or choose a specific website for shopping or any other purpose of accessing information, you take a tour of many others for references and ideas before you are finally happy with one of them. The presence of the web has brought about a tremendous change in the way we think, act and live our lives.
The difference between a designer and a user is in their perspectives of how they view a website – the user does not see what the designer sees. The designer sees flesh, bones, veins, arteries and the blood that runs deep into it, while the user can see only the skin that holds all that the designer works with. And all that lies embedded within the skin is the actual code that drives a website to its functionality.
Let’s take a look at some of the surprising and amazing facts of web design that you might have never heard of.
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Does each web browser render a specific website differently?
Now, before we answer this question, it would be great if you could do a little experiment. Choose any of your favorite websites – access it on various browsers, for example, Chrome, IE, Firefox, Mozilla, Opera, and others. What does it look like on each browser? You would have come across many differences or at least a few of them, if not many. So one of the amazing web design facts that you might have not observed or were not aware of is that each web browser renders a specific website differently. This is not only applicable to browsers when viewed on a desktop but also the same applies to mobile browsers.
What goes on behind the screens is that each web browser has a different way or technique of parsing and rendering – you need to understand that each of them differs in how they interpret the code, which ultimately decides how the site that you are viewing will be displayed on the screen. How the code gets loaded differs from one browser to the other. There are certain browsers that might not be even able to identify specific blocks of code.
If you are interested in learning how each browser construes code, then go through a copy of HTML5 Rocks, which will give you a clearer picture of how browsers work when rendering a site on the screen.
This is one of the major challenges that designers have to deal with when it comes to ensuring a great user experience, which might not be easy with so many browsers and the differences that exist between them. It is always ideal to hire an expert, who has professional knowledge of HTML, CSS, browsers and how they work, and all the related aspects and challenges. They know how your website is expected to appear and function efficiently across any browser.
A cross-browser compatibility test will help identify any critical issues, which can be fixed before the website is live.
How long do you think you can stay on a website? For instance, think of someone who is a chiropractor and recently, happened to buy a new Smartphone. So there were some functionalities this person failed to understand with regard to his/her smartphone. However, he/she decided to browse the internet where all the related information would be available and finally, found a blog, which came up in the search results with the necessary information.
So this person starts to read through the 5000-word long blog – but after a while, he/she gets bored and wants to get it over with. Do you think he/she would stick any longer? Of course, not – they will leave. Because firstly, the content does not interest them as it has nothing to do with their profession or whatever they are practicing.
Secondly, there is a lot of information squeezed in and they have no idea where they can find what they are looking for. And finally, if they are using a mobile device to get to this information, then there is no point in thinking that they would read till the end. But if they know exactly where to look for an information or if anything in the website’s design happens to appeal to them, they would stay.
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This means that the website’s design is closely related to how your users behave while they are on your site. When a user lands on a website, they want to scan through and identify the key points as soon as it is possible. But if they cannot, they will not stay – they will leave. Here visual cues are the key to a visitor’s eye – the graphics, gradients, icons, colors, and images along with how the content is organized on the site lead their way to retain the users for a long time on the site.
An experienced web designer knows what would attract their user’s attention and how they can drive this attention to the information they are looking for.
Do responsive and mobile web design imply the same?
This is something most of us are unaware of. From most of the sources that we read online, we have almost come to the conclusion that going mobile for a website means making it responsive or vice-versa. But the truth is that both are different. A website that can be accessed on the computer can also be accessed on a mobile device. What magical transition is happening between the devices? Have you ever thought of how amazing the technology is?
The usual myth or belief is that regardless of the type of devices or their screen sizes to which the site has to fit into – the approach used for this is either the responsive design or mobile design, which are both the same – but both are different. For some businesses, responsive web designs might be the best fit, but for others, it would be mobile design.
Mobile design confines the desktop version of your site to be viewed on limited devices, including smartphones and tablets. And again, there are limitations with mobile websites as it is bound to conceal a lot of your site’s functionalities and features, which means the user cannot enjoy it to the fullest as on the desktop.
On the contrary, responsive design offers flexibility, as it allows websites to resize and adjust their layouts on the basis of the screen of the device being used by the user. So here, the user does not experience any difference during a transition from the large-screen monitors to the small screens of their mobile devices – while at the same time, they can enjoy an experience well suited for each of their devices specifically. (While on smaller devices, responsive websites can hide features that might not be essential.)
Regardless of the device or screen size, responsive websites fit into those, while at the same time, maintaining the same essence across typefaces, navigational options, and images.
Website designs might seem to be easy, but they are not. But when it comes to responsive web designs, the process might vary and would take longer time and effort than in the normal case.
Website code and search engines
The appearance of a website is one of the most important factors that will attract people to your site. But there are even more vital aspects of a website that you might not be aware of. What if a website with a visually appealing appearance does not have an audience? Yes, it is possible.
Web professionals are required to embed the code that will help the audience to reach your website when they type the related keywords into Google or any other search engines. This code influences a lot of factors, including your site’s listing on the search engines. Some of these factors comprise the title of your web page as it would be displayed in the search results along with the description of your web page that would appear beneath the title in the search results.
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The biggest source of traffic to any site comes from the search engines when the search engine realizes that you have sufficient reasons to drive traffic.
If you have an experienced search engine optimizer and an excellent coder, who work in collaboration with your designer, then, your site will reach the right audiences and traffic will be generated.
Should a website design be complete before it is ready to be launched?
Debatable – huh? Have you ever thought of it? The fact is that you do not need a site to be fully completed before it is ready to be launched. But it would not be advisable to launch a site that is still in the foundation stage. However, you can always launch a minimal version of your site – also referred to as the minimum viable version, if possible, before the site is complete.
In the minimum viable version, it is important that there should be the ‘Home’, ‘About’, ‘Contacts’ and even the ‘Products/Services’ pages. So you get ample time to work on other sections of your site, including blog, FAQs and so on, while the other side is active.
While the other pages are getting ready, with the minimal version, you can use the insights available from web analytics and comments from users to further enhance the appearance and experience of your site.
How does multimedia content impact a website?
Firstly, the question is how does multimedia content affect a website? Multimedia content, which comprises videos and images, have an important role in influencing the performance of a website. If these are not used appropriately, it could tamper with the performance of your website, thereby affecting user experience. When you use large image and video files, you are automatically slowing down the website’s loading time. What happens when a website takes too long to load? What have you done in such situations? You leave the site and probably check for another one that would take lesser loading time and would not drain you of your valuable time.
Keep in mind that 47% of the users expect your site to load under two seconds.
This is where a website designer needs to act wisely – by including images and videos, which are well-optimized for the websites and would not stop the site from loading instantly. Though it contains rich images and video content, the optimized files will confirm that your pages load at a higher speed and do not keep your people waiting.
Avoiding multimedia formats, including Flash, which the most modern mobile device platforms do not support is one of the best ways to ensure that you are doing it right. Think of something, such as HTML5 video, which will help people to access your media from a wide range of devices, regardless of whether they are using desktops, smartphones or tablets.
Structuring content plays a vital role in the design
It might be a known fact, but many a time, designers happen to ignore it when organizing the content on any particular website.
The obvious fact is that people are on your site to consume content. But people are always expecting more and more. It depends on how the content on your site manages to please them in determining whether they will stay or leave. If they can find what they are looking for, they will stay. If they cannot find what they want, obviously, they leave. Not only is that you need to implement content that is relevant – but the way this content is organized also plays an important role.
People are skimming through the content – so when the design is aligned such that people can quickly scan through the most important information – then, people are happy and satisfied because they now have the information they had been looking for.
Use short paragraphs. Organize important sentences into bullet lists. You can even use infographics to promote content (as visuals combined with content weaves magic).
Does a website last forever?
Have you ever thought of that? Of course, Facebook has been around us for around a decade now. So is that question still relevant? The truth is that you can’t expect your website to continue existing forever, but not more than two years. Technology is changing faster with every passing day, which means the website owner needs to be alert – with eyes and ears open to receive and decode any signals interpreting change that is happening in their related industry. As long as you are ready to accept and embrace change, nothing can deter your goals of staying in the online world for long.
The mobile devices and web browsers, and their related functionality are changing, so the websites need to be updated regularly to reflect these changes. All this must be in alignment with other important aspects, such as cybersecurity threats, Google webmaster guidelines and even the latest search engine algorithms. In fact, when you are using an outdated version of your website – you are not only at the risk of not showing up in the search results, but also formatting conflicts as you have not aligned your website with the most modern web browser strategies.
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Talking about Facebook – it has always made an effort to embed innovative and sparkling ideas, identifying the pulse of its audiences. It has never been short of strategies to give people more and beautiful options every time. Even a large number of small-scale businesses have been using Facebook to reach out to their people.
This fact that websites become outdated after a while should not worry you – but rather you could borrow a page from Facebook’s book and work toward ensuring your business would stay forever.
So it is important to keep a check on the latest updates and have your site aligned with these aspects.
Above the fold or below the fold – which is acceptable?
We have been debating about the fact that content below the fold is not accessed by people. The truth is these days people don’t mind going beyond the fold, which means that scrolling is no longer considered to be a tedious task. So now, you do not need to refrain yourself from using the entire area of your website and you have the liberty to include content below the fold as well.
This means that if your site’s design would look better, when you have the content scattered below the fold, then go on, do it.
Does your website need a blog?
Fact is that your website does need a blog. How else do you think you can attract customers in an organic way to your site. So when you design your website, make sure that you are including a blog. It also helps in driving search engine traffic to your site. By including one blog every week, you can experience the difference, as the number of people reaching your site increases every day.
These are some of the website design facts that most of us are unaware of.
Websites and their survival – only the best will stay
Customer needs are changing. Every year, technology is changing. Web design trends are changing and needs to be treated more carefully than ever. It is important for web designers to be an expert at all the latest techniques and tools in the market, while business owners should also stay updated about the latest trends, which is imperative for their websites. This is the only way a business can flourish and build a long-lasting relationship with its customer.
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