Let’s admit it. Something digital ‘dies’ every now and then. Every other conference I attend looks like a gathering of fascinated mourners, contemplating the loss of one digital commodity or the other.
Perhaps ‘dying’ is too strong an expression to be used for digital platforms that are transforming at a rapid speed. The digital ecosystem is run on the principle of shared knowledge. By the time one idea or form starts to become obsolete, it has already left the seeds for something better to grow and take over. See this infographic on the ‘evolution of web design’.
In other words, web design is not dead. It is still quite relevant and going through a dramatic transition. Here are some of the indicators and motivations behind this change.
- The shrinking of screens a.k.a mobile takeover
Once upon a time, phones became mobile. Then mobiles became everything. How many times do you use your phone to not make a phone call? And how many times do you find yourself opening an app instead of typing in a URL?
While most websites are still designed for desktops, more and more people are using mobiles to connect to the Internet. According to data collected by Global Web Index, 80% of Internet users own a smartphone.
The little screens designed for thumbs and fingers are made for interaction and offer more engaging experience than point and click. A website designed for desktop cannot beat the immersive environment mobiles can offer. Yet smartphone add-to-cart and conversion rates are still much lower than than for desktop. This is where websites are still relevant and will remain so until something better takes the lead.
- The rise of the Facebook Page
Easy to set up and easier still to manage and share, it could perhaps be all the web presence you need as a small business owner. According to a 2012 HubSpot State of Inbound Marketing Report, 42% of marketers said they find Facebook critical or important for their business. Having said that, your own website still adds credibility and seriousness to the business and though we might argue that Facebook pages will render small websites obsolete at some point, that point hasn’t arrived yet.
- The abundance of templates
Be it Shopify, Wix or WordPress, tens of thousands of ready-made templates are available for customization and adaption. Who wouldn’t want that? Facebook, Twitter and Amazon won’t but if you are the owner of a small or medium sized business, why would you pay hefty amounts to a web designer for a customized website when you can get a pretty good one up and running in no time?
Not only do such websites offer fantastic functionality, many of their designs are responsive, already coded and built on common CMS platforms.
This is not to say that templates are the absolute future of web design. In the world of digital media, there is no absolute future and soon enough all the templates and drag and drop platforms may also lose their charm.
- The advancement of artificial intelligence (AI)
How about a website that builds itself? The Grid, a San Francisco based startup with its propriety artificial intelligence program aims to do just that. It promises that your website will “design itself” by using content and social media elements you use.
Instead of choosing templates, the user will decide the purpose the website would serve. Any content added after that will be used to build the site automatically with the help of complex AI algorithms.
- The triumph of function over form
In a survey conducted by HubSpot in 2011, 76% consumers said that the most important factor for them when visiting a website was that it made finding what they want easier. In other words, consumers use a website for its functionality.
In a frenzy to get the most beautiful website out there we often forget that the website is not for us but for the customers. We should stand in their shoes, test vigorously and scoop out consumer behavior insights. It is all about learning what customers are looking for and diverting our creative energies in that direction. Chances are consumers are not asking for an upgraded website but a better app.
Business is all about creative destruction. Sooner or later something better, faster and smarter will take over something that is not. Innovations like Google Voice and Google Now are geared at saving time and clicks. Have you recently searched for a local business on Google only to find the directions to the closest store, its opening times and a dial button to call them all displayed directly in the search result? How many times would you still click on the website?
Today is all about synchronization and integration. Every now and then I am delighted by Google Now informing me how long it would take me to get to a certain local business or what should be my estimated time of departure if I have to catch that flight I booked days earlier.
We used to search for content, now content finds us. This is where we are this very second and we should embrace change if we want to be there in the next one. This is why web design, as we know it will not exist in the future but this is how it was always meant to be.
Would you invest in a web-designing course? Do you think web sites will ever become obsolete? Share your thoughts and comments here or tweet @jennifered.