Designing for the Modern Web

Before the internet became ingrained in everyday life, most website were…an eyesore. With no guidelines or best practices to follow, designers were left to make it up as they went. By using the greatest tool ever, more commonly known as Google, we can look at how bad the first sites were. Fast-forward 20 years from the White House website and the Internet has undergone a massive change.

As Derek Johnson states in his post, modern web design is similar to designing products based on user experience rather than fancy looks. While looks are important, some designers tend to forget about how the user will interact with the content in their browser. According to Derek, the three most important items needed from a client are clear goals, the nature of the web, and content.

Clear Goals

After the rise of Facebook, Twitter, and Google, it’s not uncommon to have someone ask for the “next Facebook.” Knowing what you want the website to do makes prototyping, developing, and testing a website quicker and easier. Saying that you want the next Facebook is ridiculous and shows that you’re only in it for the money…which means that you’re probably in the wrong industry.

The Nature of the Web

Over the past seven years, the way we access the Internet has dramatically changed due to the rise of smartphones and tablets. In January 2014, 55% of Internet traffic within the United States came from mobile devices – a number which is only expected to rise. Because of this, designers, developers, and clients alike need to understand that websites are no longer created only for desktops. Along with this, the amount of content on websites need to be considered due to the limitations of mobile carriers data caps. It is because of this that Ethan Marcotte coined the term Responsive Web Design, or the ability for websites to adapt to varying screen sizes.


Content, the meat of the sandwich, is arguably the most important aspect of a website. Why is the user here? What are they looking for? How will they access that article and share it to their friends? Can they customize that shoe that they’re considering buying?

The content is where the user learns about your company and interacts with it. This can be through a donation link, or a checkout page, or an analysis on 6 million tweets around the world. Content consists of multiple variables with numerous results; results that shouldn’t be ignored.

Lets make a website

Once the three previous variables are considered, a designer is able to begin prototyping. Because we spent time with the client setting goals and discussing content, we, as developers, are able to make a mock-up website. While this sounds simple, it involves careful thought and planning.

We need to consider the font, how readable it is, if the user would have it installed on their computer, and if it flows with the overall theme of the website. For example, we don’t want to use a Lord of the Rings font an a website for Apple.

Next, the user experience and interactivity. Sean Thielen states that no one wants to use your website. Instead, they’re using it to make their lives easier. Make sure that your site is straightforward and easy to use. Users average under 30 seconds on a website before clicking away. Make sure that they know why they’re there and how to use it within that time. If not, you’re wasting their time, your resources, and losing money. Don’t try to create your a new way of filling out a form to make it unique. Following the conventional uses make someone more likely to stay on a site.

Of course the final aspect would be performance. When pushing the final build to a production server, we want to make sure that everything works as expected. Everything from load times, page size, to efficient needs to be reviewed. By doing this we can make designing and building a modern website more efficient and better for the user.

Designing for the Modern Web