WEB TRENDS – BE SMART BEFORE JUMPING IN!
Every year we see these lists of the great new trends that are taking place in the web design world. For the most part – we have found them to be potentially harmful for our own client base which is largely focused on nonprofit organizations and business to business groups.
We actually wrote a post a few weeks ago about why we will never win a web design award —- and below are some great examples of why we would never win! We do not jump on the latest fads and trends – not because we do not think they are cool or because we cannot make them happen – we just find many of them confuse typical web users and can often do harmful things to client metrics from lowering conversions to decreasing on-site time.
Although it is important to keep your website fresh and modern – we actually recommend a minor update to the look and feel every couple of years – we do not encourage website owners to be running to jump on these trends!
Below are a few of the latest trends and why we would not recommend them to industries that have an audience that may not be tech savvy – and yes we are talking to you non-profit organizations!
HAMBURGER NAVIGATION MENUS
We are seeing this one everywhere – and we personally think it is a horrible idea for most website owners.
Take a look at the screenshot below of a website using a hamburger menu – (we removed the logo from the cans to protect the guilty!) – but if you are not a savvy internet shopper, how would you know what to click on?
The website is also only using product images to display the logo – which we also do not think is a good idea from a branding perspective.
So when you land on the home page all you see is what is below – again we did remove the logos from the 2 can lids, but we still think a potential customer does not know what to do or where to go from here.
While we knew where to go – after all we build these things for a living, we are thinking many people are struggling with finding a menu or even trying to understand what they do or sell!
As a group that takes pride in usability – we do not find hamburger menus to be all that usable. A visitor should not have to “look” to find out how to get to the navigation or find specific areas of a website. And they absolutely should not have to wonder what you do or sell!
Parallax scrolling seems to be everywhere and we do get a lot of requests for this feature. We are NOT against the use of parallax as an added element to give your website some life – but too much can do more harm than good.
If you have stunning imagery and want a unique way to promote a special project, product or announcement then a simple parallax background may be a nice design touch.
But there is such a thing as too much of a pretty thing.
When Can Parallax Be Too Much ?
Here are a few examples of some websites that we find absolutely incredible from a creativity and design aspect – but would never create one or recommend them for a client.
Each one of these are awesome – don’t get me wrong, the creativity is off the charts on all of them.
But for most web users they would be confusing to use. There is no clear focus on what the user should do – the Scroll For Your Health website does not even clearly state what the purpose of the website is.
These are some more extreme cases where too much of a good thing may apply.
But What If I Really Like The Parallax Effect?
Then by all means DO IT!
But be sure that the demographic of your average web visitor can handle it! If you are appealing to a young demographic that is incredibly tech capable – then take this creative route – but if you are a business that is targeting baby-boomers or an older target market, this could literally kill any online business you may want to have.
We would also HIGHLY recommend testing! Running an A/B test of a parallax page versus a more static page will give you the insight you need to know if your demographic would welcome this type of movement on a website.
This is an example of a simple parallax element to help accent some text! Simple is better in most cases!
We have a large dislike of carousels and sliders and try very VERY hard to steer clients away from using them.
Let me put this nicely —
Really — they are not sitting there going through them all, we will guarantee it! The only possible exclusion to this would be artists and photographers where people are really interested in the imagery. But for those with businesses, nonprofits or blogs – not so much.
OK – don’t believe us – we get it who the heck are we to say sliders suck?
Then check out this study by Erik Runyon that pretty much sums up how bad carousels are. Basically the study done resulted in a rate of 1% of visitors clicking on any slides at all. ONE PERCENT! You can view the full study and get all the details, but this alone should have you rethinking utilizing a slider type functionality.
One of our favorite websites that talks about whether or not to use sliders is this one: http://shouldiuseacarousel.com/ – sums up our thoughts nicely!
Here are a few other studies and thoughts from other experts on the issue:
Sliders also take more load time since you usually need a script to run it, more time to keep updated and all for little return.
This is just one of the reasons we are not fans of ThemeForest Themes and wrote an article about that issue as well. Just about every theme comes packed with sliders and code that you do not even need!
Who Does Not Use Sliders? Just About Any Web Optimization Company!
Think about that for a second – some of the biggest names in website testing optimization services do not use sliders or carousels on their websites.
That says a LOT about the value of them.
These are companies that spend their days and nights – optimizing websites. If they are not using them – there is a pretty large (ok 100%) chance you should not either.
So If Sliders Are A Bad Idea – Then What Should I Do?
This is where testing and knowing your statistics and market are key! There is no “one-fit” solution for every website.
A lot of websites are now using what is called a “Hero Image” on their home pages. The problem with hero images is that typical websites are using them to take up the whole home page – so there is basically just an image with some text – with no enticement to do anything else.
Here is an example of a Hero Image in action on a designers website. We love the image – but you can see it is not clear what kind of design the group does and then the menu is at the bottom of the page. There is no other information easily available – and with no other information on the page it can cause visitors to bounce off the website.
Here is a great example of a hero image used by one of the best bloggers around. It is clear about what the blog is about – links to critical areas of the website right from the hero image area and there is still plenty of room for more information and content below the hero image.
Did you notice — no slider or parallax? We bet there is a darn good reason for that. Darren is a professional – we are guessing he invests a lot of money in his website including testing.
If you do happen to have a website that has a lot of information that you want people to see, then this tabbed style content layout is an option.
Why do we think this is a better alternative than a typical slider or carousel?
- You can easily see what the next slide is about – this allows visitors to easily find if anything in the slider interests them.
- The slider does not auto-scroll or rotate
- Visitors can easily see where they are in terms of the content that is being provided
If you have a brand or service that can do well with a video on the home page – then DO IT! If it will describe or educate your visitors about your mission or brand, then it can actually improve your conversions and retention.
While we do not recommend stock videos that add no real personal value, branded videos that talk about your brand can be really beneficial.
But please – DO NOT AUTOPLAY your videos.
Many people do still work — so you do not want to get them in trouble do you? That is one of the fastest ways to lose a visitor.
What Trends Do You Love Or Hate?
So, are there things you love or hate about websites you have seen? Things you love or things you hate? We would love to hear them!
Jill Caren brings over 12 years of WordPress and SEO experience to help you improve and grow your website. She has spoken at several events on SEO and has been published in several top SEO publications. You can contact Jill here.