The Rise of User Centered Web Design
February 8, 2016
Each year when I take my winter break to recharge after the end-of-year rush, I like to wonder about what’s coming up for web design in the next six months to a year. Design and technology are naturally fluid and in a state of constant change and from what I can see, user centered system design in web development is now on the radar.
Looking ahead in bite-sized chunks is a good way for me to narrow my focus on a more reasonable period of time. Running Parachute Design, a Toronto web design company, is a non-stop, petal-to-the-metal lifestyle that I love, but it’s only when I’m able to step away from the daily grind and unwind that I’m better equipped to look back at the work we’ve done over the last year.
Often, I’m able to see the subtle evolution in our web design style and realize how we’ve sometimes changed our approach to different website projects. External forces demand these changes, whether it is the client, unique project requirements, or changes in web development technology. Being able to realize how these forces sculpt our web design business is critical in my opinion, and offers some insight into what may come in the future.
Web Usability and a User Centered Design Approach
One of the key changes I see, and a rising trend in our web design and development work over the last year, is the increased focus on web design for the user rather than traditional marketing strategies. I see this evolution in our interface design for responsive websites as well as mobile applications alike. The way we promote this new way of thinking is through simplified interfaces and web design elements that not only help make websites more responsive, but also put more attention back on the content. I love this. It’s simple and pure and when done well, even elegant.
I believe we’ve finally done away with the act of dressing up poor content with excessive graphics. With user centered design websites, not only are we producing better web design, but also we’re offering the user better content. The idea of content and design working together in harmony is one of the fundamentals of good web design that we often lose sight of in my opinion, and I believe the web is just approaching a new plateau as more and more web designers make this realization.
How Do We Define User Centered Web Design?
Traditionally, when a website designer tackles a project, they tend to focus on aspects like the client’s business goals or using the latest web development technology that will impress and engage users more so than a competitor’s website.
User centered web design however, throws all this in the back seat for a minute and puts the initial focus on creating a web design that is centered on how a person will interact with it. Whether that be a website interface or mobile application, the approach is the same. The focus starts with the human interaction and addresses things like behavioural trends, and user attitudes and expectations rather than creating something that may look great, but ultimately asks the user to change their interactions or feelings to suit the design.
Not only is user centered design and web development improving the on-site experience for customers, it is also becoming a critical ranking factor in SEO following Google’s 2015 release of their Search Quality Rating Guidelines.
According to Google, having good web content that is easily available to the user through great website design and content writing, is more important than ever. If Google has gone so far as to publish this information, you can bet that website designers and developers will pick up on this update and adapt their approach to focus more on the user as 2016 unfolds.