This is a formal warning to all parents with young children: iPads, smartphones and technology will turn your kids into freaks. They will no longer want to press buttons and will think that all devices function via touchscreen technology.
OK, so the above statement is a little drastic, but I have seen this with my own children - and was reminded of this via the article and video I saw on Milwaukee's very own JSOnline (video below):
The other night my 2 year old son was watching a video on our little travel DVD player. The movie stopped and he naturally wanted to get it to play again. So, he started swiping his finger across the screen and then pressing anything that resembled a button on the screen. He did this even though there were several "old-school" buttons right below his other hand.
My son has become so accustomed to touch screen technology, thanks to Angry Birds (on our iPad) and playing music on our iPhones, that he didn't even think to press any of the traditional DVD control buttons. When I saw that, I had an "Ah Hah Moment" - that interface design needs to constantly (and quickly) evolve as younger generations become consumers.
As web designers and web developers, we are constantly focusing on the user experience and making sure that our website designs are easy to navigate, have a thought-out visual hierarchy and present information in a way that resonates with our website visitors. But as visitors and customers become younger, how will we adapt our designs to meet their needs, while also meeting the usability needs of their parents?
I think the answer is in dynamic website layouts. As the social web becomes the norm and every human being has a social profile online, websites will become much smarter in how they present information. Currently, websites are getting really good at presenting content that matches the interests of their users. Sites like Amazon.com learn your likes and interests based on the pages you've viewed and products you've purchased. Facebook serves up ads based on information they've gathered in your profile. This makes browsing their site a customized experience (for the most part). While serving up user-specific content is great, what about serving up user-specific layouts?
It might sound a little far-fetched - and maybe even unnecessary but it's something to think about. If your audience skews younger and they're used to texting, gaming and using social media sites like Facebook - that means they are used to consuming information a certain way - in bite-sized bits with a lot of visuals and interaction. By presenting information on your website this way, or by dynamically changing your shopping cart layout based on a users age, can you increase conversion rates and sales?
I think the answer is "yes" but you don't know for sure unless you test it. Are you able to do testing like this on your website? Is your website smart enough to know how users found you and change content based on that information? If not, then a website redesign might be in your future.
Website tools like those at HubSpot make this possible. As a HubSpot Certified Partner, we are constantly working with them to stay up to date on the latest web trends and technology and we'll continue to share our findings - so, stay tuned!