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Website Design Trends in 2023 - Part 1

From Twin Creek Media's YouTube Channel:


James and Noah sat in front of a camera, and boom, “Between Two Creeks” happened! This is our latest adventure, a weekly podcast full of marketing tips + a bit of nonsense for Business Owners, CEOs and Marketing Directors.

This week’s highlight? Website Design Trends in 2023 - how things have changed over the years and what to focus on in your upcoming redesign.

In part 1, we discuss:

  • The importance of design for mobile devices & user experience
  • Google My Business profiles & connect social media accounts
  • Branding cohesiveness and the impact on customers' first impressions
  • Chatbots and using artificial intelligence (AI) tools in marketing

: Today, we are talking about website design and how it's changed since the birth of the internet in the 90s. Well, technically, that’s not even true, but the consumer internet was in the ’90s. The military was using it far before that, right? 


Noah: Yeah, I mean, the first website I remember creating was actually in the 1990s, in high school, for my dad. I did it in, I think it was HTML code, and you had to literally text everything into this box and then have it on the internet. It was really bizarre. 


James: That’s impressive because I didn’t even make a website until the early 2000s, but I remember I got asked “What was your first website like?”. It was Green, because I learned how to code the background of the page, you know, green, and I thought that was really awesome because I bought myself a book on HTML, similar to what you were doing, you type some code in, and you get some text on the screen. Getting pictures was a bigger challenge - learning how to do images and stuff but yeah! Text on screen with a couple of links. They were amazing websites, weren't they? Not at all. A ctually, they were terrible. 


Noah: Well, I learned how to do a step and repeat in the background - with the wood background! My father is a carpenter, so I did a nice step and repeat of wood panelling in the background. And a rotating - I remember this was a big one -  a rotating logo for Barlow Carpenters! 


James: In the 90s? You are way beyond! 


Noah: I felt pretty impressed 


James: Like a savant child? 


Noah: I was not. But I felt dialled in! Now I probably couldn't even remember what that code was because today, it’s become a lot easier to create really, really nice websites. 


James: That’s right -and we are talking about how website design has changed and particularly what are the trends and what’s coming up for 2023. Back in the mid-2000s, remember Flash? And how ”motion” was such a big big deal, right? So Macromedia Flash, you know, got bought by Adobe later on and went obsolete. And then everything went static, and now it’s all coming back into user experience is very, very important. The first thing on our sights - we’ll get to User Experience in a moment - but let's talk a bit about optimizing for mobile devices. Now that is a huge, huge deal, and why do you think that would be? 


Noah: Well, if you look at the data in the back end, almost all of our users - maybe at least 50% - of users are gonna be on their mobile devices. And obviously, these devices are with us everywhere, every day, and a lot of consumers are using that to check out the brand. 


James: So, even when we are talking to business owners here and marketing directors who are familiar with analytics - hopefully, if you don’t have that if you don’t know your web stats, and who is on your website - make sure to install Google Analytics. It’s a free program - and then just measure what device people are on when they hit your website. So, is it a small percentage on phones and tablets, or is it a really large percentage? It makes a big difference. And you have to optimize your experience for the most people on your site, who is your customer. For a lot of companies, as you said, it’s 50% or more, isn't it? So they have a majority of their website visitors who are actually on phones or tablets. Some business users - the more specialty business, commercial, industrial type industries are still dominated by desktop computers - or laptops, but for pretty much everybody else, the day-to-day visitor is gonna be on their phone. Especially when you're driving traffic to your site from places like Facebook or Instagram, or Linkedin when they happen to be scrolling on their feeds, and they are coming from a promotion or an ad or story that they’ve seen… 


Noah: Or even Google Maps, right? That’s one of our top leads, I love that, you know? It’s a great way to drive people in from Google Maps who are searching for something in their area, and then boom! Next thing you know, they are on your website, on their mobile device. You’ve got to make sure that it’s optimized for that. 


James: That kind of goes to one of our later points, but we can touch on it now - so the technology side of website design - and in using Google My Business, you know, the Google Map profile - as a secondary website for your company. Some companies still don't see it that way; you know, they think, "ah, they are on the maps; is their phone number right? Is their address right?" But it’s far more than that. If your google my business profile is really optimized, that is almost a second website for your company; it gets a lot of attention - a lot of hits, thousands per month, you know? And people are calling from that profile; they are clicking through to your website from that profile; they are reading your customer reviews - making a lot of decisions, whether to hire this company or not - whether to buy from this company or not. And in that website, I call it a website, but it’s actually just a business profile, like a directory listing, but it's so so critical these days, and that's one of the first things we do when a company comes in - we look at their google profile, is it optimized, is it up to date, is it doing what it could be... Huge potential from that. 


Noah: Absolutely. So how do you feel when you look at their Google profile but also, do you ever reference or check their social profiles?   


James: Absolutely. We are going to jump down to the “embrace technology” point - embracing technology is such a broad term, but what we mean by that is simply - are your dots connected? Remember the connect the dots diagram when you were in elementary school? It's much like that; is your Facebook connected to your website? And LinkedIn profile and YouTube channel, and other business directory listings like Yelp or another industry association directory - is that linked to your site? Is your Google profile linked to your site? Instagram, if you're reaching a younger demographic, Tik Tok is also important - so yeah, there is so many technology points out there that all need to be interconnected to have their best effect. 


Noah: For sure - and they all need to look cohesive too. I find a lot of the time, what we see on Instagram, you wonder if it's the same brand that you looked up online. But not the case with our clients obviously. It’s very important to have a cohesive look and feel, and we are seeing more and more clients pull the information from Instagram, Facebook or Google reviews - all of those can be now pulled into the website and incorporated into the design because I think having similar information across all platforms is very important, but we digest the information in different ways. 


James: Yeah, I mean branding is related now to trust and authority with the people's first impression - you know, you get a chance to meet and greet somebody - your already making judgements in the first 5 seconds - it's exactly the same with a website - you know, we have this 5-second test, when you hit a page - am I in the right place, can I trust this company? Is this company for me? So they are making these subconscious assessments on your website based on your design and branding, which goes into experience - user experience, and all these things need to kind of align across social platforms like you were saying with your website and with your bricks and mortar if you have a storefront, right? The whole thing needs to be “on brand,” as we say in the industry, meaning is it unified? Is it cohesive? Is it looking amazing across all fronts? and then there's a lot of trust just established in that, which is why branding is so important to all of these other things we're talking about, like website design. 


Noah: One of my favourite quotes from my favourite boss a long time ago is “Your brand is your promise.” That's how he always defined a brand, and I was like, that really resonates with me! So how does that translate to every piece of collateral, to everything that you're doing to communicate that promise? What is that promise? What does it mean?  


James: that's a good point. I have a very similar perspective on branding, which is - your brand is basically your reputation, but your reputation is what you are promising to others. But ultimately your brand or your reputation is not in your hands; it's in your customers' hands or your clients' hands. They're the ones forming their opinion about who you are, which becomes your long-term reputation, becomes what you're known for, AKA your promise. So that's kind of a neat segue into that, into how branding relates to that (cohesive communication). 

Just jumping back to technology, I wanted to touch on a few things - AI [Artificial Intelligence]. AI is like one of the buzzwords of 2022/2023, going to be in the future more and more and more you know, with ChatGPT and with other tools like Mid-Journey for image enhancements and creative design, so any comments on that? Are you using AI for any of our clients or your clients with creative work right now?


Noah: Yeah, I mean, I like to use ChatGPT, maybe less so Mid-Journey - I haven't found that to be as helpful, but I really think that ChatGPT is a great way to start the conversation. The heavy lifting in any campaign that we try to do is getting it started, and it's so hard to start the process, just like moving a heavy boulder you know, once you have it moving, it's easy to keep it moving, but it's the getting it started that requires a lot of time and a lot of - I guess heavy lifting so… 


James: So, on a practical level, what would you literally do to get it moving using AI?

Noah: so I would type in a prompt that would start a copywriting session. Let's say, “Let's write a script for a 30-second TV commercial about the latest beer,” sort of put in some audience prompts and then see what it spits out and leverage that as a starting point.


James: You're almost using it as an assistant, as a creative assistant, for brainstorming sessions exactly like a buddy. It's like - here, let me give you some ideas, bounce it back to me, yeah, what do you think? And that's actually pretty cool!


Noah: It is fun because you know oftentimes I don't get something that I like back [from AI], but it gets my brain thinking in a completely different way, and to the point where I've now started to be able to identify when my clients are using AI as well to respond to things, and you can kind of see a general theme that's forming there. I don't hate it by any means, I think it's fun, I think it's a great assistant, and a great creative tool if used in the right way. Having it write your essay or write your creative script or any of that kind of stuff, I think, is lazy, but yeah, I'm loving it. 


James: From scratch and not without any editing, exactly. Our team does the same thing when they're writing stuff. You can either use it at the front end and have AI generate some ideas for you or write some stuff for you, which is actually sometimes pretty good, sometimes not so on point. Or you can have it [the AI] edit for you. We had one of our writers who wrote their own article on a topic, and they used AI to trim it down - it's like here, take this 600-word article and turn it into 400 words. So it was almost like an assistant editor but from an AI perspective too. So again, I'm using it as an assistant, as a tool, which is the point, right?

Noah: Yeah, and I like to use it to help me to truncate ideas - “give me the five bullet points out of this article that I just wrote,” or “help me summarize our big thoughts around these three things in cannabis.” Oftentimes it will give you a great summary of what you're trying to achieve, and then you can take and further refine it. So, you know, I like it! I think it's only getting better, and you also see it used in ChatBots, right, so ensuring that we can have websites that are providing user engagement by installing an awesome AI ChatBot that will allow customers to find the right information and respond to the right article and reference the right yeah device that you're selling -I think that's really powerful. 


James: I mean, we've used ChatBots on several of our client's websites, from the legal industry for law firms to Medical clinics on the clinic level over to software technology, so you know a ChatBot is a good kind of virtual receptionist in a sense. Some of the companies have it manned with a live person; other ones say no, we can't handle the number of conversations coming in or afford to pay someone who just sits there and answers all the conversations - when the front end of it which would be the first five questions or so, could be done with a chatbot - with an AI following a scripted path. Kind of a conversational program like a conversational Playbook, so you know, you start with some base existing questions, and then depending on the person's answer, it kind of goes down that tree, that little conversation path, and it ends with a certain endpoint where they're either provided the resource they were looking for or an answer to their question or setting up an appointment or booking a call with somebody for further follow-up. So, lead generation is a lot of what our agency is doing with our clients, and ChatBots are a good tool for that. 


Noah: Yeah, I think so. I remember having to train employees on how to communicate with customers for our customer service channel when I worked for a large consumer package good company, and the textbook was hefty, and now to have that automated it's actually impressive! Because you don't have to do all that back learning, and you don't have to set somebody up with a week's worth of learning about your product information or PK, as they called it in the industry, the ChatBot can just know [learn] it when you upload the document!


James: I totally agree with all that. The disadvantage I find when I'm on a website with a ChatBot is you can't get to a human ever, they've actually blocked that, and I don't know if you've ever tested it - you get in there, and you're like I know this is a ChatBot I'm talking to, and you type in “human please!” and “human” seems to be like a trigger word and some of the ChatBots recognize that and they go “Connecting you with a customer service representative, just hold on one moment” -  because I didn't know how to get out of this little box that I'm in talking to this ChatBot and I was like, I don't want to talk with an AI, I want a human being - I have a weird question that’s unanswered! and I went “Human, please,” and then it went “Connecting you with an agent” or “with the customer service rep” - It was great! It was awesome! Because I just gave up, you know? And it was funny because you think of the 90s or the 2000s, and that was beyond (what we imagined), right? In the movies like sci-fi stuff where you say I need to talk with a human being, yeah? 


Noah: But the wait times have decreased, so that's important. I think that to me, it’s probably one of the best pieces of AI out there; if the ChatBot can solve the wait time issues, it means I spend less time waiting to connect with a real person because they're solving the majority of problems. I really enjoy them. 


James: Always a silver lining. Good point!

Noah: I think another piece of technology that has really impressed me is the translation services available - [AI] being able to speak in multiple languages. I think the way that AI has advanced that has really helped. I translated one of our client's websites into German recently, and instead of having a translator go through all of the copy on the website - it is a really, really hefty copy-heavy website because of the industry that they're in, it’s mining -  it's very technical, there's a lot of technical jargon within there and so instead of handing over a copy deck to a translator I uploaded the service and the plugin and it [AI] translated all of the copy through the entire website into German, and then I hired a translation service to just review it and so they did have edits… 


James: I was about to put you on the hot spot - so how do you know that's accurate when you don't speak the language?! 


Noah: So instead of hiring somebody to do all the copy edits and then for me to go into the website and place all the copy edits, Now I insert the plugin, and it does all the translations, it inserts them…


James: And three-quarters of the work is done! And you're just left with the human expert to proofread instead of doing the whole thing, so yeah, it's efficient!

Join us next week for part 2 of Website Design Trends in 2023.

“Between Two Creeks” is Twin Creek Media’s weekly podcast series. You can find us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Spotify. If you enjoy listening to the latest and wonkiest in marketing every week, don’t forget to hit that subscribe button! If you want us to amp up your marketing, click here to contact us and let’s chat!