Designing for user experience has always been important, but it’s especially relevant now that people use different devices with different operating systems for similar applications. They might check a travel planner on their PC with mouse and keyboard, on their tablet or smartphone with a touchscreen, or even on their digital television using the traditional remote control. Fortunately, there are many ways to accomplish this. Here we take a look at the latest web design trends aimed at improving user experience:
1. Responsive Design
“Responsive interfaces” used to stand for fast interfaces that provide feedback to all user actions. Recently, another meaning has been added: interfaces that respond to the devices they are viewed on. This can partly be realized by building a flexible layout, based on percentages of the screen size and not the amount of pixels.
However, high-resolution pictures and a fixed amount of columns still cause problems this way. CSS3 offers a solution: its media queries inspect the characteristics of the screen and load the appropriate layout, making your web design work on any device.
2. Context-Sensitive Interfaces
Many people complain about websites collecting personal information for obscure reasons, which has led to the cookie-warning on many websites, but information can also be used to enhance the user experience without privacy infringement.
Knowing the user’s location, previous use, and preferences mean applications can provide context-sensitive interfaces that show exactly what they need, and reduce the amount of input that is required.
This is especially desirable if you have to depend on the small screen of a smartphone, or the numerical buttons of remote control. Instead of filling the screen with input fields and links that will help users find the information they need, you can use all the space to show what they want to know.
3. Different Input Methods
Instead of requiring a simple mouse click or double click, multi-touch touchscreens (as found on most smartphones) enable the more varied input of tapping, pinching, scrolling, spreading, etc, using one or more fingers. Text input, on the other hand, is less comfortable on a touchscreen than on a real keyboard which provides larger keys and tactile feedback.
Available solutions include the character prediction and word prediction familiar from texting, and graphic content that can be manipulated without the use of text, but there are also many types of virtual keyboards with a flexible layout, developed for more efficient typing.
Not all of these may be useful for your application, but offering users a choice in input methods will improve the accessibility considerably.
4. Solve Compatibility Issues
HTML5 has been in lists of web design trends for years now, and since it’s still in development, it’s hard to predict what exactly it’s going to mean for the future of web applications.
One thing is sure, though: the integration of video, audio, and vector graphics reduces the need for plug-ins or add-ons, and therefore the number of compatibility issues. That many phones don’t support Flash is not a point anymore.
5. Reduce Downtime
Cloud hosting spreads both your content and your software over multiple hosts, adding an amazing amount of flexibility regarding web design, updates, and traffic.
Data is stored in many locations, and back-ups are made quickly and easily. Processing power is not limited to only one server, but, as demand rises, the capacities are expanded to multiple machines, enabling your application to handle any level of traffic.
When a server crashes, there is a whole network of computers ready to take over without users ever noticing. The users of your application will never have to risk downtime, data loss and security breach caused by storing all your data on one server.