Your website is the main tool for generating purchases and leads of products and services. If your website is not functioning properly, looks outdated, or is hard to read, you will lose a key market of purchasers. How did we get here? Read the history of websites, where we are going, and what you need to do below.
History of Websites
The first webpage was published to the World Wide Web (WW3) on August 6, 1991, by Tim Burners-Lee and provided step-by-step instructions on how to create webpages. From that first page, websites – and the online user experience (UX) – grew exponentially over the next 30 years, and as the web flourished, so did the user experience, eventually incorporating advanced design, copy, and functionality.
Web Design History Timeline. (from https://www.webdesignmuseum.org/web-design-history )
Search engines, like Archie and Google, were soon created to help users find the information they wanted. Here is a quick, 30-second summary of three decades of history for marketers and business owners:
- 1990 – The first browser and search engine are created and published to the WW3 with basic page functions, minimal design, and a focus on function over form.
- 1995 – Setting the bar for web design and UX/CX – Jeffery Zeldman and Alec Pollak developed the Batman Forever movie website to connect with fans across the world. This is considered the first instance of using the web for marketing purposes.
- 1998 – Web design communities and programs start sprouting up, and sites start to become more visually engaging, in contrast to the then standard grey or white background with black, blue, or purple text (at WJ, we don’t miss the purple text).
- 2001 – Audi builds a new customer experience (CX) by creating a partially responsive website where content is modified based on the size of the web browser window.
- 2005 – Google Analytics launches and is still the most popular tool for capturing user behaviours and traffic.
- 2009 – Facebook introduces the “Like” button – paving the way for other sites to introduce real-time interactions with their users and layered widget functionalities.
We have come a long way from the first websites that prioritized function over form. The WW3 is now an oversaturated space, with millions of pages competing for attention. As websites rapidly evolve to stay relevant in the digital space, marketing must do the same.
Future of Websites
Since the World Wide Web project (is a wide-area hypermedia information retrieval initiative aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents – ergo the project that initiated the internet) web design, user experience, SEO, and digital marketing have taken off. Building a site is no longer about simply delivering information to users. Adding design elements and focusing on user experience can mean the difference between a sale for you and one for a competitor.
Today, UX is at the forefront of every marketer’s mind. How do we create an emotional connection with our target markets that leads to brand retention and lead generation? In the world of website evolution, there are three key aspects: design, copy, and functionality. These three evolutionary elements work together to create an enjoyable user experience that efficiently solves problems. Let’s explore upcoming trends and different components you must keep in mind while maintaining (or upgrading) your website.
With the increase of website and online advertising, Canada’s Accessibility Act was created, affecting websites again. On top of creating a seamless UX experience in which information is easy to find, it must also be findable by all people – including people with disabilities. This, in turn, has created conversation around neumorphism.
Neumorphism is the latest buzzword – moving away from flat representations of icons, buttons, and functions and toward “something mid-way to realism” with selective shadows (embossing effects) and flat colours. While this trend is ultimately satisfying to look at and pleasing to use, it may affect your site’s accessibility as it reduces contrast overall.
Neumorphism in user interfaces. (from https://uxdesign.cc/neumorphism-in-user-interfaces-b47cef3bf3a6)
Remember, to work with all people, website designs must be more than pretty. They must be functional to create an emotional human connection that influences outcomes.
Language is powerful. The words we use to communicate ideas and inspire action are important when pushing a user through the online purchasing funnel. Furthermore, the words used in your website copy will determine its ranking in search engine results. This is why thinking of SEO in paragraphs and titles is important. Write menu titles that are more direct, and that are not so abstractly creative that users leave your site out of frustration. Your words can change a user’s mind in mere milliseconds, whether to stay or to go – and you want them to stay. Furthermore, too much copy can interrupt the function of the website. It must work with the design and function to create a smooth experience for customers from beginning to end.
Do you dislike when you ask your kids to wash the dishes, and they just run it under some water so they can return to playing? Technically, they did the job, but the result led you to have a poor overall experience. So do your website users. When we think of website functionality, it needs to do what we ask our users to action. If you say, “Buy this Service, Click Here”, the website will need to have a button that leads them to a shop where they can purchase the service. This means that as websites evolved, functionalities like animated buttons, chat bots, online shops, and scrolling were invented to keep up.
For example, scrolling animations are a great way to keep your users from “bouncing’ too soon. It increases interaction and creates a sort of visual feedback loop for users to engage with. Whether your site’s scroll function is as simple as moving text/image elements or as complex as making a scroll feel like a whole new page, it’s an easy element to adopt, paired with huge engagement benefits. Although these trending website applications feel exciting, strategic decisions need to factor in design and copy before implementing something just because it ‘looks cool’. This means ongoing website audits, maintenance and strategy is vital for every business to thrive.
WJ is Here to Help
Everyone (even the dog) has a website. The COVID-19 pandemic showed businesses and marketers the importance of having an online presence to keep the lights on. Outranking competing websites in an ever-changing search engine algorithm requires ongoing maintenance and deliberate assessments. Ensuring a positive user experience in the chaotic digital environment can feel daunting. As marketing jargon floats around in conversations, and opinions are offered about your site – you wonder, “What is right?” WJ is an extension of your team, able to amplify your organizational objectives with industry leaders helping you every step of the way.