What’s the best thing to keep in mind when designing a website?


“Hi! Can you create a website for us?”

I’ve heard of stories from some people where a small business or non profit hired them as their creative or IT person. And the first project they come on is the development of their new website. They find their old site clunky and hasn’t been updated since last decade and is due for repair.

But you’re just the creative person! You know how to Photoshop and point a camera at someone! Or an IT person who knows how to reason with computers, servers, projectors and the like!

What do you do?

After reluctantly saying “Yes”, most people at this point would just literally type into Google “the best website design trends.”

So I herd u lik listicles, awards and ads right?

You get something like what’s above. Lot’s of listicles showing the hottest trends in web design. Parallax & Responsive, big buttons, big images, Material & Flat Design.
Also, a lot of ads for people who want to build your website.

A small number of these trends will morph in the next few years, such as Responsive Design, but others trends will become fads, and will be replaced with some other design fad or language.

So what are some long term web trends we are currently in? Let’s look at some.

Well, there are Website Builders out there which help you navigate the trends without the need of reading the multitude of blogs, essays and recent projects that have popped up by various web designers. Wordpress is king, now making up of 23% of all websites online today (which started as a blogging platform, now a fully fledged CMS). Also around is Squarespace (funding 90% of all podcasts or something), but there’s also Wix and Weebly out there as well. Heck Medium — the site you’re on — is another example!

lightstock.com

Then you have Mobile First Design, which is, well, designing for the main place where most people use the internet, their smartphones or tablets. Related to this trend is two other trends; Web vs. Apps — most people now access the web through a series of apps and not through the Open Web. The other is Responsive design, which is making sure that your site looks good on any type of screen available.

Finally, you then have content first design, which has come out of Mobile First Design. You know the way that Designers would design a website would be first creating a really cool front page, but with lorem ipsum text. But then you get the actual content from the client, and then you had to redesign your entire page because things would fit in on your site. Starting with getting your content first is the most helpful thing on how to structure everything around this.

So given these trends, what’s the main thing you should be thinking about when creating your site?

Answer: Your end user.

In 2013, I came across this article about the ‘prestigious’ Design of the Year award, usually going towards physical objects like the Olympic Torch and the Folding Plug, but in 2013, it was awarded to, of all things, the team behind gov.uk. And most people at the time said the site they built was ugly.

Yes, it looks more like an expired domain page than an integrated central location for government services. (Wired)

But what it did was probably one of the most amazing web design or communication projects in government. Why? Instead of focusing the site on what the government department was doing, it focused on the what the end user was looking for.

Instead of putting on a page where it lists all of UK’s bank holidays, they decided to have a page where front and center was the next bank holiday. The reason was they looked at the data they got from Google, and they found that people where searching for when the next bank holiday is.

Instead of providing all of the information on different visas you may need to enter into the UK, they instead have a questionnaire which tells you which visa you need.

In the video above, they explain how they got to these conclusions and how they see things going on in the future. You don’t need to apply everything in their example; it is a government website, but it is helpful none the less.

So whats the main thing you should think about when creating your site? Your end user. What’s in will always change, but what your end user is looking for rarely changes. If you cater to them, your site will be better off, and more well designed.

“Good Design is not about decorating. It’s about ordering and clarifying and expressing the life of a thing…Although design is creative work, you’re not inventing something, you’re not making something up. You’re making visible what’s already there.” John McWade

I’m writing on Gospel Driven Websites at the moment. You can Read Part 1 and Part 2. Part 3 is going to take some time so I hope to have more of these little posts available, so you can follow me on Twitter or Medium to find out when they come out!