Web design has evolved tremendously since the ‘90s. At first, any kind of background, font and photos were good enough – it was such a new experience that everyone marveled at the novelty in itself. However, the internet outgrew its awkward initial phase and users began to develop tastes, preferences and expectancies. Any kind of website was no longer good enough.
At this point, people expected websites to be functional, informative, entertaining and to offer a pleasant viewing experience. That is the moment when web design principles started to be developed. Once it matured sufficiently, web design became a part of the corporate identity for various organizations, and designers learned to comply with strict requirements in terms of color palette, font style and size.
The Next Generation: Smartphone Users
The next major revolution in web design occurred at the moment when mobile phones became smart, they connected to wireless internet, and large tactile screens replaced buttons. Given the option to browse the internet from any location on a device that comfortably fits their hand, people did not look back to the bulky desktop computer.
So, once again, web design had to reinvent itself and introduce a new principle: responsive web design. This is a new technique of building website using vector images and graphics which self-adapt in size to fit the size of the screen they are displayed on. Responsive web design made it possible for companies to have just one website which can be browsed from a desktop or laptop computer, smartphone and tablet, offering optimal user experience on each of these devices.
Naturally, responsive web design has led to some deep changes in the way websites are designed and what is considered attractive, useful and functional. These are some of the most important changes:
1. Infinite Scrolling
Instead of splitting websites into many pages and sub-pages, websites have changed their approach, loading pages automatically after the end of the previous page. Thus, smartphone users can browse through an entire website section without having to tap through complex menus.
This is also beneficial for computer users, especially if they can browse an online catalog of products and make a choice by having quick access to all the products in a category.
2. Simplified Design, Fewer Objects on the Page
Hick’s law states that the more options people have to choose from, the longer it takes them to make a decision. This law is perfectly applicable to web design in the mobile era. Having a smaller screen to contain all the page objects (menu tabs, graphics, text, links, etc.), people can get lost among all the possible things they could do: tap on a menu button, tap on a call to action button, follow an outbound link, and so on.
For this reason, web pages are simplified, offering people very few navigation options and helping them focus on the most important page element.
3. Minimized User Input
Websites have not always been interactive mediums, but at the present one of their purposes is to obtain input from users. This input is in the form of:
Commenting at the end of articles and blog posts
Filling in forms
Before the mobile era, forms were long and complex – sometimes requiring the users to go from page to page to reach the end. Most of these forms were not even for making online purchases, but for filling in a user profile as member on a website.
Clearly this approach is no longer feasible when users have to tap on a mobile screen. No matter how advanced and sensitive the screen is, it is still quite awkward to tap using the thumbs. People would soon give up, no matter how much they wanted to become registered users on that website.
4. White Space Is King
What is so appealing about the color white? It is the symbol of cleanliness. It is the color of book pages. It is neutral, easy on the eye, and helps users focus on the main elements of the web page: text, call to action, video or photo. Textured, heavily colored backgrounds do nothing for your website, even on a desktop computer screen. You do not want people to focus on the background, but on what is superimposed on it.
Thus, the onset of the mobile internet has brought profound changes to many other aspects related to the internet. We have developed fast and reliable wireless data transfer, and we have created powerful and small-sized devices to help us stay connected to each other wherever we are. And finally, we have reinvented the entire way in which we design and build websites. We can only wait and wonder what the future may bring…