The past decade has seen the internet grow up, moving from being primarily a functional business tool and toy of geeks worldwide into its current incarnation as the medium that saturates the existence of virtually every person in every developed country worldwide.
As the internet has grown, so have its designers. Gone are the atrociously tacky pages and garage-engineered look of much of the internet. As the web design industry has ridden the coattails of the world’s most popular medium, designers have become professionals, and website design firms are no longer two misfits in a studio apartment-now they’re major corporations.
Jakob Nielsen has spent the past decade studying the “usability” of the web, and he’s reached an interesting conclusion in light of the industry-wide changes seen by the digital world. According to him, the principles that marked a quality website ten years ago are still applicable today-and so are the most common mistakes made by designers.
According to Nielsen, the two primary factors affecting the quality of a website are as follows:
1. Is it easy to use for the average internet user?
2. Was each page designed in line with an eye to the overall structure of the site (which is really another way of asking if the site was planned ahead of time, or patched together piecemeal)?
If the things that make websites good haven’t changed in a decade, it shouldn’t shock you to learn that neither have the things that make a website bad. Nielsen identifies sites that force users through flashy, complex, completely unnecessary animations and videos-perks obviously intended more to put the designer’s talents on display than to convey necessary information-as a archetype of poor design for the last ten years.
Perhaps the most intriguing statistic offered by Nielsen is this: over the past ten years, the average number of words entered for each search on the most popular search engines has nearly doubled, from 1.3 to 2.2 words per search. This means that consumers are becoming more internet-savvy, dealing with the overload of available information by adding additional search terms that refine their results. No one searches for “basketball video” anymore; they search for “Kobe Bryant dunk clips.”
It will be interesting to see if this trend continues for the next decade, and how companies and their designers will refine marketing strategies to remain in that all-important Google Top 10 for their keywords.