At Hughes & Co we adhere to the principles of "Growth-Driven Design" in our website design and development projects. Whereas traditional approaches to website design would involve a new development cycle every couple of years that results in a new website, GDD embraces agile methodologies and focuses on developing a data driven website that is constructed with adaptability and flexibility in mind.
GDD allows us to constantly update the design and functionality of websites we manage. This helps the businesses we work with continue to achieve success by leveraging data as it comes in to inform decision-making and website design choices.
One of the principal tenets behind this approach hinges on mitigating the risk associated with designing a non-data driven website that simply implements popular trends that may be "cool" or look nice but may not, ultimately, increase your business outcomes.
On rare occasions, however, we see trends that we believe will have the potential to drive that business success. Here are three we are looking at for 2018.
1. Chatbots and Messaging Applications
This is a user experience trend that has been on the rise for some time, but we expect to become standard in 2018. Facebook is already allowing companies to integrate chatbots on top of Messenger. For users, messaging has always been an intuitive form of personal communication. Like many trends before it, we are seeing how users behave in their personal lives influence how they expect to behave when online or when interacting with companies. In some ways, chatbots and messaging interfaces on your website are a return to offline shopping, when a shopper had the option to interact with a salesman for personal service or to browse on their own.
Users no longer want to spend time finding things on their own or waiting for a response to a contact form. If you're not providing messaging options on your website, expect to lose customers.
An important note: your use of chatbots or messaging apps should be strategic. Don't simply slap an app on your site. Do you have staff time to message back? Will you be able to monitor your chatbot for proper function? Are users behaving as you want them to on your site already? As with any "trend", it is critical to implement them for the right reasons and in a strategic manner.
2. Put Stock Photos Back On The Shelf
Stock photos are growing in usage. This is not surprising as websites use more photos and less text to capture attention of users who may only give the site a few seconds before deciding to click away. Interestingly, though, users are increasingly ignoring stock photography. This is, in a way, intuitive; stock photos have become like advertisements in print newspapers: as they become ubiquitous, we expect to see them so our eyes and minds pass right by them.
The solution: express individuality with your photos. Instead of stock photos of people in an office, take photos of people in your office. For ecommerce sites, accurate product images will still be important. For other websites, such as that of an offline service provider, images that tell users more about the people behind the service will make users less likely to leave and also establish the business's individuality.
3. Custom Brand Graphics
In a similar vein to the demise of stock photos, companies like Slack and Dropbox have shown that custom illustrations and graphics drive strong brand connections. We are expecting more and more websites to implement customized icons, illustrations and other graphics into their website design. While this may require more graphic design work, in the end you'll be adding unique assets that customers will connect with your brand, and, ultimately, set your website apart from other online businesses in your industry. The latter is critical to online success in the ever-crowding internet.
Trends in website design do not follow a calendar, but important patterns can be recognized when you examine the data. While we will not endorse trendy designs that hurt your business outcomes, trends that will improve those outcomes are important to monitor and implement. If you're considering refreshing your website design and functionality to succeed in today's marketplace, contact us.