Web Design with AI in 2024
Websites for small business growth in the age of AI (artificial intelligence). AI is good for the little guy. It's democratising business by placing the most powerful innovation of the past 3 decades in the hands of everyone. So how might it help a small business in Kent?
The worlds first website - 1991
To better predict the future it's often good to begin in the past.
Amazingly you can still click on the link to Tim Berners Lees original page and have a look. It's a great place to gain some perspective on what's happened to web design since he took the page live back in August 1991.
Websites – from 1 to 1.1 billion plus
In the 1990s websites were essentially digitised versions of printed brochures.
Graphic designers learned to copy and paste digitised words and image files into html documents using table cells to space them.
We swapped standing at drawing boards with Rotring pens for sitting at screens and clicking around with a mouse. Before we had cut (literally with a scalpel) and pasted (using something called Cow Gum) the sheets output by typesetting machines. We stuck chopped up pieces of copy onto large white art boards. The boards were photographed, turned into printing plates and finally into printed brochures.
from physical to digital
Graphic designers became the first web designers. We called each URL (uniform resource locator) a webpage, to make it more relatable. We made them look like brochure pages. It was what we knew and what people expected.
Web page content (what it said) separated from style (how it looked) as CSS (cascading style sheets) became widely adopted by web designers. We could now plug in a style sheet that told the html markup how it should look and where it should sit on a web page.
Web designers had to learn how these languages worked together if they were going to successfully make the leap from physical to digital. We became web developers as well as designers. Coding became a skillset where art had fused with technology.
In January 2000 websites globally numbered approximately 17 million. By the end of the decade it was 255 million. That's a lot more options.
Getting found became increasingly important for the businesses that were now online. Search engines grew. Helpful little websites listing a few options expanded to become the massive global information nodes of today. Google became a verb.
And another two hats
Web designers/developers now had to also become search experts. To help their client's websites get found on an increasingly crowded web. We had to learn how search engines rank websites. We also had to study our client's markets . To keep their websites relevant and offer advice on the best digital strategy we could for their product or service.
We became web designers, developers, SEO (search engine optimisation) experts and digital marketers. We became digital agencies.
The biggest change of the next decade has to be the explosion of mobile phone use on the internet. Steve Jobs showed us all the first iPhone in Summer 2007. But it would be another three years before we realised how prophetic he was. Apple's vision was soon copied once the penny dropped. The explosion of Smart phone sales that followed changed the world and the web forever. Website access via smartphones gradually matched and then surpassed desktop access.
One size fits all
The first responsive websites began to appear in 2010. Various methods of "mobile friendly" code practice have since been developed. "Mobile First Design" became standard practice by the end of the decade and continues to be today. Mobile growth is now gradually slowing as the internet slowly moves into almost everything we interact with (the internet of things).
2020 - November 2023
The phrase 'world wide web' has rather lost it's meaning over the last few years as everything that can just moves online. APIs (Application Programme Interfaces) have created fast internet tunnels. Connecting portals and transferring masses of data around the world in seconds. Networks, video streaming services and powerful apps have mixed socialising with salesmanship, business with entertainment and global commerce with personal preference.
A global village
Fibre optic cables, wireless networks and improved connectivity has brought the internet to billions more users globally. Devices of all shapes and sizes with faster processors have enabled 66% of the planet to get connected. Nearly everyone doing business back in 1991 and since is now simply "online". Part of one enormous and never ending digital ball of activity.
Digital agencies in 2023
Designers like us still work hard to ensure that clients "look good, do more and get found" online. We design, develop and promote client businesses to help them succeed in a global marketplace of 1.13 billion websites and counting (October 2023). We've had to attain competency and learn to be creative in many disciplines that were once unrelated or non-existent along the way.
How long has your business been online? Has it kept up to date? Is it ready for the changes AI is starting to create?
Ok, let's get back to the future.
So what about web design in 2024 and beyond?
Apart from the usual raft of revivals, novelties and trendy fads, I think 2024 will see a greater use of integrations and functionality.
These improvements and features will help make websites smoother, increasing session duration and improving the rates of engagement.
Better web pages for all
Small business websites can now punch well above their weight by incorporating powerful plugins and connecting to APIs that access huge amounts of data and processing power. Giving them access to some heavy weight technologies previously out of reach. How will businesses make the most of these emerging opportunities and what will be the result?
Richer and more immersive websites
Browser capabilities and hardware is set to improve considerably over the next few years. Helping to support numerous improvements in web usability,
The blend of text, images, videos, and interactive elements will become more seamless. Offering users rich, multimedia experiences without overwhelming them.
3D elements and interactive depth
3D design elements that a user interacts with will become more commonplace. Adding depth to the browsing experience. Apple's latest OS screensavers are a good example of large screen 3D images in action
Micro-interactions and animations
Subtle animations or design changes in response to user actions. For example a button slightly depressing when clicked. Detailing that makes the user experience more engaging and intuitive.
Augmented reality (AR) & virtual reality (VR) integration
Websites might soon offer more immersive experiences to visitors. Encouraging users to "step inside" virtual showrooms, explore products in 3D, or navigate within virtual landscapes.
Voice user interfaces (VUI)
The success of voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant could pave the way for websites. Incorporating voice navigation and interaction features on a website is the obvious next step for VUI.
Improved UX (user experience)
Keeping users relaxed and comfortable is one of the keys to improving engagement. Good design and UX always becomes invisible.
Inclusive and accessible design
As societies push for greater inclusivity, web designers will hopefully prioritise accessibility. Ensuring that websites are usable for everyone, including people with disabilities is a welcome step towards a fairer world.
Dark mode and eye comfort options
With many apps and operating systems offering dark modes, websites too might increasingly offer such options. Prioritising user comfort and screen adaptability.
Small businesses will be able to offer their clients a richer, faster and more comprehensive experience when interacting with their web pages.
Websites that can guess what's coming next
Could things get any more complex? In my opinion the answer is a firm yes. A lot more.
Predictive, AI managed algorithms learning about your market and the people searching for your services. And then tailoring your website pages to better match each visitors needs as they arrive.
AI disruption has only just begun
AI in is still at infants school. As it graduates over the coming few years it will totally transform business communication and interactions. And in ways we can currently only imagine.
Web design in the age of predictive marketing
Predictive marketing's core concept lies in using data and algorithms to anticipate customer behaviours and market trends. Proactively meeting the anticipated need with a viable solution is the logical next step. As this methodology becomes ingrained in digital strategies, web design will evolve to accommodate it.
Personalised user experiences
Predictive analytics forecasts what a particular visitor might be interested in. It does so based on their past behaviours, demographic information, or browsing patterns. Websites could adjust content, images, and even layout in real-time. Tailoring the page to an individual visitors preferences.
Dynamic content adjustments
Predictive tools can determine which content formats and topics resonate most with a user segment. This could lead to web designs that automatically switch between video, image, or text-based content. Depending on the predicted preference of the viewer.
Evolving call-to-action (CTA) elements
Based on a user's behaviour, CTAs (calls to action) might change to better match the users likely response. A user who's visited a product page many times for example might see a CTA offering a discount for that product, while another user might see a product demo request.
Adaptive navigation structures
Predictive data might suggest which website paths are most effective for different user segments. Adjustments to site navigation would then guide users along the most conversion-effective journey.
Enhanced chatbots and virtual assistants
As these tools become more sophisticated, they'll likely anticipate user questions. Offering solutions before the user even asks.
Improved visual engagement
Predictive analytics can guess which colours, images, or animations resonate most with a certain demographic. Design elements can then be dynamically adjusted to increase engagement.
Optimised loading times
By predicting what a user is likely to click on next, a website might preload certain elements or pages. Faster load times make for a smoother experience.
Better accessibility and inclusivity
Predictive tools might help web designers better understand the needs and preferences of disabled visitors. Paving the way for more inclusive designs.
Predictive analytics can also forecast potential security threats based on patterns. Leading to web designs that are more proactive in countering imminent attacks.
Search functions within websites might begin to predict what a user is looking for. Offering a result preemptively.
Local SMEs offering the right service, at the right place and at the right time.
AI in web design – already a helpful assistant
In late 2023 AI can already analyse and comment on the following questions with surprising accuracy:
- Relevance – Is the website's content relevant to the target audience?
- Value proposition – Does the website offer clear value to the target audience?
- Usability – Is the website easy to use and navigate?
- Clarity – Is the website's messaging clear and concise?
- Design – Is the website's design visually appealing and relevant to the target audience?
- Call to action – Does the website have a clear call to action that tells the target audience what to do next?
Assistance with analysis
AI can also be used with analytics data. It can assess the website's effectiveness for some important metrics:
- Traffic – How many visitors does the website receive?
- Bounce rate – How many visitors leave the website after viewing only one page?
- Conversion rate – What percentage of visitors take the desired action? (such as completing a form or making a purchase)
The future is scarily bright
We increasingly work with a number of AI assistants and algorithms. They help us improve quality and reduce build time in our web design and development processes. These are savings we will be looking to share with clients over the coming months and years. Better websites for less money.
Most importantly for us however is that AI now helps when working on specific client problems. It helps us to develop, test and deploy innovative solutions to help solve them.
To learn more about hdcreate.uk and the ways in which we can help SMEs in Canterbury and across Kent please contact me.