A playful creative approach can lift an otherwise uninspiring website while still looking appropriate & professional. It’s about bringing a fresh perspective to your audience in a manner thats relevant and interesting and then using design and animation to amplify those points.
Let’s begin by providing some much needed context. We’re talking about play-fulness in designing websites, specifically brand websites for businesses.
By playfulness we don’t mean childish or inappropriate. We believe a well designed website can be playful and still look & feel professional and relevant to its audience.
It’s about introducing something new and refreshing to the subject, in the content, the layout as well as, the animation to create an experience that feels genuinely different.
There is a kind of wisdom in the collective design community where we’ve seen some trends emerging over time. I believe this is partly due to our herd mentality and partly, a response from companies and design teams constantly refining their websites using analytics to guide them on how to better engage with their users.
The long form, scrolling homepage format is the result of this constant tweaking and refinement. There are many reasons for this but here are the most obvious.
Introduction & Doorway
It’s an ideal format for brands looking to introduce first time users to who they are and what they offer while each section acts as a sort of doorway, linking users to specific inner pages.
The advent of mobiles and tablets was a big reason this design trend took off the way it did. It was just practical for someone on a touch screen device to scroll rather than open a menu click, wait for another page to load and then scroll.
SCROLL Vs. Click
It’s widely accepted by now that users will almost always prefer to scroll rather than click-wait and then scroll. Just look at your own behaviour for reference. What do you do when a homepage first loads? Do you click on a link or first scroll to see if there’s any more content further down the page?
So, now let’s get back to our initial premise.
Playfulness matters in corporate website design.
Magazine Vs. Technical Manual
In reality, a majority of business brands do the exact opposite. They want to hit the user with as much information as quickly as possible. And because they’re afraid their audience will lose interest they tend to also try to condense the page to minimise scrolling while simultaneously, densifying their content.
In essence, they’re creating a technical manual, whereas the way first time users browse is more akin to leafing through a magazine. They’re scanning rather than reading every line, deciding whether to delve deeper into the site or close the tab and move on. This is especially important when you’re creating a long scrolling page which could take 10 to 12 scroll actions from your user.
So, where do we begin?
First, by realising that not every user will execute the 10 scroll actions and that this is fine. We’re not trying to have them read the whole page. We’re trying to get them interested and click on one of the many inner page links and delve deeper into the site.
There are a couple of ways of achieving this with play-ful design.
We make our design grid & layout slightly off center and varied to hold the user’s interest. It’s a fine balance to achieve. We don’t want to throw them totally off balance but we also don’t want to be boring and predictable. The key is to make each section different enough to make them want to engage and see more.
Another technique we’ve discovered is to have a diverse range of interactions and subtle animations. We managed to get this right with Nama Home, an e-commerce site we created last year. Some sections respond to mouse hover, others have slow horizontally scrolling elements which can also be dragged or clicked to open an inner product page.
And last but not least, editing the written content to keep it short and smart. In fact, playfulness is crucial in order to break the mould and introduce a genuinely fresh perspective. This is of course, preferable to just re-hashing old content written in faux corporate overtones.
One may be tempted to oversimplify this discussion by pointing out that it’s fine for a fashion brand marketed to teenagers but not as relevant for a financial consultant or a chemical manufacturer.
However, in our view, playful design is equally important if not more so for the financial consultant or chemical company.
And would you look at that, you made it all the way to the end of THIS long scrolling page. I thank you and hope this helps you in some small way or at the very least offers a different perspective on the subject.