The number of total websites worldwide is about to hit 1 billion figure – 995 million as of today – in the next few days. With the growing number of online presence brands and individuals are trying to influence the internet users with more intuitive and appealing designs of their website. However, in just the past 10 years, web design and the challenges facing designers have seen drastic change and innovation. With plenty of easy to use, drag and drop type website builders, like here, for example, the lone blogger and the business entrepreneur are now both dabbling in web design. And yet, as self-built websites become the norm, it’s possible that designing websites may become a thing of the past. However, web design continues to develop and innovate past the desktop website to a broader mobile audience, securing the future of web design firmly within the realm of mobile. Within this realm, some good areas for web designers to focus on are mobile first design, app design, and UI and UX design, all of which go hand in hand.
Mobile First Design Approach
When designing for mobile, you need to be sure that it is designed first with the user in mind. This is why mobile design is also UX design. Regarding mobile first designs: ultimately, you need the content to be clear, focused, and easy to engage with. All navigational elements need to be kept simple and pages need to be single-themed. Everything needs to be accessible, but it also needs to be free of clutter; respect the space limitations of the page. You also want to maintain a fluid design to cater to a diverse array of screen sizes, as well as designing specifically for touch, and keeping form fields to a minimum.
So all of this we know, but where is the design for mobile headed, particularly UX design, and what does it mean for the way that internet engagement is changing?
Mobile Apps as Services
Mobile first design forces the designer to focus on the user. A very good example of this is mobile apps and how they have changed web design and the way that people engage and interact with the internet. With one touch you are streamlined to a destination without typing in a URL. However, now the trick for designers is not to design locations, as this type of internet engagement is disappearing quickly, but instead to turn to designing apps as services.
In a recent Digital Arts article, many industry professionals were interviewed and offered insights on these very questions of innovation. Alex Hillel, creative technologist for The Neighbourhood, commented that:
“The continuing explosion of the mobile market is still causing waves, and the line between websites and apps is muddying as HTML5-related technologies mature. Designing for the major browsers and then the hundreds of various mobile devices, […] it’s a challenge to say the least.”
The essence of the mobile internet experience is one of consumption and is focused primarily on user experience, not an appreciation for elaborate design. Users want speed and efficiency, which comes from simplicity. User experience (UX) design, then, is a user-first design approach. In the same article from Digital Arts, Jason White, executive creative director of Leviathan said:
“I think the biggest change happening now is the remarkable visual improvement of user experience design (UX). There’s been a rapid influx of talented UX designers to this growing field and it shows in new apps and products that have been released.”
UX design focuses on one very important aspect that has at times been overlooked, and that is the human element. Ultimately, engagement in a platform or system requires a human user. The success of a website or app is entirely dependent on these users and how they respond to the website or app. Therefore, it becomes something that cannot be analytically analyzed: how a person feels about an interaction. Of course their actions can be analyzed, for example, abandoning a site that takes longer than three seconds to load can tell essentially designers that they need to ensure a site loads quickly.
UX design requires a designer to be within the mind of the user and think ahead to how to meet user needs. According to author Jacob Gube in an article for Smashing Magazine, he notes that:
“websites have become so complex and feature-rich that, to be effective, they must have great user experience designs.”
Web design will likely evolve at a rapid rate. From year to year everything changes and designers need to change with it. However, since the one unchanging factor is a user, this push to the user-centered design approach is a good medium to focus on in order to safeguard for the future; it is worthwhile investing some time and energy into honing in on these in-demand skills.