Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It’s a time to eat copious amounts of turkey, pie, and other delicious food. It’s also a time to reflect on the good things we have, the things that make life easier, happier, and all around better. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few of the web design tools and trends that I’m thankful for, that make the internet a more beautiful and welcoming place to be.
Coordinated Color Schemes. Websites have grown up in the last few years, both in technology and style. And just like a teenager that stops wearing bright garish clothes as they mature, most websites are settling down into more coordinated color schemes. Instead of affronting the user with a literal rainbow of colors taking up every pixel of space, most websites now use a limited palette of colors that match the company’s branding and convey a greater sophistication. Not only is this easier on the eyes, it is also less distracting, which means the visitors can more quickly find what they are looking for.
Simplicity. As the level of technology has increased, our attention spans have decreased. Website designers are realizing this and have made it easy for visitors to quickly find what they are looking for. Very few websites waste the users time with splash pages or introductory animations (a few still do, but hopefully they’ll soon catch on). Most websites use clear navigation and search functions that get visitors where they’re going in as few steps as possible.
High Quality Images. People react more quickly to images than to text. A good photograph or illustration can immediately set the mood and communicate information about a company, website, or product. And with the proliferation of stock photo websites, high-quality cameras in almost every electronic device, and a plethora of free and inexpensive photo editing software, no one has an excuse not to have great images on their website.
CMS Platforms. Content management systems (CMS) – like WordPress, Magento, and Drupal – have a lot of the back-end coding built in, which makes it easier for companies and marketing agencies to focus on the design, SEO, and other aspects of making a website beautiful and functional. These systems make it easier and faster to build a website that is as user-friendly as it is beautiful.
Style Sheets. Cascading style sheets (CSS) make it easy to give a website a consistent look and feel by specifying the colors, fonts, sizes, spacing, and other formatting of the different website elements. Rather than having a dozen different shades of red or trying to remember exactly what font you used for a heading on the previous page, style sheets make it easy to apply consistent styles using simple tags. Though the end user may not know much about CSS, they will recognize when a website has a consistent, sophisticated look, and that comes from having good style sheets.
Responsive Design. Today’s website visitors use a much wider variety of devices screen sizes than ever before. Visitors may view the same website on a smartphone screen that is only a few inches wide or a wide screen monitor that is several feet wide. By using templates built into CMS platforms, cascading style sheets, and other recent advancements, web designers can instruct the web browser to detect the size of the screen and adjust the website’s design accordingly. For example, on a big screen, a website may display a huge beautiful header image and text organized into multiple columns. On a smartphone or tablet, that same website may skip the image and use a single column and simplified navigation. (See some examples of responsive website design.) In today’s wired world, it is important that every website have a mobile site and/or fluid sizing so it can be viewed on whatever device the customers are using.