Web Design Has Evolved Past Columns


Tuesday, 24 March 2009 at 2:00 am Pacific USA Time.

For 14 years now, my company has been on the cutting edge of website design. We did some things that were considered out there… until everybody was doing them. The very warm and visual style people are doing now with backgrounds, lots of mood, etc… is what we've been doing for years.

I'm always looking at where website design is going next, and one amazing thing I noticed was that some time in the 2nd half of 2008, major websites removed their columns. Best Buy, Target, and Office Max are some main ones I tend to watch. I assume they pay for research and focus groups. :) And all three removed their mult-column website format. What do they look like now? Click for larger versions.

Bestbuy-mar09
Target-mar09

Officemax-mar09
Gap-mar09

Columns are gone. Left side columns full of categories are gone. You can still search sites. And some do categories by having a "categories" button. When you run your mouse over that, categories pop up. Or they have categories along the top, and when you run your mouse over those, sub-choices pop up.

Have you seen the new View Item page eBay is testing? I believe that you will not be able to drop your eBay Store categories down the left. We had said for years to get those out. We thought they were more distracting than helpful, plus who wants to read a gigantic list of words. But now, I think that the new View Item page isn't even letting you put those there.

Left side categories are dead. Long live web design that is more visual, bold, vibrant, and focused on making shoppers feel engaged. Anybody who wants to give you lots of columns is probably not up on where website design has been going for years.

Once you click into a site, it makes sense for a left side column to be used to help you narrow down your search. But this is functional, and enhances your experience. If it makes shopping easier, then it makes sense. But to have those old-style home pages that dump EVERYTHING on there no longer really make sense. Shoppers' attention spans are WAY down. They're not reading. They want something catchy and obvious.

Here is someone who hasn't caught up with the times. :) Very texty. Lots of lists. Lots of messages… join site-to-store, top navigation, see all departments, left navigation, search box, backyard fun, nintendo, find gas prices, prescriptions… I think that's just too much for someone to digest. Too many messages. I look at this, feel overwhelmed, and just want to know where the search box is. :)

Walmart-mar09


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Categories: That's Good Marketing

Comments Closed

3 Responses to “Web Design Has Evolved Past Columns”

  1. tula says:

    It’s kind of funny, but these “new” design changes remind me of the early days of web design, when people were really being creative and having fun with this new medium. Lego used to have a nifty site back then. They’re still pretty good today, but back then, they were really ahead of the pack.
    Later, sites moved away from that stuff — perhaps for bandwidth reasons, since this was pre-broadband days — and onto more “professional” page layouts (see Amazon for an example :-). Very texty with plain white backgrounds. I’m glad to see something new and fresh becoming popular again. I just hope they don’t go overboard with all those cool, yet potentially annoying, Ajax popups/rollovers/dropdowns etc. A little is good, but it can easily be overwhelming with too many flashy bits clamoring for your attention.

  2. Go One Page Down says:

    If you click past the opening page on any of those shopping portals — it is back to left-navigation and white background and columns. Let’s not try and re-invent the wheel just because some folks have their opening pages a little spiffier. All of these websites primarily ask users to shop with left-nav from items appearing in columns.

  3. I think it’s time to come up with a new wheel. I don’t think that websites are best laid out for what people’s attention spans are now, and how people shop.
    Yes, inside pages may have left columns, but they are different than they used to be. Many help “narrow down” your options (like the left side of Best Buy) rather than show every category or an entire hierarchy.
    So don’t be fooled by going One Page Down. There are many changes around shopping websites, and people looking to have theirs designed now should think about these!