Behind the glitz and glamour of website design trends there are some equally important elements that rarely get the same attention. Web business practices and emerging technologies are the backbone of any good website. While everyone wants to talk about white space and parallax scrolling, this article will be more focused on the strategic value behind some of the year’s popular trends.
- Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
As internet speeds continue to get fast every year, web developers can take full advantage of some technologies that would not have been possible to use a few years ago. Virtual reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have the ability to be powerful tools in a web developers toolbelt. Many industries have turned to VR to offer users an experience that would not be possible otherwise. For instance, some mental health practices offer VR therapy sessions for patients that might not have physical access to a therapist. In the medical field, engineering students from University of Southern California are working on a VR experience that could help people suffering from Parkinson’s. This web game “Overcome” aims to provide a fun way for Parkinson’s patients to take part in rehabilitation exercises that could preserve mobility.
Youtube has recently implemented 360 degree VR experience for certain videos, furthering the immersion of a music performance for example. These technologies enhance standard web capabilities in many ways and it is inevitable that VR and AR will become commonplace in the near future.
- Reactive Web Design
In a time where mobile phones are everywhere, web development needs to take equal consideration of the mobile market as it usually does of the PC market. We have seen a strong push from Android and Apple to have seamless connectivity across all their stationary and mobile devices. The world has passed the early adoption stage of mobile devices and mobile websites should reflect this change. Even Google has started an initiative called Mobile First Search that takes into consideration a website’s mobile display before it’s desktop/laptop version. Basically, the industry is moving in a direction that will see mobile websites taking as much precedent as their stationary counterparts. Gone are the days of unresponsive mobile sites.
- Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity
AI powered and machine learning systems might be one of the most powerful tools available today. When it comes to serving your user base, AI systems are the way to go. Ride sharing services owe a lot of their success to AI since it is responsible for matching drivers and riders, estimating wait times and general navigation.
In the near future, it is expected that AI will also be a key player in cybersecurity and preventing threats. Besides the obvious computing power of AI, it solves most human errors that can arise in cybersecurity. People need to take breaks, eat and sleep. AI is always working and has incredible potential as researchers find more ways to harness AI power.
- Customer Support
If there is one thing that is sure to spread on social media, it is stories of bad customer support. Recent data points towards using chatbots to mitigate possible negative customer service experiences. Using bots has an expediency that is crucial in most support related inquiries. People prefer to have their questions answered as fast as possible rather than having to wait for minutes or hours at a time for a response.
Research from Gartner (link) found that over 85% of customer interactions will happen without human interaction by 2020. Between 2020 and 2025 it is expected that AI will form the base for most customer interactions. We usually think that users would prefer not to interact with a robot in support situations but 48% of customers that prefer to use live chat support would rather interact with a bot for an instant response.
- Pop-ups and Notifications
Implementing message notifications in a website creates a direct communication channel between the business and consumer. These can be used to inform the site user on changes to the site, deals or even asking for valuable feedback. These are also not intrusive since a type of “not now” button can be added so a consumer could totally forego the interaction if they so choose.
- Voice Integration
While voice recognition technology has been around for a while at this point, it has seen an explosion in popularity in recent years. Google and Apple have been leading the charge in improving voice technology and people are using it very frequently. Business2Community found that 55% of teens and 44% of adults are using voice search on a daily basis.
The convenience of voice search cannot be understated enough. All a user needs to do is pick up a phone and speak into it, rather than a series of taps and keyboard inputs. In designing a website it is important that you take into consideration the searchability of your content via voice commands and how Google or Siri might interpret your content.
- UI Animation
The improvements made to internet speeds and web capabilities have also paved the way for animations to be more prevalent in digital experiences. Adding some sort of motion graphic in a website layout goes a long way in creating a positive experience with users, especially if it is consistent with the brand. Motion elements do not have to be plastered all over the site design, even just a small element with some motion can create an unexpected moment that leaves the consumer thinking “that’s neat”.
Like with most trends, some might work for you and not others. Also many of these strategies are subject to change every year given the exponential nature of tech advancements. In the end, the main goal of a website is to serve the target audience as best as possible. So if you decide to use some of these trends in your own design, figure out what would best fit your target demographic.