How to design a classic business website that will outlast trends
Websites are like fashion. There are seasonal trends that last six months, and then there are the classics. How can you make sure that your business site is more "little black dress" and less "mesh t-shirt"?
Create a Path
One of the biggest tricks to creating web design that outlives trends is to avoid flashiness for its own sake, and instead focus on effective navigation.
Think of your user's path through your site. Make it easy to follow and include elements that will drive them toward their goals. This means showing users where they've been, using perennial elements such as 'breadcrumb' menus to help users navigate sites with lots of content, and where they're going. For the latter, move your user along the path by including a button or link to the next step you'd like them to take.
Keep it Clean
There's a reason that Google and Apple's designs don't need to change very much. Their emphasis on white space makes them look timeless and reduces the chance of a design element ageing the site prematurely. Where they do use graphic elements, they use them sparingly, and boldly.
Enhance users' navigation experience by keeping your site simple and uncluttered. Treat design elements like fashion accessories: Use them judiciously so they don't compete with each other. Simpler designs also decrease load time, improving the customer experience. This in turn increases your chances of showing up in search results; Google incorporates site speed among hundreds of parameters that it uses to rank websites in search results. Sites that take a long time to load will be ranked lower.
Don't Forget Mobile
Speaking of search, one other element Google considers is how you treat the mobile user experience. The company recently announced that the number of queries it receives from mobile devices surpassed those from PCs in 2015 — which means designing for a range of devices is critical. Future-proof your website design by creating it with smartphone and small-format tablet users in mind.
Forcing users to re-size the browsers on their device in order to view your site is a big no-no. Instead, consider using a responsive web design, which adapts automatically and on the fly depending on the type of device being used. Mobile users will see a more streamlined version of your site, while desktop viewers will get the full, rich experience.
The takeaway: Get lost in the bells and whistles of web design and you'll find yourself constantly tinkering with your design to keep it from going stale. Instead, think classic charcoal suit — a less-is-more look that will retain its appeal for years to come.