Human behavior is changing rapidly; perhaps faster than at any other point in history. Currently, mobile Internet usage is growing faster than desktop internet utilization. Today's consumers are far more likely to access your company's website via a tablet or smartphone than a computer.
When it comes to an online experience, Kissmetrics research has found that:
- 47% of visitors expect pages to load in 2 seconds, or less.
- 40% of visitors will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
- Each 1 second of website delay decreases customer satisfaction by 16%.
What is UX, Anyway?
User Experience (UX) design is a rapidly-changing domain. It exists at the intersection of behavioral psychology, marketing, performance, utility, and many other fields. Jacob Gube of Smashing Mag perhaps describes it best, as the study of "how users feel about a system [or website]."
Much like any other field targeted towards today's consumers, UX is changing incredibly quickly. Websites optimized for how users browsed the internet just a decade ago are likely to appear incredibly out of date today. It's up to today's marketers and graphic designers to stay right on top of UX trends to future-proof their inbound marketing strategies.
Here are a few prominent topics of conversation among the best user-focused website designers in 2015:
1. Full-Screen Experiences
Increasingly, designers are opting to display the homepage of a website as a full-screen menu. Instead of a more traditional website with a navigation bar at the top of the page, text and images are integrated together, allowing the users to interact with an image or tile-style layout.
Design expert Nataly Birch highlights this trends virtues above hidden menus, writing that it "unobtrusively dishes up a lot of data." Users can easily navigate to their chosen information while being treated to a visually-stimulating feast.
As mobile adoption continues to explode, it only makes sense that sharp designers would provide a web experience similar to native apps. As users become more and more accustomed to navigating full-screen apps via smartphone or tablet, perhaps this trend will continue to dominate the user-focused development sphere.
Obviously, full-screen experiences require designers to effectively present information in a manner that doesn't require extensive effort from first-time users. This methodology is best coupled with responsive design, which appears correctly on screens of all sizes. Here are a few brands whose full-screen experiences excel:
2. Animated Story Book Experiences
The mere thought of an animated website introduction is enough to make many of us shudder. Flash was a notorious "control freak," and it often seemed like our plug-ins were never up to date. As animation expert, Val Head points out, "animation on the web has hit some pretty sad lows." While the use of Flash to create slow-loading site intros is dead, HTML5 is bringing back the use of animation. And trust us - that can be an excellent thing, indeed.
Animation is an inherently engaging medium. UX expert Husam Machlovi writes that animation can be incredibly appealing because humans seek reward. Since the early 20th century, behavioral psychologists have known about the Gestalt principle, which is a description of the human tendency to uncover patterns all around us. As website visitors watch a storybook animation unfold, they're able to piece together the story on their own. In a very basic way, gorgeous animations can make website visitors feel like they're being rewarded with a surprising, unique and new experience.
The best-animated websites online today aren't slow to load. With the help of HTML5, they don't demand that users download the latest version to proceed. Here are a few eye-popping, gorgeous examples of storybook animation via HTML5 at work:
- The Expressive Web: Adobe's Interactive Guide to HTML5
- Fritzo: Learn to Play the Piano with Interactive Audio
- Interactive Globe: Google's Large-Scale Data Visualization of Arms Trading
3. Long Scrolling Websites
Have you heard that people don't scroll, and you should strive to fit all of your pertinent information above the fold? It was true, "in the mid-nineties," according to UXMyths. The long-dead bias against scrolling is just a prime example of how rapidly consumer behavior changes in the technology age. In fact, scrolling websites beat clicks in UX studies. Researcher Rebecca Gordon reports people "almost always scroll," even if there are no obvious cues to do this.
Scrolling websites can appear incredibly tidy and visually stimulating. Some of today's most brilliant examples of long-scrolling websites include a visual separation between "pages" or sections of information by color background. Other content-heavy brands opt for a tile design reminiscent of Pinterest. A few exceptional examples are detailed below:
If you're considering a website redesign or update, it's absolutely critical to engage with a developer who's familiar with positive UX. While a trendy website is outstanding, positive UX is about far more than appearing stylish to your potential customers. Designing to optimize human interactions with your website is about understanding what consumers expect from brands today and tomorrow. While website design trends may change, designers who keep on top of patterns in how humans engage with technology will always drive exceptional results.