So I've been looking at a hell of a lot of design agency websites lately. From San Francisco to Malta to Norway, looking through so many sites, you tend to notice some things. Of course, I'm skimming the surface on topics that require further depth. But from my own observations, here's what I've found:
- I'm beginning to understand the horrible, excruciating pain of the User Experience Designer.
It seems to me that having to hit the "Back" button is a sin. In the best web designs that I've come across, there's an obvious flow to to make the user comfortable and maintain an intuitive sense of where things are, at all times. Informed choices by the UX Designer are executed in the smallest of details, such as whether a link opens in a new window or not. I particularly notice the attention to tiny details when it comes to navigating through lists. For example, for a job search, I may search for "graphic designer" in a specific site's Search button. A list of my results will pop up. I'll go through, click on a description to bring me to a new page that describes the job role more in depth. However, when I want to go back to that search-generated list? It has completely disappeared. Now I have to conduct my search all over again, specifying "graphic designer", specifying which locations, etc. The other option is for me, the user to right click all of the linked job description into new tabs or windows. Well, that's pretty annoying. I don't know if there's a term for this sort of thing, but for lack of better terms, I find that the best sites hold a "memory" of what my last page was. These are the same sites that never seem to rely on the user ever having to click the "Back" button. For me, to click on the back button within a website means that the user has gotten lost. And that's something you just don't want. I can't imagine how upsetting it is for a UX Designer to witness.
- Website navigation is now compact, and compartmentalized.
When I was first learning about web design in school, we were taught to format your navigation at the top of the page, spelled out so that users can find your pages easily. Nope, not any more. I noticed a great number of design agency websites now utilizing the "3 Bar Navigation Icon" that now opens up a drop-down menu of "About Us" or "Our Work" or "Contact". I like this method for a few reasons: One, we are actually trusting that the user is smart enough to figure it out on his/her own without literally spelling it out. Second, the work or portfolio is now even more front and center, since the Navigation Icon sits small, tucked off to the side.
- There were trends and I didn't even know there were trends.
Just through the repetition of looking at portfolio site after portfolio site, I kept noticing similarities in certain styles. This is just what I noticed in the U.S.A. Here's a few:
The diagonal phrase banner, wrapping around itself.
Then there was the "Geometrification" of common objects. Now an elephant is not just an illustration of an elephant, but a geometric/Picasso-esue elephant with sharp angles and abstract forms.
Big push towards hand-lettering, which I'm a big fan of. However, even more so, I picked up on the chalk typography for restaurant menus.
- Google is taking over the world. Like, seriously.
Oh, Google. You are so much larger than I even know. My lesson learned here resulted from an issue I was having with my Snippet segment of my website. When using the web to search my site, I noticed that my website description was not the one I inputted, but rather, a segment from one of the specific projects on my site. I contacted Squarespace who clarified that I was inputting all my data correctly, but it had something to do with Google's WebMaster Tools. Huh? I don't even want to talk about it; it was that much of a traumatic experience. But to sum it up, I ended up looking into definitions of things I didn't even know existed, words like "crawling" or "fetching robots". My lesson learned here is just to say that while something may be laid out correctly within a site's structure, you still have to do the work to make sure that your site is communicating with Google in the most optimal way. And you'll need a professional to help you with this, because it was beyond me. So, bottom line? Ask for help. There are things not within your scope.