Today, it seems like every site features push the envelope in regards to the experience and content they offer. That makes it incredibly difficult to stand out and compete in the current landscape. Full page sliders, animated backgrounds, autoplay videos, ARG and simulated games, people have pretty much seen it all.
How do you stand out in such a competitive space? How can you impress your visitors, even the ones that have seen some pretty amazing things on other sites and channels?
The answer is through the use of bleeding edge, best practices. Like what, you ask? Let’s take a closer look at some ways you can impress your audience.
1. It Must Be Responsive
First things first, a responsive or mobile-friendly design. You absolutely, positively must deliver a mobile ready site capable of displaying content on large and small displays. Mobile traffic surpassed desktop some time ago, which tells you more people browse on-the-go or from portable devices.
If you don’t tailor your site or design to meet the needs of a mobile audience, you’re going to alienate a massive group of potential customers.
2. Interactive Content
People don’t really care about the traditional experience anymore, at least in regards to consuming content and visiting sites for basic information. They want to wow and shock factors. More importantly, they want personalized, interactive experiences that are memorable above all else.
You can see this in the way marketers do their best to come up with new promotional methods. Technologies like augmented and virtual reality, AI and voice assistants, and immersive audio are taking hold.
You can appease your audience by providing interactive and engaging content that bucks the norm. HydroWorx, for example, uses a 360-degree video — which is a relatively new form of content — to deliver an immersive video tour. While watching the video, you can pan the view a full 360-degrees to look at the nearby environment. It’s pretty awesome, but it’s also indicative of the average Hydroworx experience, which is what many customers are looking to see.
3. Social Sharing Support
For the truly great experiences, people want to share with others — it’s only natural. Maybe they loved the content of a video on your site, or maybe they found an infographic fascinating? Whatever the case, you’ll want to provide social sharing support.
This includes things like social sharing buttons, tweetable quotes and information, or even an online social feed. The beauty of it is your content will naturally entice new visitors and audiences through user-driven promotions. They share something, other people see it and fall in love, and the cycle continues.
You could argue that the content in question needs to be shareable or interesting, but we’ll assume you know that already. In fact, it’s more about properly positioning the social buttons and interactive elements. Adding a “Tweet this” button after a powerful quote or statistic, for instance, encourages users to share what they’ve learned.
4. Smart Navigation
Every site has a main nav menu displaying all the various pages and internal links a customer might be interested in viewing. That is incredibly important, yes, and it’s equally as important you make it easy-to-use for your audience.
However, there’s another form of navigation that can be as impactful. We like to call it smart or alternate navigation. These are the options that allow you to instantly return to the top of the page after reaching the bottom, for instance. It may also include navigation links to the next post or article on your site, related products or even recommended items.
If used correctly, smart navigation will increase the browsing and engagement times for your site. Readers and visitors looking for more are politely shown the way, while others have the option to browse and explore a site more openly.
News and publication sites tend to handle this feature best. TheVerge is our example of choice. Click on any article or story, and you’ll immediately see smart navigation links littered all over the page. They have internal links spaced throughout each article. At the bottom is a list of similar and recommended articles, and to round it all off they have in-content sections dedicated to revealing similar on-site information.
5. More Visuals
People really love visual content. It’s why social networks that use imagery are so popular — like Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest — and it’s also why visual content tends to get more engagement. With Facebook alone, you’ll get 37 percent higher engagement ratings when you use visuals in your posts.
If you have a text-laden site, break it up with visuals and images. Some good elements to use are animated GIFs, brief videos or embed social posts. Even infographics are known to garner quite a bit of engagement because they present information and stats in a more visual way.
Plus, the average smartphone or mobile device can now display high-resolution HD content, which means there’s no reason not to keep things attractive. You don’t have to worry about imagery slowing down performance or hindering an experience, for the most part.
Look no further than Amsterdam-based ETQ for inspiration. The offer a visually stimulating experience across their entire site.
6. Ditch the Slider
For years, the homepage slider or carousel gallery has been a popular element of website landing pages. It’s meant to be a way to showcase featured content or products for new visitors. But guess what? Sliders don’t really work.
A developer from Notre Dame University found that people rarely interact with sliders and carousels, making them wholly ineffective in modern design. The debate won’t end here, however. Just a simple web search will turn up a variety of articles and blogs on the topic, some in support for sliders and others against.
What we do know at this point is visitors rarely interact with the slides and images presented. In the study mentioned above, only two percent of the respondents were found to interact with the carousel, and even then they only clicked on the first slide.
Sliders aren’t really conducive to a mobile or portable experience either. They can be responsive and shift in size to meet new dimensions, yes, but try interacting with most sliders on a mobile device; the experience is frustrating.
Ditch the slider or carousel and replace it with something more attractive, like a high-res header or background image.
This Advice Will Help
As long as you follow the tips discussed here, you should find that your traffic is a little better, and engagement ratings steadier because of your new site features. These are both trends you want to see on a website, especially one dedicated to a business or products.