12 trends in websites

websitesIs your website on trend, or even ahead of the curve? Find out by reading my list of 12 current trends in websites.

1. Content management system (CMS)

A CMS website is one that you can login and update yourself. Most CMS sites include a blog because Google likes fresh content – and so do human beings.

The most common CMS system is WordPress. Almost 20% of the world’s websites are now built using it (mine is). There are two flavours of WordPress – confusingly, both have the same name. Both are free.

WordPress.com is the simplest option. Hosted by WordPress, there are a limited number of themes (templates) you can choose. You can usually customise your theme slightly, but you can’t get at the code to edit it and make your site look exactly how you want. Dot com is great for starter sites.

WordPress.org is the all-singing, all-dancing option. There are an almost infinite number of themes to choose from, as well as masses of plug-ins to add functionality – some are free, some are paid. You download the software, provide your own hosting, and do your own backups and updates (one downside of being popular is that WordPress is often hacked). Dot org is great for professional sites but does need a bit more techie knowledge.

2. Video

We benchmark our on-screen experience by TV and cinema.

Have you noticed that when you are in a coffee shop or a bar and the TV is on in the corner you can’t help but look at it, even if you are engrossed in conversation with your best friend? That’s because the human eye is attracted to movement. It’s part of the fight or flight response. If a snake moved in the grass we would want to see it.

If you have video on your site, people will watch it. Keep your videos less than one or two minutes long. Ensure you include your branding and call to action at the end and throughout. That’s so you don’t lose the credit when people click away before the end or when they share or embed your video on their own blog or website.

You Tube is owned by Google and is the world’s second largest search engine. You can have your own YouTube channel – it’s free. Ensure you include your keywords and URL in the first two lines of description (so they can be seen without clicking the “show more” link).

3. Interaction

Power has shifted to the people.

The news is being written by the people (a trend called “citizen journalism”). For example, in a disaster area, people can take photos on their smartphone and share them instantly on Twitter before any “official” reporter can write up the story.

Marketing communication is becoming bottom-up not top-down. Customers believe what other people say rather than what you say. They choose products because of reviews, services because of testimonials, and individual experts because of recommendations.

One way to tap into this trend is to change your “Read more” links to “Continue reading”. This is the suggestion of Shelle Rose Charvet, author of Words That Change Minds. Instead of being an instruction by the writer, it passes the power of choice to the reader so should get more clicks.

Another way is to change all your text links to button links. People like clicking buttons to find their own way around your site. (No one will read every page except you.)

4. Engagement

What happens with the big brands soon filters down to smaller businesses.

The big brands don’t use their sites to sell to new customers. They don’t have a site structure comprising: home, about, our products, our services, contact. Increasingly, they use gamification to increase loyalty and retain existing customers.

For example, M&Ms ran a campaign where you entered a unique number from the packet into their website. Once you’d collected enough numbers you could download free cinema tickets.

A delegate on a marketing course I ran thought he had done everything. He ran a security company so we devised a game that showed a factory floor plan. Site visitors had to drag and drop fire and security alarm icons then press “go”. If they had not adequately protected the building, cartoon fires would break out, burglars would break in, and prospects would get the message that perhaps the company knew more about security than they did.

Depending on the age group you are targeting, it is more likely that a game will be shared across social media than any of your selling pages.

5. Responsiveness

More and more people are browsing the web on a mobile device. Your analytics will show what percentage applies to you. If your site is not designed to work on a mobile, you will find those site visitors “bounce away” very quickly.

More and more websites are being designed to be mobile-friendly, with one long page that scrolls down.

(All WordPress sites work okay on mobiles.)

6. Social media

People read web pages in an F pattern. On-screen, the top, left and middle of the page get most attention while the bottom right corner gets least attention. (Unlike print which people read in a Z pattern.)

You can include your social media icons in the top right or bottom right corners of your website. The objective is to get more friends, fans and follows.

You can embed a widget in the right sidebar or footer that shows your updates from Twitter or Facebook. The objective is to show “freshness” for Google and human beings.

You can include sharing buttons on every page. The objective is to make it easy for site visitors to share your links with their own networks, because every inbound link is like a vote for your site that helps it move up the search engine rankings (especially from highly ranked, relevant sites). This suggestion applies even if you don’t have your own social media presence. You can grab the code from addthis.com or sharethis.com. It’s free.

7. Visuals

We’re all busy. Our customers are busy too.

A picture tells 1000 words and the Internet is becoming more visual.

Image-sharing sites such as Pinterest are growing in popularity. Data is being communicated as infographics. Images (and videos) on Facebook get shared more than text.

You can download copyright-free images from Photopin.com. Be sure to tick the “commercial” box each time you search. Images below the dotted line are free to use as long as you copy/paste the code provided to credit the source.

8. Simplicity

Internet psychologist, Graham Jones, points out that the world’s biggest websites only try to do one thing. Google is just for searching. Wikipedia is just for information. Amazon is just for shopping.

Your web content should be niched to achieve just one thing. If you do more than one thing, you need more than one website.

Your web design should be simple, elegant and clear with straightforward navigation.

It’s hard to read on-screen. Our eye muscles get tired more quickly because the light is shining directly into our eyes rather than bouncing over our shoulder and off a paper page.

Your web copy should communicate your core message at a glance. Short and sweet is the answer.

9. Stories

People do business with people.

People are fascinated by human interest stories. Witness the popularity of gossip magazines such as Hello and OK. You can adopt this trend by telling stories on your website.

The more personality you can express through your website, the better. This approach also filters out people who are not on your wavelength and appeals to those who are.

10. Apps

More and more businesses are releasing apps. For example, a restaurant can launch an app that includes reviews, video tour, menus, recipes, and booking feature.

People usually expect business apps to be free.

11. Advertising

Traditional advertising is dying. Shouting the same message to thousands of people doesn’t work so well any more. It’s all about targeting individual messages.

12. Email

Although some of us think it’s a relatively new technology, email is dying. These days, it’s all about instant messaging.

photo credit: ntr23 via photopin cc

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