What is a “Modern” Website?

We are often asked to create a “modern” or “state-of-the-art” website, but what does that really mean? We put together our thoughts on the subject and came up with a number of characteristics that we feel define today’s websites.

First and foremost, modern websites are responsive. Because over half of Internet traffic worldwide is now on smart phones, rather than desktop computers, websites must be built to be readable on these much smaller screens. Gone are the days when you had to pinch the screen on your phone to expand the text so you could read it. Today’s websites adapt to whatever screen they are viewed on so they are easily read and navigated on any device.

Most newer websites are designed to fill the full screen width. Newer sites are rarely set inside a box with a white or colored (or patterned) field surrounding them. This tends to create a more immersive experience for the viewer.

More and more websites utilize motion. Simply put, people love videos. Bandwith has gotten so much greater in recent years that loading time is no longer a major problem on most computers and phones. Of course, a very slow loading site is not good, so huge videos are not recommended, but certainly a video up to 50 Meg or so is fine. And it isn’t just videos, it is motion of any kind that people look for nowadays. Motion graphics, small animations, tastefully used (and not over-used) are increasingly popular.

Next is interactivity. Websites are far more effective if they can capture and retain viewers. One way to do this is to involve them in an active website experience. So, clicking and downloading an article, turning pages to read a story, playing a game, getting a free product sample, or completing a form are just a few of the techniques modern sites are using to engage visitors.

Good design never goes out of style, though tastes do change. You always want harmony, balance, attractive use of color and fonts, all presented in a consistent manner from page to page on a website. And these features will always be needed, but it is safe to say today’s design has its own unique features (sort of like fashion in clothing). Less is more, especially on the home page. It seems to us that use of white space, rendering a pagemuch less dense visually, with less text in general, is increasingly common. And smaller fonts are more favored of late as well. Speaking of fonts, modern websites can use Google fonts which allow for much more variety than we saw in the past.

Another design shift has been toward the use of a single impactful image on the home page. Rather than many distracting and competing visual elements, one image creates a strong central experience that encourages the visitor to enter and learn more.  It is about creating a single mood with less confusion.

Placing all your important elements above the fold is a long-established principle, but things are changing. Today, almost everyone is accustomed to long scrolls thanks to mobile devices. The technique works especially well for sites that want to lure users through storytelling, and you can still mimic a multi-page site by breaking the scroll into clear sections. But remember while scrolling down is fine, scrolling across is never desirable.

That covers our brief summary of the current state of “modern” websites. I’m happy to discuss any of this in more detail if you are interested. Feel free to call or write me.