Over the past few years a popular trend in website development is the minimalist, “flat” design, which gained a greater presence not because they were more stylish, but largely in response to the need for websites that looked good on mobile, and which would download quickly. The problem with this minimalist design – other than the lack of creativity and meaningful content – is that it does not lead to actual sales conversions.
Webmasters face a fundamental dilemma. The marketing department, in response to consumer demand for more information and more features, wants a richer website with more content, more features and functions, and more images. This often involves building in an increasing quantity of third-party calls, requests and adds, and resource-intensive things like live chat, animation, and video, and social media feeds, all delivered through the cloud to the web server in separate transactions, and ultimately slowing download time. The fact of today’s website is that it is no longer a self-contained unit of information – to be complete and to serve the visitor and potential buyer, it needs to be a focus of hundreds of different calls coming in from different sources from the cloud.
The marketing department knows that consumers want these features – but the webmaster also knows that they will deliver a slower website (especially on mobile), which means a greater rate of abandonment and fewer conversions.
While website design of the past few years has been the virtual equivalent of cheap Swedish furniture, website design in 2017 will be the muscle car of the Internet – big and fast. According to a consumer research study from Salsify, the number one positive driver of traffic is detailed product content, and without it, two thirds of visitors will abandon the site. But while demand for rich content is evident, visitors will also abandon a site after three seconds if download is not complete.
To make the content dilemma even more complicated, Google announced a transition to mobile-first indexing, using mobile indexes and mobile page content as the primary source of data for search rankings. The mobile-first indexing, together with the fact that more consumers are shopping from mobile devices, puts even more pressure on webmasters to solve the dilemma of fast download/big content.
Responsive Web Design (RWD) has gained some traction in solving the problem of putting the same rich content on both the desktop and mobile versions of a website, eliminating the need to create two separate but unequal versions. However, RWD has its limitations, and the technical reality of it is that it translates into slower mobile load times unless the “minimalist” design approach is used – which then yields conversion problems of its own due to lack of meaningful content and features.
Webmasters and designers need to go a step beyond RWD and take into account the realities of 2017’s website users:
- Acknowledge the consumer’s need for rich information, content, imagery, and features. Don’t be afraid to create a rich, detailed website.
- Use tools like RWD to create a mobile experience that is just as feature-rich as the desktop version of the site.
- Use content delivery networks like Akamai to speed up delivery of the website and all of its external components.
- Use content orchestration tools like Yottaa which prioritize items on the website so that the most important elements are downloaded for priority viewing.