Websites

5 Website Design Trends to Look out for in 2017

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As the internet has evolved and as the way people use the internet has changed, so has web design. Just as an avocado green refrigerator tells you that a home kitchen hasn’t been updated since the 1970s, a few design elements on a website give you an idea of when it was last updated.

If you want to keep your site fresh and up-to-the-minute, here are some design trends to pay attention to this year.

Vertical Flow

As of 2015, more Google searches took place on mobile devices than on desktops. By the end of 2016, 77 percent of Americans owned a smartphone, according to Pew Research Center.

The switch from primarily using desktop devices to using mobile devices has influenced the way websites look and function. One of the biggest changes is in the way sites flow. Instead of placing images and information side by side or horizontally on the page, designers now focus on the vertical flow of information.

When a site is laid out vertically, it’s easier for a smartphone user to scroll through it on his or her device.

More Hamburgers

Few design choices have caused quite as much debate as the hamburger icon — the little button at the top of some mobile pages (and increasingly, desktop pages) that reveals the menu when you click on it.

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But as mobile device use continues to rise in popularity and designers continue to look for ways to streamline the navigation options on a page, it seems the little hamburger is here to stay. You can expect to find it on more and more websites as the year goes on.

Colorful Gradients

Visit the homepage of a number of brands and you’ll be greeted by a colorful, usually two-tone background.

Color gradients aren’t new — they were big in magazine design in the 1980s and were a big hit with DIY website companies in the 1990s. People like them because they are eye-catching without being too distracting. You can choose a subtle gradient, like light blue fading into a deeper blue or a bolder color pair, such as magenta fading into a darker purple, depending on the type of impact you want the background to have.

More Movement

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Websites aren’t just becoming more mobile-friendly, they are also becoming more mobile. Designers are more and more likely to use animated images (like gifs and cinemagraphs) as well as video as part of a site’s layout and design.

The human brain is pretty good at processing images. A study from MIT found that it takes just 13 milliseconds for the brain to process an entire image. Moving images, such as video, are also processed by the brain much more quickly than text.

Aside from being more engaging than a few static blocks of text, moving images and videos also look cool. A visitor is likely to stare at a cinemagraph to see what happens next or at least pay a bit of attention to a video that autoplays as soon as a person scrolls to it.

If you are going to incorporate video into your website’s design, here’s one thing to remember: Most people watch video without sound. On Facebook, for example, 85 percent of videos play without any sound. It’s essential that the video’s meaning be clear even if it plays in silence.

Back to Basics

Sometimes, offering visitors to a website as few choices as possible and stripping the design of the site down to the bare bones is the way to go. Minimalist web design isn’t a new thing, but designers in 2017 might take things to the extreme.

While some sites will turn to more bells and whistles, such as moving images and lots of color, you can expect a small backlash to occur and for ultra-minimal sites to become popular, at least with a few brands.

Ultra-minimalist websites might not be much to look at. But they make it super easy for visitors to find what they are looking for and are appealing to many for that reason.

Trends in website design aren’t just about looks. They also help to make sites easier to use and more engaging for those who use them. Keep these trends in mind if you’re going to revamp your company’s website this year.

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Marketing is Dead, Long Live Marketing

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Every industry needs to evolve and grow to survive. Look at the auto industry, for example.  Without innovation, everyone would still be driving Model Ts, instead of the higher-powered, more fuel efficient vehicles many of us drive today.

The same is true in the marketing and communications industry. People have been heralding the death of marketing, as it was once known, for years now. William Lee, author of The Hidden Wealth of Customers:  Realizing the Untapped Value of Your Most Important Asset, was writing about the death of marketing in Harvard Business Review back in 2012. While traditional marketing techniques might be dead and should be buried, that doesn’t mean the entire industry needs to pull up stakes and move on.

Instead, we need to find what works in today’s climate and focus efforts on that. Traditional ads and paper press releases might be the Model T’s of the marketing world, but social media and customer-focused efforts can be the marketing industry’s equivalent of the Tesla Model S.

Communicate First, Market Second

One of the traditional methods of marketing was to figure out an audience, such as middle-aged, married women who stay at home or 14 to 18-year-old boys who like sports and pizza, then to tailor an ad to target that audience. The focus was on marketing first, communicating second.

In the next phase of marketing’s life cycle, communications should come first. A marketer might not be trying to push or promote a product to a specific demographic. Instead, the goal is to share information or provide something valuable to a consumer. Blog posts or sponsored articles on a website are an example of communications-focused marketing.

This approach is subtle but still effective. For example, many blog posts that are created to market a company don’t even specifically mention the company’s name or that it offers a service discussed in the post. But, by seeing the post on a company’s website or shared on a  social media profile, a customer begins to associate that company with that service or product.

A company has given a customer something useful or valuable. If it comes to a point in the future when the customer needs the product or service a company offers, he or she will be likely to think of that company first. Communications-focused marketing is about giving, not selling, to customers.

Turn to the Customer

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Speaking of customers, they are a valuable resource for marketing 2.0. A 2013 report from Forrester Research showed that 70 percent of consumers trust a recommendation from a friend, and only 10 percent put their trust in ads.

That means that in the new marketing world, the customer needs to become the advertisement. In his Harvard Business Review article, Bill Lee recommends looking at the big picture when it comes to a customer’s potential lifetime value. A company doesn’t have to only look at the potential revenue a customer can bring in.

It can also look at the influence that a customer has over others. For example, a highly respected customer, who others are likely to listen to and follow, can be incredibly valuable, even if he or she doesn’t purchase vast amounts from your company. Instead, that customer can direct others to your products. If someone who has a lot of followers or a large network is enthused about what your business offers, tap into that enthusiasm and let it work for the good of your company.

Blending Old and New

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If traditional marketing is dead, why do you still see ads in magazines or on TV and why do you still send out press releases or try to engage with traditional media? While it’s true that ads might no longer be effective on their own and that a  newspaper or print magazine story might not have the reach it once did, those techniques can still be valuable.

The trick is to combine them with newer marketing techniques. Your company might produce an ad that features one of your customer influencers, or the ad might specifically encourage people to engage with or share their opinion with your company on social media. The ad isn’t specifically marketing your product or service; instead, it’s marketing your company’s social presence.

You have many options for reaching customers today. While it might seem like the best idea to toss away all the old marketing techniques in favor of the new, some older methods can still be valuable, especially when combined with the newer ones.  No one drives a Model T anymore, after all, but today’s cars all still have four wheels and an engine.

 

5 ways to keep content current

Although staying up-to-date with your company’s content and website can seem like just one more thing you have to worry about in the age of digital media, it’s increasingly important. If you’ve ever visited a website that looked as if it was last updated in 2005 and wondered if the company was still in business, you’ve seen first hand what can happen if you don’t keep content fresh.

Your customers not only want to know what it going on with your company, they also want proof that your business is a leader and influencer in its field. Having a website and social media profiles that reflect that will convince customers that your company is the one to work with. Here are a few relatively simple ways to keep your content up-to-the-minute.

Create an Editorial Calendar

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 It’s difficult to stick to a schedule for posting on your blogs or for posting on social media if you don’t have a clear outline of what to post and when. When it comes to your blog, you don’t have to have a new post up daily (unless you’re very prolific or have a large team of blog writers), but you should aim to get a post on a consistent basis, such as every Monday at 8 am or every other Wednesday at noon.

Putting together an editorial calendar helps you come up with fresh and relevant topics for your blog, too. For example, if you’re planning the content schedule for early summer and you work with a company that provides services to educators, you can come up with post topics that are relevant to things a teacher might need to do over the summer, such as put together next year’s syllabus.

Get Busy on Social Media

Just as you want to create and stick to a consistent schedule with your company’s blog, you want to create and stick to a schedule for social media posting. There is a sweet spot when it comes to how much to post. If you don’t post that much, customers will forget you exist. If you post too much, there’s the chance they will get annoyed and block or unfollow you.

Buffer, a social media scheduling service, took a close look at user engagement on a variety of social media networks to determine when people’s interest dropped off. It found that after two posts a day on Facebook, people were less likely to comment or “like” a post. In the case of Pinterest, brands who posted five times a day or more had the most success. People seem less excited about frequent posts on LinkedIn, and Buffer recommended just a single post each weekday on that site.

Update Your About Page (and the Rest of Your Site)

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Your company has evolved over time. Your website and social media profiles should reflect that change. Take a look at your business’ About page, as it might be due for an update.

Add any new information to the About section, such as the name of any new employees, a new location if you’ve moved, or a new division if you’ve recently expanded. It might be that the information on the About page is accurate, but the page itself isn’t engaging.

If someone wrote the page in a hurry when you put the website up initially, it might not be the best reflection of who your company is or how it serves customers. Take some time to edit the page and make it an accurate introduction to your business.

You should keep the rest of your website current, too. If you have white papers or case studies on your site, take a look at them every year or so and replace them with updated versions. You don’t want potential customers reading outdated white papers to get information or looking at case studies that don’t reflect your business’ capabilities in the here and now.

Revisit Old Blog Posts

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Just as you revise and update static website pages and content, it’s worth it to revise old, but still relevant, blog posts from time to time. You might not need to edit the content of the posts so much as you need to adjust them to make them more shareable on social media or to boost their SEO. If you’d like to start using Pinterest, for example, you might go back to old posts and add eye catching images to them, so that pinners want to click on your post.

Some posts might just need a bit of clean up. They might contain broken links or you might have missed some spelling or grammatical errors the first time around. You might have written more on the topic since your first post and wish to include the link to your follow-up in the original.

Try New Formats

Another way to freshen up your content is to switch up the format. If you’re not getting much traction with 1,000-word blog posts, perhaps a video will appeal to your visitors more. If you need to share a lot of facts and figures, it might be worth it to put together an infographic.

Creating content in a variety of formats can also increase your social media reach. People look for images on Pinterest, for example, but tend to want something in-depth on LinkedIn. While you shouldn’t try to please all of the people, having plenty of options will help increase your company’s reach.

When it comes to communicating with your clients, you don’t want to fall off the grid. Keeping your website up-to-date, boosting or maintaining your social presence, and keeping your blog current will all help you keep your content fresh.