The term Web 2.0 is used to describe the evolution of three aspects of creating modern websites: the technology, the visual design, and the use of content. The trend is toward user interaction and simplicity in the overall look. Few of us remember back before the year 2000 when the web was polluted with gaudy designs and navigation involved trying to close stubborn pop-ups from cheesy advertisers and pornography sites. Web sites were used by businesses as nothing more than business cards; companies originally balked at putting up a site but gradually (and grudgingly) came around and started putting their logos and phone numbers online, for in the beginning there were no multi-page sites available to them, only a single page. The internet, which was originally meant for worldwide academic collaboration had now entered the business world.
Next was the techno-hype era in which designers and clients looked for new ways to stand out form the crowd and get attention by using the latest web gimmicks. There was a greater focus on the glitz and glam of applets, flash, and videos as opposed to content. Just as water finds its own level, it became obvious that graphic designers and their spectacular creations didn’t translate into profits. The business website had the potential to bring in new customers and supply them with enough information to inspire them to contact the company; having visual distractions or poorly-placed information could cause the visitor to leave the site early before the message was received. Web pages heavy with moving visuals had the problem of being very slow-loading, causing many visitors to get restless and leave the site once they waited too long for the server to deliver.
Today, we are in a stage of web evolution where a good web experience is the result of mutual collaboration between presentation (visual design), interaction (response to users), and organization (site structure). This stage is referred to as the usability era. Sites that were once considered “cool” sites are no longer as cool as we once thought they were. Focus is now being placed on usability as determined by user studies.
Eye-tracking studies show that people react better to the content standing out from the background and aligned in the center. Backgrounds in off-white and grey with the words in black are effective for both the human eye and the search engine spider. There are still some site owners who use a black background and white letters which can really sting the eyes of someone trying to read it.
Simplicity works because the human attention span is growing shorter as we’re bombarded with information from all sides, and there are countless choices available to the web surfer. The content should be compact and easy to understand, and laid out so that the visitor is led to the section where they can interact (fill out a form, buy something, contact by phone, etc.). By simplifying the content you kill two birds with one stone, because the search engines will have an easy time understanding what the pages are about, and reward you with page views and higher rankings.