Web Design, Development and Brand Awareness
Since as far back as I can remember, front-end design trends have changed year by year. It seems that once a particular design style gains prominence, every man and his dog jumps on the proverbial bandwagon. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Sometimes it goes horribly wrong and let’s face it, most amateur web designers have the design eye of a newt. One thing is for sure though, design trends year on year will change and in this article we’ll look at what the preferred design style is currently along with the guts of what makes up that particular style.
Identifying the current design style is easy enough. You’ve probably seen it yourself and not realised that it is indeed a “trend”. One look at CSSMania and you’ll see a common theme. Alternatively, just Google it and you’ll see a whole bunch of articles such as this one that goes into detail about the specific elements that make up the current visual style.
Common Design Trends
One look at any of the major CSS showcases and you’ll see what is working for people currently. Big photography, big fonts and a definite “less is more” approach is clear to see. Couple that with clean, crisp, flat interface design and application like navigations and you have the latest design trend – in a nutshell. Sure, there is some individuality to it in terms of the colour palette, stock photography choices and ultimately the on-page content – but the overall look and feel is most definitely in line with the given “trend”.
Part of this is due to the common frameworks being used such as Bootstrap which we’ll discuss in depth below but, the more common reasoning behind adopting such a common design style is much simpler. It simply looks good, works well and offers a way to convey your product, service and general information in a fast, crisp and speedy way across all devices. Ultimately, businesses in particular will choose a design style that converts the best in terms of customer acquisition and there is no denying that the latest design trends have this in mind. Take the latest responsive site of self storage provider storing.com – when they re-designed their site to be a slick design that works across desktop PC, laptop, tablet and mobile phones they found their conversion rate increasing significantly and a dramatic increase in visitor numbers from mobile devices. Their new site was simply more easily found via mibiles and easier to ue via mobiles, hence the better conversion rate.
Mobile First / Mobile Responsive In A Must
A common statistic that you’ll see bandied around is that roughly 60% of website traffic comes via mobile devices such as phones and tablets. Given that this percentage of viewers is so large and significantly higher than general desktop use it makes sense to design your website with a mobile first mentality or at the very least to make your design compatible/responsive on a smaller viewport such as mobile devices.
The holy grail of front end website design is to make the user experience both on desktop, mobile and tablet equally favourable. Far too often designs look great when viewed on desktop but end up looking hideous via a mobile due to not being responsive or just designed with the mobile user as an afterthought. This is something which needs addressing in general and on going I’d advise everyone to design with a mobile first mindset. This isn’t to say your site should look like a 2001 WAP site when viewed in a browser, but it should be responsive and fully compatible with mobile devices.
Frameworks – The Options
As mentioned above, Bootstrap is one of the more common frameworks you’ll see in use these days. Not only is it simple to use, it makes building websites that look great on both a desktop and mobile relatively straight-forward. Based on a 12- column grid system, designing your site so your elements stack when scaled down isn’t particularly challenging. Not only that, the general elements such as lists, forms, buttons and everything else you need to complete your front end look and feel are readily available and easy to style.
Alternatives to Bootstrap are Foundation and HTML 5 Boilerplate – which will also do the job, but Bootstrap however would be my preference. Of course you can use whichever framework you feel comfortable with in order to achieve the 2015 overall style.
Front End Features
The most common and one of the most important front end features is the grid. Sure some people will say it’s all about photography, colour choice and text styles – which are important, but without a grid based design, you’ll find making the website mobile responsive challenge. Start with a good grid framework and everything else will follow.
The Importance of Branding / Brand Awareness
The Internet has now been around for a while. Take any niche or sector and you’ll see a multitude of people vying for the same piece of business. Marketing online is competitive, often dog eat dog and it’ll only going to get “worse” – not better. This is why you need to stand out. Having a good/reputable product or service is not enough. You have to stand out and you have to make it so people remember you. Branding will go a long way to helping you achieve that.
Having a great brand name will make your brand stick in peoples minds. Having a memorable colour scheme or even company logo/mascot will only solidify that. If your company name won’t stick in people’s minds, make sure the visual elements of your brand do.
Then comes the challenge of getting your name out there. You could have the best looking website, best company name and best branding in the world but if you don’t get eyes on your site, it’s effectively useless. You need to get your brand name mentioned as many places as possible so when potential customers do come along looking for whatever it is you’re sell, you will be at the forefront of their minds.
Online Marketing, Social and SEO
Getting your product or service out there is nothing new and still remains the cornerstone of effective marketing. In some ways, it’s easier these days as you have social media to rely on and the user base of the Internet in general is so vast that you have a magnitude of people ready and waiting to see your offerings, the challenge is getting their eyes on it in the first place.
Even now, search engine optimisation be it organic or via paid options when coupled with an effective social media campaign is most definitely the way to be seen. Unfortunately with so many people vying for the same positions or the same set of eyes on their campaigns it’s now tougher than ever to get noticed.
Whilst SEO has changed a lot over the years and social media is relatively new in comparison, a good/strong brand and an audience of people talking about how good your service is will always win out far and beyond any short term trickery. Build a good brand offering a good product or service and it will stand you in good stead. Who knows, you may be lucky enough to not require any online marketing whatsoever if your brand and its offerings are good enough.
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