Usability and Web Design: New Trends

by GuestBlogStar on September 15, 2012

Conventions are important in web design. Just as you wouldn’t want to walk into the supermarket and see something as counter-intuitive as motor oil  stocked next to the milk, visitors to your website don’t want to have to learn a new way to  navigate and or something entirely new when they visit your web site. Where web design is concerned, innovation and originality are best done within the framework of conventions that make sites intuitive, usable and useful for visitors.

Menu Trends

In the initial days of the consumer Internet, it was common to see webpages with menus located in just about every conceivable position between one page and the next. Today, the convention has firmly swung toward putting the menu on the top of the screen. Whether or not the menu appears below the logo or at the very top of the screen is a decision best based upon the look of the site itself, but just about any user will intuitively looked towards the top of the screen to find the navigation menus. Placing them there helps to eliminate situations where users are confused about how to get around the site.

Left navigation and footer navigation is also helpful to users.

Don't Make 'Em THINK

One of the truly defining trends in many designs happens behind the scenes. Today’s navigation menus, provided they are designed by a competent web development firm, are made to be intelligible to search engine crawlers. At one time, using images for navigation buttons was relatively common, but this type of navigation scheme tends to defeat a lot of the most important SEO aspects of a website. Search engines couldn’t read the graphics, and today most menu items are text.

Flashy Elements

Because the technologies that allow for the inclusion of multimedia have developed so tremendously over the years, it’s common for the flashier elements of a website to be functional. For example, a website that had static images of products on it that could not be clicked on to navigate to a product page would likely confuse many users. Even strollers and sliders – elements that rotate images and text at the top of your webpage – are functional these days. Click on any image or a line of text and you’ll generally be brought to the appropriate page on the website. This is a great usability feature.

Some of the newest innovations in website design are just around the corner. While the transition has not fully taken place yet, the Internet seems to be trending away from using plug-ins to include multimedia content. If you’re not aware of what a plug-in is, the term includes technologies such as Adobe flash, which allow multimedia content to be added to the page. The plug-ins are somewhat famous for causing problems with people’s browsers and, in the future, new web technologies may make them altogether unnecessary for the inclusion of multimedia.

To the Point

Another important usability trend in web design is an aesthetic that embraces efficiency as a driving element in how a page structure. For example, web forms that required the minimum amount of information possible to get the necessary benefit are preferable to long, complicated web forms that require users to spend more time on the page than they really want to. A contact form, for example, doesn’t necessarily need to request an address, phone number and other information from users. In today’s world, a name and an e-mail address provide adequate contact information and streamline the page and the user experience at the same time.

The biggest and most notable trend in webpage usability is simply making pages more user-friendly. The days when it was worth it to wow your audience with your webpage are gone. Today, a webpage that is attractive, and well designed, aesthetically pleasing and, just as important, functional is what most businesses and individuals have in mind when they contract a designer.

Matt Dandurand is the CEO of MediaContour.com, offering web design in Los Angeles, CA.

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