Corporate web design trends

Conscious of the fact that I have been very much focused on the internal digital landscape, I decided to have a look at what is happening on the external front. The most notable development in external web design, for me, is the shift in focus and importance placed on ‘user-experience’ (hallelujah!). And I dont just mean visual user-experience.

Gone are (…or ‘should be’) the traditional heavy corporate rhetoric and the self-gratifying websites that the CEO could show-off to his family and friends. Gone are the big images that are completely irrelevant to the content and what the visitor is looking for. Gone are the long lists of over-glorifying ‘news’ stories and gone is content for content sake. We are moving from ‘look how big/important we are!‘ to ‘how can we help you?‘.

Below I have selected some sites that I believe are best-in-class examples of these new trends.

I must stress at this stage that I have deliberately avoided any designs from my own agency as I don’t want to be accused of bias or favouritism, and also to show that I am a very good sport. I am a firm believer that good work should be recognised even if it is not our own.

If you have any other suggestions please feel free to add the link in the comments below.

Bloomberg

Visually engaging and definitely different. The user-experience (UX) is one step ahead of most sites. The information is well organised and you are immediately and subconsciously drawn to the most important content. Everything is only one-click away and I like the ‘get to know the company at a glance’ approach. Bloomberg is ‘selling’ itself but in a refreshingly direct and no nonsense manner.

Petrofac

I really like the practicality of this design. There are definite hints of the new Facebook layout. It is clean, easy to navigate and still visually engaging. Great use of font sizes to attract your attention to content, and the imagery tells the story.

Standard Chartered

Normally I am not a great fan of sites with heavy background images, but I really like the way that the background image is part of the content on the page and the interactivity it brings to the page.

Xstrata

Although I like the layout (it is fresh and colourful), the main thing I like about this site is the story….and everyone knows that a good story is not just about content but how you tell it. The colours and imagery do the content justice.

ARUP

I really like this. It is a great example of liquid design (fluid layout), making it not only ideal for the different screen resolution but also for mobile devices (according to Office of National Statistics 50% of us are now going online via mobile devices). It also follows the trend of blog-style layout, which is easy to read yet not often used for corporate sites. It works and I like it a lot.

I hope you like the examples and, as mentioned above, please use the comments box to highlight other good corporate design examples…or let me know your thoughts on the trends that you feel are important (examples please!).

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A Merry Christmas and a Digital New Year

Is it wrong to say “It has been a great year!”? Well, there… I have said it. And it is true!

I know the credit crisis has affected us all, budgets are shrinking and we have to fight much harder to win new clients and bring in projects.

But working hard is only a negative if you don’t enjoy what you are doing. I am very lucky that I love what I do.

Secondly, although it is true that budgets are shrinking, there is always spare cash for great ideas. It just means that we have to work smarter and give our clients more. This arrangement can sometimes feel a little one sided, but my experience has shown that a little more effort does pay off.

For me 2011 has been the year of the Intranet. Although I have been active in public facing digital work, I have found the developments in internal communication the most fascinating and exciting. There has been a massive shift in the perception of importance of Intranets amongst large corporate clients.

The realisation that Intranets are more than just document repositories and address books is now commonplace. The focus on making them more collaborative, most significantly through Social Collaboration (social media, social networking, social listening, etc.) has allowed me to work on some exciting projects this year (and get involved in some heated but interesting debates).

My prediction for 2012: Intranets will no longer be treated as a ‘bit of software’ but as communications platforms that need/deserve the same strategic approach as Above The Line advertising has enjoyed for decades. And why not? Every Intranet user is after all a consumer, and should be treated as such.

So for my Intranet recommendations for 2012: focus on tasks and platform delivery (namely mobile) and consider the importance of adoption campaigns (think advertising!) as well as introducing (very) rich content.

Public facing digital: there is still a lot to do in 2012…we need to work hard at making our solutions more distinguished! We have had personalised content for a while now, but in the coming year we need to make sure that web sites know what we are looking for before we do (intelligent personalisation)!

That is it for me for 2011 – festive greetings, merry Christmas but most importantly…have a digital New Year!

Mike