Having just finished my degree in Advertising, and it being my only reference point into the world of design, being plunged into website design has been a baptism of fire. Online design has moved beyond the static pages with a drop down menu, to being a completely engaging experience. Undergoing the transition from education to industry, the learning curve has been replaced with an explosion on the visual and interactive senses with an emphasis on the user journey. With an open canvas and a creative idea, it is possible to create some truly ground-breaking pieces of design.
During this transition, the biggest thing I have learnt is that online design is in itself a paradox. Comparably, advertising has commonly used outlandish visuals and a bombardment of the senses to make you aware of its presence. If a website is well designed however, the user will never notice that it’s extremely easy to use. Our sole purpose is to make a new user feel like they have browsed the site multiple times before and it’s a tricky art to get right. With our Internet prowess advancing by the second over all generations, we are able to pull on existing features that have become ingrained into online design. Simple elements such as making the logo of your page link back to the Home page already feel so intuitive that if we didn’t do it, our users would get extremely confused! I’ve documented a couple of points that I have learnt during this introduction to web design.
First and foremost is the development of the industry itself. Without waffling too much about Flash and its timely demise, we are able to pick up where we thought we had left off many years ago. On screen animations and parallax elements have changed how we consume online communication, allowing us to only show the information we would like to give specifically when they need it. Coupled with slick transitions, the element of interactivity has become the new standard in displaying content. Not wanting to blow our own trumpet, but the new Rodgers of York website displays this perfectly, allowing both elements to converge together to make it a truly enjoyable experience to use.
Admittedly, my initial interpretations of web design were not as clear as traditional design mediums such as print or television, which have defined parameters as to the white space you have to play with, such as paper sizes and time slots. From tablets, to mobiles to full widescreen monitors, the very flexible nature of how someone could interact with one site has to be meticulously planned out from the very beginning. Responsive design forces the hand of a designer to distil information to its core, but is so satisfyingly rewarding when achieved correctly.
(Click the image below to visit the Rodgers of York website, then drag the side of your browser right to left to see how it responds on different devices)
An overlooked factor and one which has stifled web design since its creation, but has nothing to do with its design, is its speed. According to Kissmetrics,
“40 per cent of visitors will leave the website if the loading process takes more than 3 seconds.”
Luckily we are entering a new phase of Internet consumption, with the likes of fibre optic and 4G becoming readily available across the country. Site loading time issues may soon become less of an issue, to the point where more extensive design elements can be placed with relative ease.
Full page videos loading into the background of the homepage enable a much more engaging visual tool, with the element of interactivity being a huge added bonus. On top of this, the production value of these videos is second to none. With stunning locations and creative concepts within them, it’s amazing to think that there exists a merger between a film crew and a web designer!
One thing that has scared me is the inherent level of incredible competition. Every day browsing Awwwards or OnePageLove it’s clear that web design agencies are firing on all cylinders from all over the globe. It only takes one look at a site like Sennheiser’s Reshaping Excellence to realise that they are no longer a website, they are a complete digital experience.
Cleverly manipulating code and giving you the appearance of freedom allows for an infinitely engaging idea, whilst employing both visual and audio cues to fully immerse a user into its grasp. With the benefit of social media being able to launch creative engagements like this into stardom, it doesn’t surprise me that businesses and designers alike are ready to experiment freely within an oversaturated medium.
To anyone studying design or with a passion to create, whether it be graphic design or photography, the multitude of skills being employed online on a daily basis is mind-blowing. The web has the wonderfully encompassing mentality to creative elements, providing an open playground to anyone with an eye for aesthetics.
It is this, plus the unrestrained creative freedom it gives, which is why I have fallen in love with web design. And by now, I think you have too.