What are current UX trends for websites, both overall and the in the entertainment industry?
User eXperience (ux) Definition
It might be helpful to set the context with your client about the difference between User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI). Don Norman, co-founder of The Nielsen Norman Group (NNG), is credited with inventing the term UX. NNG says that '"User experience" encompasses all aspects of the end-user's interaction with the company, its services, and its products. The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother."
As this blog post from CareerFoundry notes, "regardless of its medium, UX Design encompasses any and all interactions between a potential or active customer and a company" while "Interface Design is its compliment, the look and feel, the presentation and interactivity of a product." It's important for your client to consider both UX and UI when thinking about how their users will interact with not only the look and feel of the website but the total experience with the zoo.
Below is a list of the top five trends I found from leading companies and practitioners and independent media summaries that I think could be most relevant for your client. Given that your client doesn't have a large budget, I've given more context on these trends, and included a list of additional trends at the bottom.
According to Adobe, big brands switched to simpler designs in 2017: "Minimalist design aims to address user’s problems through clear visual communication, by bringing forth what’s really important: the content." Forbes also cited this as a top trend according to industry expert Paul Jarvis, who also added that advances in display resolutions and color saturation means "minimalism doesn't have to be boring" and "engaging photographic content" will become even more important. This article from Impact notes that "Most of today’s website visitors are content-scanners. Using negative space makes it easier for readers to stay focused on the content of a page without feeling overwhelmed." This could be a key opportunity for your client as zoos offer many opportunities for eye-grabbing visuals through photographs of the animals and the zoo environment and it can be a cost-effective way to quickly improve their web presence.
2. personalized and interactive content
In that same Forbes article, Josh Haynam, co-founder of Interact Quiz Builder, says "Consumers crave a more personalized and entertaining experience when it comes to how they connect with brands, and content such as polls, quizzes, and games can deliver exactly this experience." Adobe says, "Today, users expect to have individual experiences when they interact with products" and they point to gamification as a possible way to do this. Capturly notes the increased role of chatbots in 2017 and says, "Creating ways for users to have a more personal experience on a website is the biggest challenge and focus for website optimization in the New Year." Protypr has a list of what personalization might include (chat features, age-responsive design features, log-in memory features, push notifications, etc.) but also notes that "Personalization extends to tapping into universal human needs" such as anticipating potential pain points and addressing concerns for transparency and security. Altitude Labs notes that personalization is about "creating conversations by saying something relevant at the right time." There might be opportunities for your client to implement some of these ideas to help deliver a more personalized experience of their website as well as the in-person visits to the zoo.
3. time-saving design
This is about reducing friction in the design and helping users achieve what they want quicker. Protopyr has a list of practical ways to help users save time: developing common user navigation patterns, context-specific features, pop-up suggestions or a linear design experience with a clear beginning, middle and end. Capturly agrees with these and also adds "anticipatory design" that considers how users might interact with a site. UX Planet also talks about linear navigation as an important tool to simplify the user experience, and is one of many sources to mention the increased role of Voice User Interfaces (VUIs) as speech recognition continues to improve. Knowing how your client's visitors and customers might interact with the website and the zoo itself can help design a more fluid and time-saving experience.
4. Illustrations and animations
Many of the sources I found mentioned illustrations and animations as a current and continuing UX trend for 2018. Alexey Galyzin, Product and Lead Designer at Crello, said in Forbes, "Illustrations set a tone for a brand and add playfulness to their content." He also noted that they are practical because they can be any size, style or color. Forbes also cites Depositphotos as saying that "animation is a new norm in web design" because "graphics with motion add another dimension to otherwise static images and combine current video trends with still photos." Justinmind points out that "some cave paintings are over 35,000 years old — so using illustration is primordial and connects with users on a human level." Adobe says that these visuals create a stronger connection with a product and warns that they need to be high-quality because "imperfections will now stand out" with newer high-resolution displays. In general, illustrations and animations would seem like a clear opportunity for a zoo to showcase the playfulness mentioned above and create a stronger connection with visitors to their site.
Nearly every source mentioned "The Dominance of Videos," as UX Planet puts it. They point out that "video has an opportunity to engage users right from the start" with videos about the brand on the landing page. Sunil Joshi, Co-Founder and Lead Designer at WrapPixel, points out in Forbes that video is not only for the landing page and that we can expect to see it integrated throughout more parts of websites in 2018. Adobe cites a study by KPCB that says video will soon account for 74% of all online traffic and also points out that it's easier than ever for users to create their own video content through smartphones and other devices. Advanced Web Ranking provides a list of reasons why video is better than other mediums, including that "social video generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined." Because of the popularity of video, and the rich content potential of a zoo, this could be a trend worth pitching for their website.
Additional trends to watch
Here is a list of additional trends mentioned throughout the sources I compiled that either still need to mature, or might not be the right fit for your client due to cost, complexity or context. I've included a link to the original source in case you want to read more about each one.
Mobile Payment and Data Security — Adobe
Wearables — Adobe
Conversational Interfaces — Adobe
Custom Typography — JustInMind
Omnichannel UX — Altitude Labs
There are many current UX trends for websites, some of which are easier and more cost-effective to implement than others. The top five that I think are most applicable to your client are: minimalism, personalized and interactive content, time-saving design, illustrations and animations, and video. In general, these trends focus on making it easier for users to have a personalized experience, quickly accomplish what they want to do, and share content across multiple platforms. Other trends may be useful in the future after your client has implemented the top priorities and if budget their budget allows. It's also important to keep in mind as these are implemented that User Experience (UX) takes into account the full interaction a user has with the zoo across multiple platforms, from the experience on the website to the physical experiences at the zoo. For these trends to be most effectively implemented, the whole user experience needs to be considered along with the design elements of the User Interface (UI).