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Do Web Usage Trends Impact on Web Design?

Published on October 28, 2011
Tags: Web Design London, Internet Communication

Questions relating to human behaviour are always interesting and human behaviour in relation to the internet is no different. It’s always intriguing when surveys are released detailing how we tend to spend our time online – but what use do these surveys actually have? For most people, such things are largely for interest only; they provide a good snapshot of what is happening when and offer some entertainment (and possibly validation for our own internet habits).

But what about web designers? Can web usage trends have an impact on web design? Does knowing the percentage of people who use e-retail sites, for example, filter into ecommerce web design?

There isn’t really an easy answer to these questions, as the factors that impact on web design are numerous and so are not just based on how many people like to watch funny YouTube videos of cats (millions of them, if video viewing figures are anything to go by). Specific target audiences have to be kept in mind, as do the needs and wishes of businesses and others looking to start websites. Various regulations and rules have to be adhered to and the limits (and possibilities) of technology have to be explored.

So the issue isn’t simple, but arguably knowing how people like to use the internet can have some effect on certain aspects of website design. For instance, a 2004 survey found that people aged 18-29 were much more likely than people over 30 to use instant messaging services (59% compared to 33%). Information such as this can be used to influence the design of IM services: if you know that most of your users are aged under 30, it helps to focus your website design. Alternatively, it could inspire you to pitch your site design at an older, niche market.

Interestingly, the same study found that 65% of young internet users used the web to research new jobs, compared to 31% of older people. These figures are likely to be more equal now as more and more services move online, but they still provide an interesting insight into where people look for information – and could be useful if you were trying to decide how to pitch a new job vacancy website, for instance.

Of course, web usage trends are also interesting in their own right even without wondering how they might be able to help issues relating to web design. As an example, a 2011 US study found that 78% of adults (both men and women) use the internet. The study also found that people who earn more money are also more likely to be online: 96% of people with a household income over $75,000 had access to the internet as of May 2011, compared with 63% of those whose household income is less than $30,000. Young people were also more likely to be online (95%) than those aged over 65 (42%).

This also raises issues relating to the accessibility of the internet, as well as questions as to how people view it. For instance, are some people unable to use the internet because of how much it costs? Do younger people find it more relevant to their lives than older people?

Many studies have already been done on these important issues and many more are sure to be carried out in the future, but for now, let’s focus on changing web trends. In 2006, 2% of web users said that there was a video of them online. Fast forward to 2011 and that figure goes up to 10%. This also points us in the direction of other changes in web usage: social media is more popular now than it was five years ago and more businesses also have extensive online operations, both of which have helped contribute to the growth in videos online. The popularity of video sites such as YouTube also has a big part to play.

This suggests that there is a certain amount of responsiveness in the internet and web design; as trends emerge and start to become more prominent, they are developed further by designers and others keen to make the most of online potential. It also suggests that web users themselves are reactive and responsive to changes instigated by web design in the first place. After all, web habits can’t change and trends can’t start without someone creating them in the first place.

Overall then, web design and web trends are largely dependent on each other. They are both interesting to look at in their own right, but are arguably most useful – and most interesting – when seeing how they impact on each other and how one can spark a reaction in the other. As web usage continues to grow and evolve, it will be interesting to see the changes that come about as a result.

By Chelsey Evans

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