For some time now, I have discussed my belief that web design trends go in cycles, much like the fashion world. The currently en vogue styles includes features such as full-width layouts, using a responsive design and parallax scrolling.
Many of these trends have been brought about due to best practices in web design. For instance, responsive sites are popular because they provide a user-friendly design for both desktop and mobile environments, without the need for two separate designs.
But are we following these trends at a cost to our own distinctiveness?
The Problem With Trends
If we all follow the latest trend, we all look the same, sound the same, taste the same, feel the same and smell the same.
“In a world full of daisies, dare to be a rose.”
― Matshona Dhliway
This really hit home with me this week when a client of mine wanted to update his website. It had been several years since our initial design and his site was looking a little dated. Let’s face it, website design technologies change quickly and often.
In order to give me an idea of what he wanted, he also sent me some links to other sites from his competitors. This is when it clicked.
All of these sites looked the same! No, they did not have the exact same content, but they may as well have. You could have taken content from one and put it in another and no one would notice. The layouts were all the same, cluttered design with way too much information.
When I thought back on the sites after looking at them, I came to the conclusion that I did not remember any of them in a stand out way.
How to Stand Out In an Online Crowd
There are lots of ways to stand out in the online crowd, but the first step is to study your competitors. If you create a site that you feel is different and unique only to find out it looks just like your competitors, then you have failed to be different. See what they are doing and decide what you can build upon to create a website that will stand out from your particular crowd.
“You have to learn the rules of the game.
And then, you have to play better than anyone else.”
– Albert Einstein
Use a Different Layout
If all of your competitors are using a one column design with the logo and navigation menu centered at the top of the page (this is very common these days), then a simple layout change can have a huge visual impact.
Having a side navigation in a separate frame was the way to go in the past, but it fell out of fashion when it was found that having frames in a page was detrimental to Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short.
However, with the use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for layout, there are now sites that use this format to their advantage without losing any SEO points. I’m not saying this is what you need to do, but rather think of ways to make your site visually different.
Use a Different Font
In the early days of the Internet most websites would only use a couple of fonts because the computer that the web page was being viewed from had to have the font installed in order to display it in the browser window. There were only two fonts that came installed on both PC and Mac computers.
These two fonts were Arial and Times New Roman. Therefore building a site with something other than one of these fonts could cause the site to look really bad on certain machines.
Today, with the help of Google Fonts and a little bit of code, you can add an abundance of fonts and styles to your page. You still need to be sure that the font(s) you choose is legible and works with your site and brand, but the sky is the limit.
Using Moving Elements
A little bit of movement in a page is great. It gives the user something visually interesting to look at and encourages them to stay on your site. This is one reason a lot of sites use the parallax effect. The problem is that parallax was interesting when it started out, but is quickly becoming overdone.
Other methods to add a little motion in a web page include using video, animated icons, status bars and scrolling text in a testimonial. Video is one of the better ways to achieve visually compelling content. Plus, it is very well received, if done well.
Again, you can go too far with this. Too much of anything can just be a distraction.
Use Eye-catching Images, Graphics, and Colors
This might seem obvious, but using the right colors along with quality images and graphics may be the thing that makes your site distinctive. This is especially true if your competitors are using poor graphics. Sometimes, it is the simple things that make a difference.
Use White Space
Adding some white space in your design will help give your site a light and airy feel. Many of the sites I see today are cluttered with information. While having good content on your site is essential, it may be possible to overwhelm your visitor with too much info at once.
A little bit of room around your page elements will make your page easier to read and help the viewer not feel inundated with information.
While there is no set formula for making your site stand out from your competitors, these ideas can help. No two sites or business categories are the same, so there is no one method that will work for every industry. With a little research and some creativity you should be able to implement a website design that will separate you from the noise in your field.
If we can help you with website design in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact us.