The web has evolved, and establishing a brand online has changed with it. Design trends and web development techniques are in the midst of a profound renaissance. And this period of change and progress is directly related to the world's smartphone and tablet obsession.
With an expanding variety of device types and mobile operating systems (OS), web teams are being forced to adapt content, visual aesthetics, and user interface features. Not to mention the millions of apps on the market consuming hours of people's time every day.
Brands hoping to reach customers must provide high-end web experiences. Not only does a website have to communicate a brand's mission, culture, and attitude in a consistent fashion, but the technical aspects incorporated into a site serve to further exemplify a brand's commitment to excellence.
Ideally, a website should serve as a central customer hub. But without strategic approaches and use of present day web development trends, a website will not accomplish its goal of engaging with customers and increasing revenue.
A new smartphone or tablet is seemingly released every 48 hours. And the differing devices come with varying OS types, screen sizes, and device-specific features to make use of. As a result the process of building a website needs to begin before any code is conceptualized.
The best way to optimize the success of a web development project is to diligently assess how potential and existing customers browse the internet. Are the majority of visitors to an existing site Android or Apple users? What is the breakdown of tablet, smartphone, and PC traffic?
Establishing a detailed understanding of the audience's existing interaction with a brand's website allows for a clear roadmap to optimize widespread access to the site. For e-commerce websites especially, deciding upon the right devices to optimize for can be the difference between a profitable month or a loss.
If customers cannot access a brand's website from the device they're using (or if the experience is subpar), the sale is lost before an interaction can even begin.
In the past, developers and programmers would remain behind the scenes, while designers focused on user interface (UI) issues and aesthetics after the fact. For today's customers, strategically built websites must excel at delivery for both front-end users and back-end processes.
When developers design UI, they're thinking from a quantitative code-based mindset. If the information is on the screen, no matter how cluttered, it's usually fine for a developer who spends hours reading lines of code or analyzing hundreds of rows and columns in spreadsheets.
But for a salesmen who has a specified workflow and business environment that is a completely different world from that of an engineer, the UI can make the software unusable. Designing for a specific end-user is even more important for websites used for conducting business.
If a site does not deliver adequate experience that meet a target demographic's expectations, the ability for it to increase conversions and transactions is reduced. For brands to appeal to customers who spend over 60 hours per week on digital devices, their digital experiences must stand out.
Especially when it comes to UI features and rapid load times, websites must offer something as immersive as the mobile apps that capture the attention of users. In order to build engagement through a website, attention to the front-end user and well executed back-end work is crucial.
No longer can the two teams work in their personal silos with minimal collaboration.
Following the collaboration between design and development teams, the incorporation of immersive high-end content is crucial for today's websites. Mobile device users, for instance, spend more time with well designed mobile content in apps than they do in a browser. This is a definite sign that the fluid nature and usability of apps is outpacing that of websites.
With HTML5 and other trends in web development, brands can create immersive content experiences that draw in an audience. Parallax scrolling, canvas enabled backgrounds, and powerful cloud-hosted applications are staples of next-generation websites.
Incorporating an infinite scroll microsite dedicated to a case study, or a page detailing a mission or profiling executives, can help brands strongly engage with customers. This reflects the appetite of many users in regards to well-crafted digital experiences. Designers and developers must consider the intended content experiences on a site during the development phases of a website, to achieve the seamless usability found in mobile apps.
By knowing what content will be incorporated, developers and designers can build a site around a clearly defined web content strategy. Defining a roadmap for content on the website will lead to a more cohesive web experience overall.
Building a website in today's tech savvy world hasn't gotten any easier. But by following the aforementioned strategies, a brand can develop a site that pries a customer's attention away from mobile apps. Despite widespread consensus that we officially live in a post-PC era, a website still holds value for businesses aiming to connect with new customers and maintain the loyalty of existing ones.
To drive brand engagement from a website in a world consumed by apps, brands must adapt their approaches to web development for a more discerning customer.
Prasant Varghese is a technical analyst at Icreon Tech.
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