In my mind, the Web seems like it was just invented a few years ago, but in reality, it’s past legal drinking age and moving its way toward being able to rent a car. And the concept of the Internet, well, that’s on its way to getting a senior discount at IHOP. I’m not “old” by any stretch of the imagination, but I was in my 20’s when I got my first cell phone, which I was repeatedly chided for having, and I didn’t actually start emailing until after Y2K. Yes, I just called it that. In fact, the only reason I tweet, pin, or Instagram anything is to keep current with trends, and truth be told, even some of those outlets are getting a little dated #oldhat.
That’s frustrating, right? You just learned how to Facebook and now the cool kids are all saying it’s for old people. And they’re kind of right. Facebook is all about composing elaborate descriptions of what you got for Valentine’s Day, or the details of your remodeling project, or multiple memes of LOLcats in rapid succession. Its message isn’t nearly as streamlined as a photo and a hashtag to sum things up.
A few years ago everything was BIG. You couldn’t get a big enough monitor, and your website couldn’t be flashy enough (pun absolutely intended). Then, a new dawn of smartphones and tablets began to emerge and even though they replaced those itty-bitty, wittle-tiny, size-of-a-credit-card cell phones versions the size of an Etch A Sketch, we still downsized our expectations of what we could access on a screen. Messages and images are getting shorter, more compact and more mobile and it’s affecting how we use the Web.
In 2012, sales of desktop computers was actually down for the first time in over a decade, in fact, they plummeted, while tablet and smartphone sales hit record numbers. What does that say about where technology is going? Well, it’s going somewhere because it is constantly on the move, and you’d better get your running shoes on. As a user, you can do that pretty easily: read technology blogs, find out (and utilize) what new gadgets are making their mark, ask your kids what’s trending … but when it comes to having a website, we should probably sit down and talk.
What’s that? You say you just redid your website … in 2006? Sorry, but 2006 does not qualify as having just redone your website. With all this new technology out there, how do you even know if your website is in need of a facelift or a total makeover? Let’s take a look.
If it were still 2006 and technology hadn’t just made leaps and bounds with smartphones and tablets, you might be able to get away with your swanky design that uses Flash animation. This was a technology created to optimize a web user’s online experience. It offered cool graphics, and gave websites the ultimate in sophistication in terms of look and feel. The problem was that not everyone had Flash, and it increased website loading time, and even though it looked cool, it didn’t fully catch on. And then Apple killed it. Literally. iOS, the operating platform that Apple products run on, doesn’t support Flash. At all. In fact, if you go to a website on your iPhone that is in Flash, it simply doesn’t load. What was once a trendy (and expensive) technology is now outdated and obsolete. Flash websites didn’t make friends with Google either, because when indexing web pages, Google saw Flash sites at one big fat site instead of multiple pages of content, which helped boost site rankings in a Google search.
Just like big hair was a hit in the 80’s, big web designs were once also en vogue. Not so much anymore. Cluttered, tiled designs, using multiple fonts in varying sizes and calls-to-action in every corner may be a sign that your site needs some updating. Shifts in design are now leaning toward fewer words, more images and a cleaner, minimalistic look. In terms of web design, 2013 will be the year of less is more. For you font geeks, it’s Helvetica all over again.
Another clue that your website might be a victim of neglect is if you haven’t added (or removed!) content since before Obama took office. The first time. Articles and blog posts are one thing (they’re good for that little thing known as SEO), but if you have the water carnival schedule from 2009 or a poetry reading from two months ago listed as “an upcoming event,” you might want to consider putting someone in charge of updates.
So, now we know what you don’t want, but what’s today’s trend and will you be forever updating your site? The truth is your website is not something you can just set and forget anymore. It’s a living, breathing entity, which needs love and attention. Pretend it’s a four-year-old. And the newest move toward better technology is called responsive design. If you know what RD is, you are probably on the cutting edge of technology and don’t need an explanation, so kudos to you. But, if you aren’t hip with the techie lingo yet, I will make this a simple concept to grasp. Non responsive design doesn’t look that different when you’re sitting in your office or on your laptop at home, but when you view it on your smartphone or tablet, forget the concept of a new ball game; this ball isn’t even round. Non responsive sites may or may not load, drop down menus appear shifted or don’t function at all, and everything appears at the same time, exactly how you see it on a big screen, except it’s on a tiny screen, with the smallest font ever. With responsive design, your website essentially “responds” to whatever device it’s appearing on. So, instead of one huge blob of a website on a tiny device, you’ll see stacked images taken from the site and reordered for optimal viewing.
So what, right? So plenty. Information is getting faster and more mobile. Remember when you had to completely shut down your laptop before even setting foot on a plane? Now you can get Wi-Fi and Skype your face off with Nana on the two hour flight to Vegas.
Update Your Desktop
This section is a special message for all you PC users out there. Regardless of what your feelings about Apple are, you have to admit they make some fine products. They are all aces when it comes to quality control and product advancement. And that’s because no one but Apple makes Apple. Not so when it comes to PCs. And it’s totally fine to use one, but you have to be aware of a little concept called graceful degradation. Just like websites need updating, so do the browsers and operating systems we view them on. When it comes to PC platforms, Windows and Internet Explorer are the king and queen at prom, but just because you installed Windows XP in 2002 and downloaded IE 7 a few years ago, doesn’t mean that sites being built today will function in them. Windows terminated its mainstream support of XP in 2009 and will completely end all support in April of 2014. Microsoft ended mainstream support of Vista in 2012 and will continue extended support through 2017, which means that PC users need to move over to Windows 7 or 8 because even Microsoft is aware that XP and Vista are in for a trip to the glue factory. The truth is that technology is just too sophisticated for some of those older platforms to handle. And everyone is playing the “one up” game to make a dollar, and because that is the nature of human innovation. The Web is an interesting, informational and sometimes confusing place, but it’s constantly moving, with or without you. Don’t stand still for too long. You might get left in the dust.