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Designing a .com website in 2021- 5 trends your digital team should consider

Written by
Jonas Kochen
Designing a .com website in 2021- 5 trends your digital team should consider

There are many important things to consider when designing a .com in 2021, features like using AI for intuitive site search, contextual navigation, integrations of e-commerce, modularity etc. Today, many of these features are standard on any new .com. At Vertic, we have built modern .com’s for F500 companies for over a decade. We have created what is now digital trends and features for best-in-class websites and digital experiences for large, global enterprise companies like, GE, SAP, Merck, CSL, National Oilwell Warco and Dropbox. Designing a successful .com experience requires more depth and intricacies than the mere traditional user interface.

As technology platforms and aesthetic styles evolve, so do .com’s. What was a digital trend in 2020 will become a standard in 2021. 2020 was in many ways the most digital disruptive year; the pandemic accelerated digital transformation and cemented a digital first world, the .com is the center of a brand and increasingly has become a dynamic sales and communication tool vs. a classic static information hub.

With this in mind, below are 5 key areas brands to consider when thinking of launching a new digital experience in 2021.

1.    The world is digital first — so is your brand

Often when a company is redesigning their .com, it is part of a larger rebrand or repositioning of the brand. Rebranding efforts have traditionally focused on new messaging, logo treatments, primary colors, graphical elements and how it all applies to traditional mediums e.g., posters, presentations, out of home, printed letterheads, business cards and eventually, the web.

The reality is that we no longer go online, but live online and brands today are created through meaningful digital interactions. As the majority of a brand’s customer interactions will be through a screen, redesigns and rebranding efforts will need to invert the order and begin with focusing on how the brand comes to life on a digital screen. The brand must be distinct and recognizable on a multitude of screen sizes and digital platforms. It has to be easy to find a myriad of brand icons on your phone home screen, in search results, news media etc. With screens and various devices, we have more options and ways to showcase brand characteristics and nuances such as through animations, video, and visual effects. Translating a digital brand to offline channels and assets are considerably easier than the reverse i.e., translating an offline brand to the vast digital ecosystem. So if you are going to reimagine your brand, you must start with digital..

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2.    Design systems: build smarter, increase efficiency and save money

With more and more digital content and services being built by brands around the world and the increasingly nature of the teams working distributed, remotely and designing this content, we will see a larger focus on robust design systems. The time when we were launching one-off sites that visually mutate and quickly grow old in terms of features are over. It is too inefficient, cumbersome and costly to maintain as more digital properties are added to a company’s digital portfolio.

In 2021, it is no longer acceptable to have a multitude of sites, sub-sites, products and apps that all have slightly different variances of a brand and respective designs, based on when they were launched, on which platform and by which team. With the rise of digital design tools like Figma, Sketch, Adobe XD, etc. it has become increasingly easier for brands to create simplicity across their digital design systems that can easily be modified on a master level, applying changes instantaneously across wireframes, design and frontend code. Building one design system that is easily shared and can be collaborated across all multitude of creative and implementation teams in realtime, ensures extreme efficiency and brand consistency.

As new features are being added into the design system, it becomes readily available to all teams, thus limiting duplicate efforts across your organization, streamlining operational efficiencies and accelerating time to market.

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3.    Design for personalization & customization

By now it’s well established that customers like personalized or customized experiences with more accurate and relevant content based on the user’s preferences. This converts more prospects into customers.

In 2021 we will see more articles and videos being produced by brands. This means we will see a natural need for better segmentation and filtration of this content. As it will be easy to discover and consume rich media and video content, so the design will also need to have a high degree of usability combined with the conventions end users are used to having.

The power of experience platforms like Episerver, Adobe AEM and Sitecore combined with intelligent content experimentation and personalization services like Optimizely and Demandbase will ensure the right content gets in front of the user at the right time and place, and optimized according to how the user engages with content. These experiences will be highly dynamic, everchanging and it is critical that the design takes this into consideration to ensure the user can always find their way and navigate seamlessly within this stream of content. We will start seeing .coms sites that functions more like rich media and / or publishing sites e.g., YouTube, Netflix and CNN where the user can customize the visual layout of the site to better fit their online preferences. YouTube has multiple players to select from and lets the user switch between a light or a dark theme. Other sites allow users to choose whether they want the navigation displayed at the top or bottom of the page.

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4.    Design for simplicity, accessibility and speed

As we spend more and more time online, users’ patience with digital experiences are decreasing, and the mandate for speed and instant gratification is rapidly increasing. A site should be simple, modern and aesthetically pleasing to look at, easy to scan through and quick to load. This has been an important factor in UX and SEO for years, and will become even more critical in 2021 as the amount of digital competition and content is increasing. A modern minimalistic design is not only aesthetically pleasing to look at, but the layout and site architecture also helps on load speeds and subsequently helps pages ranks on search engines. Striking the right balance between a simple SEO optimized design and having enough visual brand DNA present within your site is key to an impactful .com.

Modern minimalistic design that utilizes simple layouts and site architecture is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also helps with the load speeds which, subsequently helps how pages rank on search engines.

A clean and simple design will also help make your site more inclusive and meet the WCAG 2.0 guidelines on accessibility which by now is a legal requirement, removing the need to create and maintain separate high contrast and accessible versions of your sites.

5.    Design for video

Video consumption has been trending positively for years, and the pandemic likely accelerated its growth with many professionals and consumers at home and glued to their screens. Video is by far the most accessible, consumable and shareable format. And with the improvements and ease of use of video editors, content video subscription services like ArtGrid and ArtList has never been easier to create high quality video content.

85% of businesses used video as a marketing tool, up from 61% in 2016. Source: Wyzowl

A great example of the increased focused on video content is Dropbox. They recently launched a dedicated digital experience platform (www.experience.dropbox.com) aggregating most of their B2B focused content including high quality, rich media assets including interviews and features, along with webinars, case study and event videos. Grouped by themes chosen based on what is currently top of mind in the B2B community.

Being able to produce and present high-quality videos and stream live events will be a natural next step for many brands, promoting key company events, news and for those in marketing and events teams. Especially as the world is getting used to the time saving and cost cutting effects of working distributed, remotely and ensuring business within 2020.


A hopeful 2021

The digital acceleration will continue in 2021, never have we seen the competition online more fierce, but we have also never had so many tools and possibilities. As UX and Visual designer’s are crafting new impactful .com experiences, it is key to strike the perfect balance between aesthetics, usability and accessibility. At the same time ensure the sites are easy to maintain and fast to update for the teams running them. Flexible enough to add new features as they become relevant thus capable of scaling and changing with your brand as your company grows and adapts. Making the investment worth while and creating operational excellence for the brands.

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