By Jeremy Porter
As we rush pell-mell into the raging rivers of mobile, it seems like discussions of plain old web design get increasingly overlooked in favor of that hot new app or cutting-edge technology. But the best websites are still connecting points for campaigns’ myriad platform experiences and, in terms of web design innovation, “it’s been a while since we’ve seen this much change in so little time,” wrote Jeremy Porter, unified communications director at Definition 6, in a recent piece wrapping up 2012. After attending Mashable's Media Summit in November, Porter was inspired to jot down four guideposts for web designers, concocting a handy primer for engaging experiences across the board, be they website-related or no, and a nice jump start for those looking to hit the new year running.
1. Reactive > Responsive
The post-PC era is here. It no longer makes sense to design web experiences around the desktop as the primary device. Device proliferation requires a new solution, one that optimizes the experience for every reader. The most buzzed-about approach to designing for this new era is responsive web design, where the experience adjusts to the device and browser used by the visitor. But responsive web design only scratches the surface of addressing the problems of device proliferation. Expect a new term, reactive web design, to creep into the lexicon in 2013. Reactive web design as a label expands upon responsive approaches and strives to adapt the digital experience to predicted needs of the user. For example, using IP lookup, geolocation, or some other known visitor data, the web experience (and content) can be tailored to render a more contextual online experience. These will be exciting times for content marketers.
2. Social > Search
There’s been a lot of talk about social being the new search. I don’t like this, because social is not search, but I get the point. Old-school SEO tactics aren’t what they once were before Google upgraded to Panda, a version of its search results ranking algorithm that suppresses the ranking of low-quality sites. Content that is shared aggressively will drive more consumption than content that is simply linked to a lot. Shares impact SEO – in many cases, impacting search rankings more than links. When planning your content strategy, search should follow social in order of importance. Writing a great, sharable headline that gets readers to read is more important than getting high authority links to that same piece of content. If it’s shared at a high frequency, search engines will reward you and the traffic will come.
3. Visuals = Traffic
Mashable reports that it generates eight times more traffic on a post with a video than plain text. Brands should use images and video liberally on their content sites, and those images and videos should be easily shareable. In many cases, the images and video themselves serve as micro-content that users will share independent of the content on the site. This is particularly evident across the newer image-centric social channels such as Instagram and Pinterest. If you have high-quality images and video in your content, people will share your content across these channels. Remember, 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual. Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster, and posts that leverage video generate three times more inbound links than plain text.
4. Ads = Content
If you have ads on your sites, you need to remember that they are content too. There was a lot of talk about native and responsive advertising at the Mashable Media Summit. Stated plainly, responsive advertising is the application of responsive web design to the ad units. Your ads should look great across any experience. You don’t have to be a responsive web design expert to capitalize on responsive advertising. Expect ad-serving platforms to support your responsive advertising needs in 2013. Slightly different from responsive advertising is native advertising, where advertising is built into the content experience itself. Facebook’s sponsored stories or Twitter’s sponsored tweets are an example of this evolving ad unit.
As we move into 2013, expect to see more site experiences built around content, context and conversations.