Top Website and Website Design Trends for 2011

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Last year we published the Top Web Design Trends For Small Business in 2010 and as I reflect on the  Top Website and Website Design Trends for 2011, I know for certain that technology is moving so fast that many new technologies will probably be introduced by the time I finish this article!

Websites as business tools will continue to be important. In 2011, shared content will become more significant, as people read it and then share it with their networks. Social optimization of websites coupled with integration of all marketing activities – e-mail, websites and social networks — will be the key to success.

Websites are making an interesting shift in 2011. A traditional website will no longer be sufficient as more and more individuals are accessing the Internet from their mobile devices. This will not only affect small business websites, but ecommerce tactics as well. I’ve collaborated with a few of my colleagues at Network Solutions to take a deeper dive into mobile and online trends for 2011.

Top Website and Website Design Trends for 2011

I want to start with a very simple observation:  Have you noticed that when sharing URLs more people are using the non-www version of their domain names as their main URL address? Rick Wilhelm, VP of Engineering at Network Solutions, says “Given the ubiquity of the Web in today’s media landscape, writers no longer need to lean on the “www” prefix to let readers know that the URL is actually a URL.  If we went back in time, we would find a time when a 10-digit number with dashes needed to be identified as a telephone number.  Now, URLs have made that a similar transition.” Most Web servers can be configured to send both requests (www and non-www) to the same place.

Top Website and Website Design Trends For 2011

Flexible Websites
This trend came from my long-time friend and Chief Web Designer at Network Solutions, Bob Kohute. Bob stresses the importance of the ability for a single website to serve several media purposes successfully (traditional browser, iPad, iPhone). The hot trend right now is utilizing CSS media queries to serve multiple layouts based on device and screen dimensions so that the website is flexible enough to display properly and cleanly.

Flexible websites are very beneficial fpr small businesses as there is no longer a need to build separate, custom websites for mobile-specific purposes. Small business owners are able to build one website that properly uses media queries and can serve up business content successfully across several browsing platforms.

Here is an example. Resize your browser to see the benefits of a scalable and flexible website.

The Emergence of HTML 5
You may be familiar with HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) that is used for Web pages. HTML5 is the next major revision of HTML that will see wider adoption in 2011, both by Web designers and browsers.  Many Web giants like Microsoft, Google and Facebook have already started implementing it, with increased implementation for HTML5 in 2011.

Lynne Brehmer, Principal Design Services at Network Solutions, says “Although it won’t be fully available across all browsers in 2011, according to Smashing Magazine, more and more people should start experimenting with the new HTML5. YouTube is already offering enhanced video feature for browsers that support it. In addition, HTML5 offers an integration tool with social media, which will be a major focus in 2011.”

Simon Mackie wrote in a GigaOm article, “As technologies like HTML5, CSS3, SVG and WebGL start to become more mainstream, not only will the Web apps we already use become more useful, but we should also see developers building Web apps that do things that previously could have been done only by desktop applications.”

Also, take a look at this note from Davin Recordon on Facebook on his team’s HTML5 projects.

Moving to the Online Newsroom
Every website craves the attention of Web visitors, but the average attention span is about 8 to 10 seconds. In that short time your website has to grab the attention of the visitor and if you succeed, you probably have another 2 to 3 minutes to present the relevant information to the visitor. In 2011 website designers will reward visitors with a new trend—the “editorial layout.”

Lynne Brehmer also shared her thoughts on the editorial layout, stating, The editorial layout will be another big trend in Web design in 2011. This style allows Web designers to provide readers with a better layout, enabling them to find information much more easily. These websites are simple to navigate and cater to succinct messages that are easy to follow. As a result, websites will contain brief articles with subheadings and large images.”

Staying Secure in 2011
Before people trust your website with their money or information, they want reassurance that they are at the right website and the site is secure. With increasing awareness of online security, websites with trust seals will have a better chance of retaining visitors and shoppers.

According to Roy Dykes, Product Manager at Network Solutions, consumers are becoming better educated when seeking key trust indicators while shopping online. Online businesses that successfully convey trust and assurance to their customers through the use of Extended Validation or EV SSL Certificates will benefit from increased customer conversion and lower abandonment rates. Extended Validation SSL Certificates which provide a green “good-to-go” browser indicator to online visitors provide reassurance that the website they are visiting has been thoroughly vetted by a commercial Certification Authority (CA) and that it is safe to interact with.

Mobile E-Commerce: Shopping on the Go
John Steedman, Principal, E-Commerce Products, at Network Solutions, provides additional insight into mobile trends. Beyond developing their mobile strategy for Web design, small businesses will need to consider mobile e-commerce. Mobile sales have grown 143 percent, from $1.4 billion in 2009 to $3.4 billion in 2010, according to ABI Research. Shoppers are increasingly using smartphones for price comparisons, participating in loyalty programs, finding local inventory and making online purchases.  This has led to a power shift toward the buyer, and as a result, retailers are challenged to find innovative ways to attract and retain the mobile shopper. In 2011, at a minimum, retailers will need a mobile-friendly presence to remain relevant to the mobile shopper.

Social Sharing and Shopping
Social networks are a fantastic way to share content. Websites that “wow” visitors will be shared more often, so small businesses should consider shareability in their design. Visitors who stop by your website should be able to use their browser plug-ins or widgets like Addthis, Sharethis, Facebook  Like ,Bizsugar,  Tweet button for Twitter or Linkedin Share to easily share a  good summary of your content with their networks.

John Steedman also notes that mobile e-commerce is only the beginning. Merchants will need to leverage their customers’ social connections to get share of mind in 2011. More and more customers are on social networks. According to Morgan Stanley Technology Research, Facebook’s user base grew more than 50 percent in 2010 to more than 600 million users.  Twitter’s user base grew 74 percent to more than 100 million users.  As customers spend more time engaging with their social networks, e-commerce merchants will need to leverage their customers’ networks to promote their brands and products through share and like features and social storefronts.

Year of Website Measurement
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there,” Avinash Kaushik quoted Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland in his article, Leverage Custom Reports for Better Insights. Avinash is Analytics Evangelist at Google. If website owners are not already paying attention to their analytics, this will be the year to do so.  While you may look at your data-rich analytics report and pat yourself on your back, admiring the scores of Web visitors, this year may be the time to look at them to see what is actually working. “Don’t be data rich [and] insight poor,” said Jim Sterne in his book Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Investment.

Set your goals. Agree on your KPIs (key performance indicators). Find where your best visitors came from and which campaigns worked for you, and invest more money and resources there.

Consider Mobile First and Foremost for Your New Online Strategy
As a small business owner, you are probably using a mobile device to check e-mail, receive calls from customers and use productivity apps. Your audience is doing the same, and smartphone adoption and the usage of data on mobile devices are increasing. According to Mobile Marketer, one out of four consumers today has a smartphone with Web browsing and application download capability. This figure is expected to jump to one out of three in 2011. This is an important year to consider or reconsider your mobile strategy.

Lynne Brehmer also weighs in on this trend. It’s not all about the PC anymore. According to a ComputerWorld article, in the next 18 months, shipments of smartphones, tablets and other app-enabled devices are projected to overtake PC shipments. As a result, it won’t be enough for your business to merely have a traditional website. Now it will be important to implement a mobile strategy first and foremost when designing content. Your audience will be mobile—so you need to be too.

See these additional resources for more information on mobile website trends: Paul Graham, Nielsen, Business Insider and Zurb.

Short Is the New Content Trend
Twitter and Facebook status updates are getting more eyeballs, and you have to get better at crafting your message in 140 characters. As IH Hudson said, “It’s not the 140-character limit but the character of the message that counts.” How does your website article heading translate into a 140-character tweet? How can your URL be shortened to fit the 140-character limit? These are some of the questions website owners need to work to answer.

URL shorteners and Hootsuite offer the option of custom domain URL shortening, which means you have the option of having your brand as part of the URL. For example, Twitter has as a shortener and New York Times has, Washington Post The possibilities are enormous. Google has its own URL shortening service called Did I mmention many of them offer analytics on clicks using the short urls?

Locate, Check In and Review
This year, there was a proliferation of location-based services, which allow users to search for nearby business, check in to any business and share the info with their social networks. Location-based services continue to evolve, with businesses rewarding frequent customers and customers leaving virtual tips about the business. Some of these sites include Yelp, Gowalla, Foursquare and Facebook Places. Most, if not all, target mobile devices.

Encouraging your customers by adding badges to your website urging them to check in to your business on these sites will give you exposure with this check-in crowd. Consider having a feed from these sites on your website to serve as useful, real-time testimonials.

As the small business experts who spoke at the GrowSmartBusiness Conference 2010 said, “Technology for technology’s sake is not a good strategy. Use technology to solve a business problem and make your services more efficient.” We look forward to a great 2011!

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Shashi Bellamkonda Shashi Bellamkonda is CMO of Surefire Social, AKA "Social Media Swami" at SurefireSocial. Visit Shashi Bellamkonda's blog. He is also an adjunct faculty at Georgetown University. Shashi is a regular contributor to the Washington Business Journal, DC Examiner and other tech blogs like Smallbiztechnology and Techcocktail. Shashi has been in the list of Top 100 Small Business Influencer Champions list for 2011 and 2012.

25 Reactions
  1. Fantastic trends post, Shashi!

    Lots of things to consider in 2011.

    So many people are focused on mobile. Even though it’s still tough to really surf a website on my Blackberry, I still do it.

    And, I’ll continue to do so. Just like lots of others.

    Happy New Year, Shashi!

  2. Shashi Bellamkonda

    Thanks Joel. As long as your Blackberry is serving your needs you are making a wise decision. Thank you for speaking at the GrowSmartBiz conference and your work with Franchising.

    Happy New Year !

  3. Thank you for the insightful article. I am especially appreciative for the section labeled “Locate, Check In and Review”. I’m a web designer and wasn’t really aware of this mobile crowd and their sharing reviews of local businesses.

  4. I surely hope that more websites start taking mobile seriously. I’m often surprised by how many times I access a website on my Blackberry Storm and don’t get a mobile version. This is especially troubling when the website is a mini-site for a promotion being run on cups at a fast food restaurant, where you could safely assume that nearly every person encountering the URL will NOT be sitting at a laptop or desktop computer.

    Secondly, I don’t know if check-in technologies are going to get traction until there is a compelling reason (either incentives or some type of game built in) to do so. I haven’t used my Foursquare app for months because I just don’t see a good reason to check in places. It clutters my Twitter feed with irrelevant (to most of my users) tweets and I’m not often in a position where I want people to know my whereabouts for the purpose of meeting up.

  5. Shashi Bellamkonda

    Thanks Daryl. You know many restaurants have plaques with articles written about them in newspapers. I think a similar one with reviews would be a great web badge of achievement.

    Yesterday I was at a restaurant called Flyinf Saucer in Austin and guests were talking about the menu almost once every 5 minutes during the 6 p.m time frame. Imagine that as a feed 😉 for all website visitors to see. See and FourSquare has a code for “Add to Foursquare”.

    This will evolve and of course as long as the business is confident that it is providing good value , negative reviews will be an exception

  6. Shashi Bellamkonda

    Hi Robert,

    Thank for stopping by and it seems to me that the time your business needs a mobile website the most is when a customer has almost decided or is on the verge of deciding to go to your business.

    The Check-in ability is fast catching on and businesses should try to use it as you said “either incentives or some type of game built in” . i have a feeling that will happen this year. Some retailers have already started rewarding loyal customers. it is no different from traditional campaigns that small businesses have been running – giving a lollipop to visiting kids makes the parents happy 😉

    When I check-in to a business is usually a) A small business that could use some exposure b) Check and see what tips others have left about the business c) check to see if any businesses have offers ( have not found any that I could use yet)

    As far as looking for friends it’s rare but useful during conferences.

    Happy New Year and Happy Holidays !


  7. Great post Shashi! Two topics that you might want to talk about that relates to this are content management options like WordPress, and integration with things like Facebook Connect. There are plenty of tools beyond these that people are leveraging. One that I find myself using more frequently are Google Web Forms. You can put together a feedback or survey form and easily embed it in a website to enhance user interaction. Disqus is also a popular tool used to make the process of sharing, commenting, etc. easier.

  8. Entrepreneurs, Lifestyleprenuers, Small Business Marketing Directors and CEO’s should pay attention to this content rich list that Shashi put together. Everyone should print out this list and reference it in Q1 2011. I just hit the print button…thank you Shashi for providing another useful article for us.

    Jennifer Abernethy
    America’s Sales Stylist
    Author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Social Media Marketing

  9. A very useful article. Especially liked the part about “Short” being the new content trend!

  10. Shashi,

    Thank you for the information on mobile trends. I am working on a report covering mobile optimization and that information will come in handy.

    As Bob mentioned, WordPress can go hand in hand with mobile optimization. WP offers the flexibility in sizing that is necessary for mobile viewing.

  11. Shashi,
    Great post! I am intrigued with the changes that HTML 5 will bring and surprised at how they are already being implemented. Sounds like a slam dunk. Any advice for the small business person on what they can do to ensure they stay ahead of the curve when it comes to changing their “old” html sites to the new language? Where is it worthwhile to spend money having developers make chanages and where is it not?
    Alan Glazier

  12. Shashi Bellamkonda


    Great tip from you on Google Forms which keeps improving. Do you think Web content management options are almost a new post in itself. Facebook Connect and other open social platforms are a trend but may be advanced as for now and good to keep up with them. I should have added Facebook optimization but I figured has several articles on the subject



  13. Shashi Bellamkonda

    Thanks Jennifer – Did you see My 2011 year of sharing and learning in pictures where the launch of The Complete Idiot

  14. Shashi Bellamkonda

    Thanks Rhonda. I am glad you like my “short” trend.

  15. Shashi Bellamkonda

    Hi Deborah,

    Thanks for topping by and I look forward to reading your mobile optmization article.


  16. Shashi Bellamkonda

    Hi Alan,

    As a doctor you are doing the right thing keeping in touch with technology. I think you gave me a new topic idea for how small business can stay ahead of the curve and what they should know about HTML5.

    Stay tuned.


  17. Thanks for the great post Shashi,

    Very interested that mobile is becoming more widespread and it’s great to see the encouragement for businesses to have a mobile friendly version of their website.

    The measurement and setting of KPIs is also something that I like to see.

    A key aspect is that whilst businesses produce a mobile version of their website that these mobile sites are fully tested before they are launched.

    Any new developments need to be tested to make sure that they display on each mobile device correctly and also work as intended.


    Tom Batey
    WebDepend Website Testing

  18. Kevin @ SiteWizard CMS Web Design

    Hi Shashi,

    Nice article – the web is all about mobile and touch-friendly devices these days. I agree that “flexible websites” (adaptive rendering) are a great innovation and will work well for simple websites. For others though it is still better to implement a separate mobile-friendly website with a framework like jQuery Mobile. I think it depends on the industry and functionality of the website.

    Another trend I’ve seen is a reduction in Adobe Flash usage. I think that is because (1) Flash is not supported on iPhone/iPad at all (2) the Android version of Flash is being discontinued by Adobe and (3) modern browsers with HTML 5 can do much of what Flash accomplished without need for a plug-in.