18 Feb 2020

Website Content Trends In 2020, What You Need To Know (With Examples).

I've been in website development and digital for over 20 years. It's a field that is always developing and maturing. And for 2020, we see that this year will be no different.

But at Lamb, we are interested in how we can be more productive with content - which leads us to interrogate website content patterns and their development over time. Looking back over the years, I can see that website content design is entering a late-teen period from a maturity perspective. Early on (90s), things were pretty much a mess, before some huge changes with responsive design about 10 years ago (adolescence?), and now I think we are now at the point where we mainly have the structures we will be using going forward, save for some changes in aesthetic tastes and styling. The principal practice shift we see is a move to a place that better reconciles our multi-device world, along with our customers’ ability to consume content clearly and concisely. For our clients, the challenges we continue to see in the market relate to:

  • Contemporising their approach to website content, and

  • Optimising the mobile experience and speed.

Good news, is that most customers have an easy path to achieve performance gains here. Let me take you thought what we see as the more prominent trends, and how this affects your work as a marketer.

Touchstone good practice content references

It’s best to start with something real, rather than talking theory. We have collected three examples of websites of what we believe reflect progressive good practice in website content design. We can learn a lot from studying leading practice, there are good solution patterns that can be used in our own solutions.

Trend: Your average user is probably on a mobile device (a reminder)

Mobile usage is not news to anyone. But as a marketing professional sitting at a desk, it is easy to default to the desktop view of your digital platforms. Everyone is familiar with a mobile-first design. Why not become a mobile-first marketer when interacting with your website? Don’t use your browser-based mobile emulator; pick up your mobile phone to replicate the customer’s experience. Habitualise this activity, and go to your desktop only to double-check. Again, start as a marketer with your mobile. All websites work on mobile these days, but does your customer journey still work WELL on mobile? Or are there unintuitive leaps your customer needs to make to get where they need to go? Things that will help you considerably with the user experience on mobile are

  • a very clear header,

  • condensed information views,

  • auto-complete search (if sufficient content), and

  • clean and considered information architecture.

Trend: Simplicity in content structures

It's always interesting to observe the maturity of a field or area over time. First, there is the gleeful exploration of the possibilities of what can be done, which lays down exciting ideas of what can be done. This is then followed by a degree of excess where maximums are explored. This is eventually followed by the more restrained application of what is effective. As far as website content does, we see the simplicity of the mobile experience bleeding up to the desktop experience. Content continues to move towards minimalism because it's effective. Why?

  • People need a predictable way of reviewing your content

  • Simpler structures decrease in cognitive load

  • Multi-device development is more straightforward and more consistent

  • It works better

Here is a good example from Libra:

And another from Versett: 

Trend: Clear, punchy copy is king

Newspapers laid down some common sense content structures decades... hundreds of years ago. And that is - people pay attention to headlines. Copy-writing theory states that headlines are read five times more than the body copy, it’s true, if not more so in digital. Consider these two examples,a very simple example. Who does it better?

There’s a lot of problems with the example on the left. We get just a ‘featured project’, whereas the case on the right makes a statement about the quality of the solution. If you look hard enough, you can see the quality of the photography (and solution) on the left is equivalent to that on the right. It’s just masked by a font that is very hard to read that isn’t adding anything to the user. Well-crafted copy allows both the casual website visitor (the scanner) and the deep reader to engage with your content. The large headlines make it easier for the scanner to pick up the content they are looking for – or the messages we want them to do.

TIP: If you are interested in an introduction to copywriting theory, we would highly commend this course on skillshare. It only takes 2 hours and is worth the investment:

Trend: Content Speed

Website speed is a common issue we are presented with. No one wants to go to the best restaurant in town, only to wait 4 hours for their meal. The same applies to your website users. Content is more than just the way it looks. Content speed affects the user experience. No matter how delicious your content morsels are, they need to be served up quickly. For a comprehensive view on your performance, test your website speed at Web Page Test. You will get pretty technical results, but it at least gives you something that is stimulus for as a more informed conversation about what is going on:

What does this mean?

  • First Byte Time: Your web server is taking too long to generate the page.

  • Keep-alive Enabled: It's a server setting that attempts to keep a single connection alive for many files, rather than establishing multiple connection for each individual.

  • Compress Transfer: Server setting to compress images on the transfer to the browser. Should always be on.

  • Compress Images: Are you images oversized for the web? Ideally, all images should be optimised for a web structure through a service like Tiny PNG. (they compress JPG files also.)

  • Cache static content: This one throws up a lot of issues with plugins slowing down the website, so you can get false positives. But it will still pick up issues.

  • Effective use of CDN: Using a CDN can vastly improve the speed of delivery of web assets. They can be tuned to dramatically reduce the Time to First Byte (first item)

Trends vs Trendy

There is a difference between trends and trendy. Trendy is the flavour of the day. There is value in understanding trendy, but it's better to understand the trends. A great acid test for trends vs. trends is to ask yourself, 'is it cool, or is it effective?' I'm less interested in talking about what is trendy, and more on what ideas are going stale or won't last very long. What do I see as trendy or things that aren't going to last?

  • Desktop burger navigation: A mobile design element that floated up the desktop. It can be great to create a hyper minimal desktop interface. But ultimately it is a mask that obscures your on-site navigation, adding an additional step to initial discovery and navigation.

  • Carousels: Carousels are a very poor user experience. Don't use them. We find they are often used as a way of keeping the peace. Much like Solomon's solution to the two women who claimed to share the same baby. You get something that just doesn't work.

  • Colourful geometric digital brands: This is very much a design pattern for now (or 2019?). Because it is very distinct, it won't age well over the next couple of years.

Would you like 5 easy-to-implement content suggestions?

Let us perform a content audit on your website. We'll talk you thought your goals, pain points and highlight what we think would be the most effective set of improvements you could make. Register here drop me a line on greg@lamb.com.au.

Greg is the Managing Director of Lamb Agency, a digital agency focused on creating industry-leading websites.

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