Facebook and The New York Times recently announced updates that will simplify their now cluttered and complicated websites. And they’re taking a page out of the mobile book to do it.
A couple weeks ago (eons in tech-time), Facebook announced the company reinvented its news feed to remove the “clutter” (Zuckerberg). You can find a good synopsis of the changes over on Mashable (including a few snapshots of the redesign). Not long after, the The New York Times released its website prototype; a similar transformation.
Gone are the large-format, small-print, printed newspapers; and clunky, flashing, complicated websites. In its place: clean, uncomplicated, intuitive web-layouts.
An obvious perk to these designs is its responsiveness. They convert well between web and mobile (see responsive design via Great Jakes); a perk to the company. But these sites really have the user in mind. Instead of providing a sensory overload, it neatly packages information in a way that makes it easy to read and navigate.
Face it. With the short attention-span of your average reader, you’ve got just a few seconds to persuade them to stay. So instead of throwing everything you’ve got into single webpage, simplify. Make it easy for the reader.
And law firms should take note of the things that make these designs successful.
Instead of cramming a multitude of elements and links on a website, narrow them down and put it a logical hierarchy. Give the user the minimal amount of information to get where they’d want to go. This doesn’t mean you have to cut out portions of your website. You can throw whatever you’ve got at ‘em – but you need to give them a choice to opt-in. Let them come to you (if social media had a motto…).
A great law firm example: Bennett Jones. They’ve narrowed it down to just three main navigation options! And yet, you can still get to every important section of the website in a short amount of time. (Nice work, Bennett Jones.)
Is that white space?
Look at it! Nothing is flashing in my eyes.
There are quite a few people out there who spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen; some of us even do it for employment. The point is, we’re over stimulated, and all that white space might be a welcoming site.
Short, to-the-point headlines with images
Headlines. Well, headlines aren’t part of the design – but I have to admit, I like it when the headline actually tells you what you’re getting in the content. And it’s something law firms can control. Make it short and uncomplicated.
Font. We don’t need to argue font choices (ban comic sans!). It’s a no-brainer that fonts should be easy to read, but be careful with purchasing font packages. Font types aren’t always readable across browsers and operating systems. (Or at least select a good default font.)
Images. They really are the highlight of the technology era. And yes, they can “speak 1,000 words” without actually saying anything – capturing a user’s attention much quicker than a short headline. Make them a focal point. (And yes, substitute videos for images.)
Many websites have used the navbar as a social sharing tool, but NYT & Facebook use it as site navigation. Much like Facebook mobile’s app, the navbar on the web includes a link to the site’s entire navigation (typically as an expandable sidebar). And a top navbar gives you the bare essentials, like search, home, and news feed updates. It’s a tool that stays with the user no matter where they go.
What else do you notice about these new website designs? Do you think this is a good trend?
(And here, we thought the mobile design was limiting!)