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Sidebar Variations

Sidebars are extremely useful tools for website development: they can help to organize disparate information and navigation options into a single, uniform design, and easily allow website visitors to access whatever parts of a site they wish to. There are a number of different ways to incorporate a sidebar into a website’s design, and, depending on a website’s overarching goals, different design strategies may be appropriate for different sites.

The website www.cnn.com has an extremely standard sidebar form. With four different sidebars, organized based on type of content, the site can easily organize its content for visitors to browse and read through. Because the links to this content are not the most high-value content on the news giant’s website, the sidebars have minimal design optimization, consisting of little more than bulleted lists and buried somewhat far down on the homepage. While this has the effect of deemphasizing this content to some extent, it works for the website, because it isn’t the content which is necessarily desirable to be emphasized.

The website  www.legalhelp47.com has a somewhat novel take on the sidebar. The site features its navigation and content in the same area, using short blocks of text that help guide visitors to the part of the site they seek. This approach works for the site because the navigation choices in the text blocks are, unlike those on CNN’s website, likely the most critical portions of the site and, as a result, visibility for visitors is much more critical.

Service-Oriented Web Design

For service-oriented businesses, the most important goal of website design must always be to entice potential customers and encourage them to consider the services being offered. However, in recognition of the different types of services that clients may be searching for and the different expectations attached to those services, a number of different approaches can be taken in order to achieve this design goal.

The website for Crowe & Mulvey, LLP, www.crowemulvey.com, demonstrates one approach that can be successfully taken for service-oriented business website. The design is sleek and streamlined, not overly cluttered, either visually or in terms of content. This helps to convey the necessary sense of professionalism expected of legal professionals. Furthermore, the scrolling bar of awards and achievements directly below the main image on the site’s homepage quickly and effectively conveys a wealth of information about the firm’s qualifications to potential clients, creating a powerful “pull” factor as soon as a visitor comes to the site.

The website for Royal Fig Catering, www.royalfig.com, takes a different approach, consistent with its difference in terms of services offered and customer expectations. The site emphasizes a visual approach, displaying prominently the types of fare offered by the company and offering easy access to the full range of menu options available. It also features simple, direct written content from the owners of the company in order to establish a sense of communication with potential clients.

Both these types of approaches can be effective for helping to sell the services on offer.

Web Design Trends to Watch for in 2013

While the basic design goal of delivering content to a reader in a way that is clear and concise will never change, the strategies for achieving this goal are slowly evolving. New trends emerge all the time, with some of them going on to eventually become standards of web design.

There is a lot to look out for this year. A lot of design experts are moving towards more simplicity on their sites. This allows them to make the site operate more like a mobile app, which people are becoming increasingly accustomed to. More familiarity with simple designs and apps allows designers to create elegant, cross-platform designs that don’t feel stripped down.

The user’s experience on your site should also be one of its main focal points. A good design will deliver the site’s message with little effort from the user, guiding him or her through the page. Of course, a flashy well-designed page is nothing without content. Having strong, searchable content will continue to be important, and might even become more important in the future.

The coming years will see a profound shift towards unifying design concepts across platforms as users continue to frequently access mobile sites and download apps.

Small Business Web Design

For professional businesses, finding an optimal design template for their websites can sometimes be tricky. On the one hand, it’s necessary to create something simple that anyone coming to the site can use. After all, attracting customers is the ultimate goal of any of these website, so creating a site that might drive some people away is the exact opposite of what these types of businesses want. On the other hand, a site with a boring or unprofessional design may lead some people to conclude that the business they’re dealing with isn’t particularly high in quality, similarly driving away potential customers.

To help show how important balancing these two design factors can be, I’m going to look at two sites and compare some of the ways in which they succeed in creating an unobtrusive but attractive design template.

Web designers should strive to create pleasant-looking sites while making it extremely easy for users to access whatever information they’re looking for. Backgrounds ought to appear professional without being too high-concept (an important balance to strike), and, most often, at the top of the page, there should be clearly marked tabs to take users directly to the information they need. Simple, no fuss, not to minimalist but also not too cluttered.

Similarly, the webpage for The Doctor’s Office Urgent Care in New Jersey, www.paramusurgentcare.com, meets a lot of these same criteria. It’s design is a little bit more complicated, which is okay, because there is potentially a little bit more information that the average visitor to the site might be looking for. Nonetheless, it has the same basic toolbar feature at the top, quickly directing potential patients to the information they need, and the dynamism of the slideshow images on the homepage helps to demonstrate the professionalism of the outfit.

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