How Social Media Is Influencing Web Design
The evolution of web design has not been linear as of late, especially with the advent of Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, and others. In its early years, websites were essentially one page introductions to companies. Then products and services were added. Soon, buying through a website became a key aspect for many merchants. After that, white papers, blogs, company news, and increased product information expanded to provide site visitors a more robust site. Many websites owners who were competitive began focusing on SEO and how to get the highest rankings. Sites were scrapped or redesigned as web designers began heralding their services that promised companies and organizations the secret for them to achieve the highest rankings.
Then came the booming social media industry. Now web designers and entities were reasonably forced to implement new strategies that would take advantage of this new medium and integrate social media into their sites. IBM uses the term, “Social Business,” and this is in fact what smart companies are migrating to when considering a revamped website that stays not only at the cutting edge of business, but, more importantly, keeps up with the demands of the public. For a website to maximize its opportunities on the internet, integration of social media and the site design they’ve mastered, must be employed.
But how have social media influenced the design of non-social media websites? To understand that, let us take a walk through social media history first. Then we will look at the present to see how smart website design is now taking its cues from the social media website science.
Social Media Evolution
Social media has evolved as well, and is constantly reinventing itself to meet the demands of users. But before social media became what it is today, Jim Ellis and Tom Truscott created Usenet in 1979 where “users” could post comments or articles pertaining to a specific group or interest. They were the precursors the RSS feed, and have influenced much of what happens today. Bulletin boards followed, and then Compuserve developed the first chat system whereby members could instant message each other. Soon, dating websites popped up and allowed individuals to create personal profiles in hopes of linking up with other people. These may be the first true social media sites. Beginning in 1999, LiveJournal allowed members to update profiles, create groups, and, otherwise, interact with one another. These are now basic elements of many social media websites.
From Mark Zukcerberg’s Harvard experiment to Myspace’s early hold, to the simple development of Twitter, to Google’s foray into this realm with Google+, to Tagged, Meetup, Café Mom, and Pinterest, developers are finding ways of appealing to niche markets or to a broad range of people who want to create their own relevance, make friends, locate information, share interests, develop business, or simply play games.
The Ubiquitous Social Media Icon
Social media icons are illustrated logos of the social media sites they represent. By now, most people know the ubiquitous icons for Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and others. They are placed on non-social media websites for people to share an article, “like” something, “tweet” a comment or a link from a page, or be as a request to follow a company or individual, such as an author, politico, musician, band, or a product.
They are located next to articles, at the top of pages, on a sidebar, or at the bottom of a page. Non-social media sites have recognized the value of allowing their site visitors the option of interacting with their information, company, promotion, or cause. Very few websites don’t have at least one or more of these icons present on their site.
Social Media Website Influences Website Design
As stated above, most websites were informational at first, and then developed into merchant-oriented sites, or ones designed to compel site visitors into a call to action to develop business.
Because of the immense popularity of social media sites and how they allow for personalized interaction with other people, website designers began to notice that there was tremendous potential in borrowing elements of these sites to place naturally into their client’s sites. The familiarity site visitors have with icons, messaging, tweeting, blogging, profiles, relationship development, video, and more, influenced website designers to integrate these elements into many types of non-social media sites for the visitor to engage with the website more naturally. In other words, personalization allows websites to create a bond between the company, entity or organization, more closely with the site visitor, customer, or prospect.
On the search side, social media’s influence on current website development is how Google, and other major search engines, such as Bing and Yahoo!, view and weigh the aspect of social media integration into non-social media sites. Recent Panda and Penguin algorithm changes by Google has dramatically changed the way SEO is done. While the goal of search engines results pages has always been to return the most relevant pages to the searching client, a heavier emphasis on social media integration has been added as it helps provide truer, more authentic results because it demonstrates popularity and trends more easily in an ongoing basis. In other words, effective social media use helps the website owner’s site rise in rankings.
Many websites are now mimicking in many ways the social media site design and layout. Not only are many websites now integrating icons, messaging and more, the feel and look of the websites are evolving. Social media websites live and die on their ability to provide relevant information, advertisements, and unite other members, but, as with something as benign as a restaurant menu, there is an art, and a science, to the social media page layout.
Fewer entities research and develop web page science like social media companies. Where does the eye fall first on a page? Where is essential information placed? How likely is the visitor to engage if an aspect of the site is placed at the top, bottom or side of the page? Consumer, or, site visitor behavior, is tracked closely, creating reams of data to help the site create a more fluid, engaging, meaningful, and compelling. Website design companies have taken notice and piggy back on many of these discoveries and alter their client sites accordingly and appropriately to their demographic.
Doing so allows the website owner the ability to borrow proven results and implement them into their domain making them more appealing, familiar, and easier to use, while creating a better visitor experience. Ultimately, though, it is about developing a call to action, which means something different for every entity and website. Using social media and mimicking aspects of social media site design will undoubtedly influence interaction, create more loyalty with prospects, customers, and visitors, while helping the company achieve its broader goals. Though replicating the design of Pinterest, Facebook, or others, is not being suggested here, wisdom prevails when a website follows many social media website aspects, as it will benefit both them and their site visitors.
The Future of Social Media Influence on Website Development
Branding has always been a challenge for many companies, whether they have large budgets or not. Utilizing social media design elements will allow the website developer the opportunity to help its clients achieve greater prowess in branding their message, products, or service.
As well, we are in the digital age where various forms of media, such as video, smart phone apps, pictures, customer reviews, and more, should be integrated into company websites. People are not only more familiar with these features, they are starting to expect them. Each company should consult with their website design provider to see which of these makes sense to add to their site.
Consumer loyalty is achieved by better relating to the consumer through multimedia interaction and socialization options that appeal to them, allow them to take advantage of opportunities, specials and coupons not available to non-friend members, and make them a part of how the company does business. This encourages the consumer to become a marketing arm on behalf of the website and company. This form of crowd-sourcing helps get company news, products, events, and more out to a larger group of people who may not have either known about them or were not aware of the unique opportunities immediately available. Additionally, Hubspot says that consumers are converted to products and services 71% more than traditional means because they go on the recommendations of trusted friends.
Finally, using aspects of social media in one’s website helps the website owner determine the social value of their website, and gives essential analytics to helps them understand their ROI better.
From newspapers that have migrated to the web to the law firm down the street, interactivity, testimonies, branding, relationship development, and visitor site science are driving them to rethink their websites. Getting the most out of internet opportunities begins with rethinking how the website is designed. This includes social media elements that have proven to influence users. Website design is both an art and a science. Smart web designers will suggest utilizing the elements that make sense for you to achieve your online company goals. The future is here. To ignore these social media trends could leave your website in the wake of those who don’t.
Peter Larson writes about the internet for National News Daily.