Let’s Make the Web Better in 2019

Michael Wagner
Jan 7 · 4 min read

I’m excited about the direction of the web and my role to play in creating experiences within it. I love that brutalism is having an extended moment, that illustrations and flat design are here to stay and continue to evolve, and that the industry is treating web copy with a UX lens.

Simplicity, even when “brutal” is a good thing. Illustrations and flat design, simple animations — these things resonate because they excite our imagination in a way that a photograph of something literal cannot. (They can also be wicked fun.) And, it’s high time that we simplify how we write on the web, most especially when voicing brands. The UX writing motto of “be respectful and be useful” should be applied to everything.

Here are a few areas in which I plan on developing my skills in 2019. I believe other experience creators should, too.

Personalization and Conversation Design

It’s a big world. In an increasingly connected planet with more avenues than ever to build global brands, it’s only fitting that we create experiences respective of individual regions and cultures.

However, that is only the first step. Brands have been building unique or optimized, experiences based on sweeping realities, such as location, for a long time. In 2019, if you have customers across the planet that should be your baseline. Personalizing experiences based on actionable data is another story.

Humans like to be recognized. How many people reading this have glowed after their favorite barista greeted them by name? (For me that moment came when my favorite baker invited me to coffee!) We love personalized attention in the real world and data suggests we welcome an approximation of it online as well.

This has been the domain of “big brands” for quite some time. However, there are increasing opportunities for brands of normative size to do the same. (Which is exactly why I’m writing this.)

The creative studio where I develop Squarespace websites, Markon Brands, is making initial inroads into developing personalized experiences, too. By enabling a customer profile system on our website and integrating Intercom’s messaging feature we are able to greet existing customers when they land on our site and guide them to relevant content through automated messages or prompt them to chat with us live.

That last bit is of huge value. Now our website is more than just a body of content (however dynamic it may be), it’s a platform for interaction — for conversation. Conversation design is certainly more than enabling a chat feature, but its core — leveraging the quality of human conversation to guide users through experience s — is what is important here.

To me, personalization and conversation design are ultimately about creating experiences that are inherently more human and I’m all for it.

I’ll be spending time in 2019 studying both and implementing facets of each where possible in the work that I do.

Animations, Sound, and Feedback

Numerous web design trends forecasts for 2019 have referenced CSS animations. I sort of love it and I’m excited about it because I’m a big fan of feedback. I need feedback. I’m the kind of person who usually has several streams of thought running through my head, I’m constantly tracking the human conversations around me (sorry, that’s just how I am), and the world is clearly full of stimuli. I want systems to let me know when my interactions with them are complete. I also think that feedback can come in the form of a system letting a user know they’re on the right path or where to go next.

Using subtle animations to dress up page loads or reduce visual page noise while users scroll is great. So is pulling attention to calls-to-action and reinforcing other signifiers. Offering feedback in such a way as creating a short, audible “ting” or seeing a bold underline form when a user hovers over an interactive element might help those who have sensory impairments. It also helps call attention to important items as users visually scan content.

I’ll be exploring how I can gently use CSS animations and sound to increase usability, and — if possible — accessibility, as well.

UX Writing

I used to love writing. Then three years of nearly incessant writing in academia and at work killed it. Sorry, not sorry. Part of the problem, however, is personal. I automatically want to strive to write the most novel, break-out statement. It gets frustrating.

In reality, users will appreciate the simplicity of a personable, yet concise message written more like a human than a brand.

With that said, “be respectful and be useful” is going to be my writing motto for 2019. Let’s hope it sticks.


Author

Michael Wagner is an Information Scientist. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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