Since the number of people using the Internet has increased dramatically, web design has become more and more critical, especially with regards to commercial websites. While organization, navigation, consistency, and readability are among the traditional goals of good web design, the spreading of new tendencies across the Internet has highlighted the need to adhere to modern design principles, including responsiveness and broad use of interactive content (Garett et al. 1).
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Through the analysis of some design principles and the requirements of modern web users, this paper will underline how a research-driven design approach and high usability are likely to determine the success or the fiasco of a website.
By 2015 the Internet reached the milestone of 3 billion users worldwide (Internet Society 32). Such a sizable figure makes the Internet the broadest available market, and the proliferation of commercial websites does not surprise. As a result, competition has become tough, companies are trying to gain the best from their online sites, and there has been an increase in web design expertise (Chiu and Yang 1).
Several studies, in particular, by Chiu and Yang and Garett et al., identify web design and user engagement as discriminant for a successful website. Principles of good web design include the logical organization of a website, ease of navigation through its various sections, consistency in the design of different pages, coherent usage of colors, icons, and multimedia content, a clear statement of purpose of a website, and the level of interaction between a website and its users (Garett et al. 3). These and other principles define the value and originality of a website from users’ perception and highlight a certain degree of subjectivity.
Research has confirmed that poor design results in users that leave a website without exploring pages other than the landing page, while good design positively influences the revisiting rate and the purchasing behaviors of users (Garett et al. 20). However, some bare facts suggest that other variables should be taken into consideration when designing a website. Above all, the online behaviors of users are changing dynamically, and desktop computers are no longer the only devices utilized to surf the Internet: 2016 marked the rise of smartphones as the favorite means of surfing the Web (Ward 1).
Under this perspective, responsiveness is likely to become one of the most crucial features in web design. Responsiveness refers to the capability of a website to conform its size to a user’s device (Glassman and Shen). It follows that good web design should include responsiveness among the primary design variables to be appropriately visualized on many typologies of screens, including mobile phones, tablets, TV screens, and wearable devices.
Another topical aspect of modern web design relates to the extensive use of interactive content. Over the last decade, the increasing popularity of social platforms has led to the rise of new behavioral attitudes among web users, with a massive demand for active participation in the daily use of the Internet. Plugins inspired by social networks widgets are spreading across the Web, resulting in a phenomenon known as the platformization, where a platform model is becoming the dominant structure of the Internet (Helmond 1). If the database-based architecture typical of the platforms raises some questions about the social impact of this model on the Web, it also suggests that interactivity has become a weighty variable in determining the success of a website.
A large number of variables influencing the successful outcome of a website highlight the need for a careful research-driven design approach to the development of a web project. Incorporating research methods in the designing process is paramount to identify objectives, styling patterns, and targets and, ultimately, to meet the demand of website users (Visocky and Visocky 11).
Qualitative and quantitative researches, which includes market studies, data analytics, and ethnographic considerations, reduce the uncertainty that results from the high level of subjectivity in the perception of users. Understanding expectations, preferences, habits, and motivations help designers to frame a design problem and put the user at the center of the project (Visocky and Visocky 12). Thorough research creates a solid basis for the development of a website, setting clear guidelines, providing scientific justification for a design choice, and improving the chances of a successful outcome for a website.
The increasing number of persons using the Internet, the spread of many and different devices apt to navigate the Web, and the rise of new online behaviors have highlighted the need to redefine the principles of good web design. Apart from the traditional design goals of creating a well-organized, easy to navigate, consistent, and clear website, web designers should take into consideration other guidelines. Among these, responsiveness, usage of interactive content, and the research-driven approach are especially crucial. While responsiveness and usability of a website are related to the development of innovative technologies and the spread of modern trends, the need for research-based design is not new, but it takes on new meanings and nuances to update the concept of research to present times.
Chiu, Chun-Chin, and Hao-Erl Yang. “The Impact of Website Design Website Features on Behavioral Intentions.” International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research, vol. 5, no. 9, 2016. Web.
Garett, Renee, et al. “A Literature Review: Website Design and User Engagement.” Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies, vol. 6, no. 3, 2016. Web.
Glassman, Nancy R., and Phil Shen. “One Site Fits All: Responsive Web Design.” Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries, vol. 11, no. 2, 2014. Web.
Helmond, Anne. “The Platformization of the Web: Making Web Data Platform Ready.” Social Media+Society, vol. 1, no. 2, 2015. Web.
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Internet Society. Global Internet Report. 2016. Web.
Visocky O’Grady, Jenn, and Ken Visocky O’Grady, A Designer’s Research Manual. 2nd ed., Quarto, 2017.
Ward, Chris. Jump Start. Responsive Web Design. SitePoint, 2016.