There are well over a billion websites in existence, although it is thought that a majority of those are not actively maintained. For those that are, and more particularly for new launches, they way they look has been changing.
It seems that the preference these days is for a much more arty, image based, uncluttered interface. This means less text, larger fonts, lots of white space, perhaps an auto-playing video, and big photos of happy smiling people who have nothing to do with anything often pointlessly taking up most of the introductory page. Older websites tended to pack in a lot more information, links and data with images that, if they appeared at all, were much smaller so that anything that the reader was looking for could be immediately accessed from that first view. Now, endless scrolling is required.
This is in part because, for most companies, there are now few limits to creativity if they wish to make online ‘statements’ or are new start-ups promoting their out-of-the-box thinking, and their desire for flair often takes precedence over an understanding of what the poor visitor to their site is actually trying to do.
The first thing that many website designers forget is that not everyone has superfast broadband, and even if they do, we all know they don’t always get the advertised speeds. Many of us also don’t buy a new PC or laptop every year so may not have a machine that will run an auto-play video as though you have just switched on your TV. I have found some websites, and the national newspaper sites are good examples, that are virtually unusable because the one little bit of news you want to read is lost amongst the loading adverts, pop-ups and preview videos that then take minutes to load, constantly refresh the screen, and generally drive you mad until you just give up and head back to Google to look for the news in a more simple format somewhere else. Particularly frustrating is where you have scrolled down, finally found the paragraph you are interested in, and have just read the first line when an advert at the top of the page suddenly loads and re-sizes the page so you are now viewing something else.
The second thing software designers forget is that not everyone has a huge desktop monitor like they do. Some of us are using a netbook or small laptop, which cuts off half the opening page. You get the useless photos to look at but no buttons to click unless you scroll down every time. Yet there is white space everywhere – why not use it? It screams inefficiency, as though the developers had decided not to put any thought into making good use of the space available, instead designating the customer to do the work required to navigate downwards and try to find what they are looking for through discontented scrolling and clicking.
So website designers, a plea: more information, less artwork please! Thank you.