As business needs and technologies evolve, so too do B2B website designs.
In this Websites Decoded episode, Phil looks at key website trends for this year and whether they help or hurt businesses:
• The rise of AI in website design
• The popularity of glossy, flashy designs brimming with rich visuals
• Dark-themed websites
Phil cuts through the hype, analysing real website value. Smart companies will adopt trends that drive business results, not chase temporary fads.
In the year ahead, I think we're going to see a few things appear as trends, not all of which are entirely new, but more frequent or continuing to occur.
AI in website design
So one that I think will come as no surprise is the rise of AI. And I think what's going to happen is actually more and more people are going to try and use AI to do more of their website creation, and in doing so, truly discover the limits and limitations of AI.
From my perspective, at the moment, generative AI is moderate at creating text. If you've got the right combination of the right intentions, the right tools, the right application, and the right way to brief or prompt that AI, then you can do some good quality text creation for certain purposes.
Can you write a whole website? Can you execute a whole content strategy with AI? I don't think so.
And I think people that try to do that will fall short of their hopes and expectations in terms of results. But nevertheless, more and more AI is becoming available to people with the promise and the claim of doing these things. And it's creeping into website design and development too.
Every major CMS vendor more or less is clamouring to say that they have AI in the creation process. Yet it's still far, far short of being able to produce what a maturing and growing business needs of its website.
Can it be the thing that gets you started? Yes.
Can it help you build your first website? Potentially.
Does it serve your needs as you scale up? No, absolutely not.
So more and more people experimenting with trying AI and discovering where the line is and where the limits of it are.
Glossy website design
Another trend that I see already existing, but I'm expecting to see more of it.
A tendency in businesses to, when they update their website, either as part of rebrand or in its own right. When go to market, they launch a very glossy, flashy, wizzy, moving website that's full of rich visuals and rich animation, and they impress and they wow and they get great reactions.
But you often, frequently see those same websites roll back a lot of that extra creativity quite quickly afterwards, because unfortunately, in most cases, all of those things go against the results and the metrics and the measurements that we apply in terms of success for our websites.
So they impact performance, they impact page load speed, they decrease conversion rate, they really are not great for the buyer, despite the fact that they look fantastic and we all wish that they produced better results.
So this sort of lurching from launching a new website that's got lots of bells and whistles and looks fantastic and then very quickly reverting back to something that's predominantly static. Because that still works best in most cases and a bit more restrained and constrained is the best way to get results.
And if only businesses, or more businesses could identify that before they invest in the creation of the slightly more excessive version, then they might have a better impression of the ROI on their website project and more budget remaining to create content after launch.
But nevertheless, we all like to push the boundaries when we're doing something new, but often that means we have to walk it back a bit.
Dark website design
And another trend that we see developing a little bit more in the year ahead is the introduction of dark mode or dark websites.
It's an interesting one, popularised no doubt by the experience we all have on our phones and our handheld devices, and that has become quite useful amongst developer communities who are looking at their screens for a long period. Dark mode has its place in those situations.
So now what we see is lots more websites appearing that are either in dark mode permanently or actually have a toggle that the user can control.
I'm personally a little sceptical about both of those because I'm not convinced that during normal working hours when most people are at their desk looking at their computer screen doing their research in daylight, that dark mode is the best user experience in terms of consuming the content that's on the page.
Dark mode is most effective when it's dark around us, and that's really why it exists and why it's been created.
So if we were in a darkened room looking at a website, then a dark mode might be the best way to present that information. But I certainly find reading dark mode websites in daytime quite a struggle. So I'm concerned that it's counterproductive.
I suppose in an ideal world you'd have the toggle and in an even more ideal world you'd automate it based on time of day, so that your website was dark mode at night and light mode during day.
But I don't see that applied very often and I think unfortunately it's predominantly down to a creative desire to do something that appeals to us, as opposed to being rooted in what buyers tell us, either implicitly or explicitly what they want.
I'm really looking forward to and hoping that someone does some research into this at a statistical level so we can find out what buyers really respond best to, but it hasn't been done yet.
I think if you've got an area of your website that is focused solely on a very key message in a large font or a very visual element, then a dark section can work. But when you are expecting or asking your visitor to read a passage or a paragraph of content, I think dark mode is a poor choice in those situations because it'll make it harder for them to read it in daylight on their screen than make it easier unfortunately.