Having a strong website can be a game changer for any business. The best designs can increase your customer base, demonstrate your professionalism and build trust. However, to experience those benefits, your website must be fresh, be engaging and follow current best practices. If it’s been a while since you’ve updated your design, it may be time for a refresh.

Don’t know where to begin? Here are a few trends that we’ve been watching.

1. Authentic images

The majority of websites feature a high-quality banner image — also known as a hero image — front and center at the top of the homepage. But today, not just any image will do: In order to stand out, it’s becoming more and more important to use imagery that is not only good quality, but that also reflects the unique spirit of the brand.

Why we love this trend

A business’s website is often the first experience that potential customers have with a brand. “Placing a strong, professional image front and center is a great way to make a positive first impression and encourage users to continue scrolling down the page,” says Nalie Lee-Heidt, Manager of Customer Experience at Deluxe. “While there are times when stock photography may be the best option, using real images of your business, employees or products can go a long way toward telling prospects who you are, building trust and improving conversions.”

Imagery tips

It’s best to invest in professional photography services. But for many small business owners, that may not be financially feasible. Fortunately, smartphone cameras are becoming increasingly powerful and capable of capturing striking images. If you decide to take your own photos, you’ll want to make sure that:

  • Your subjects are well-lit
  • The final image is crisp and sharp
  • There is a central focal point

Once you have your photos, free editing and design software such as GIMP can give your images that polished, professional touch you’re looking for.

Hems Truck and Auto’s hero image is bright, inviting and features two of the shop’s actual technicians in the garage. This simple but strong image introduces the site’s visitors to the website as well as the shop:

2. Microinteractions

You experience carefully designed microinteractions with websites all the time, without even realizing it. A microinteraction is a moment or interaction that accomplishes a single task on a website. Facebook’s “like,” Yelp’s star ratings and Pinterest’s pins are just a few notable examples of a trend that is now a fundamental part of the way we browse the internet and relate to technology in general.

Why we love this trend

Web designers are being more intentional about the feedback users get with every click. Microinteractions like tooltip animations that help visitors fill out text fields, or loading bars that signify progress can take a small business website to the next level.

“Microinteractions bring simple website functions to life by creating a more engaging and fun user experience, guiding people through work or purchase flows and helping visitors visualize the results of the actions they perform as they scroll and click their way through your website,” says Lee-Heidt.

Microinteraction tips

Think about what will make navigating your site easier and more delightful. If you want your customers to know that a call to action (CTA) is clickable, for instance, make the button darken when a user hovers over it. “To be effective, the microinteraction should be easy to use and understand,” says Lee-Heidt.

On the Brandless website, getting product information is a cinch thanks to the “hover state” microinteraction. When you hover over an item on their product page, a list of product features is displayed.

3. Social proof

With the rise and success of influencer marketing in recent years, it’s clear that product and service endorsements are more important than ever.

Why we love this trend

Prospective customers want to know what people say about your brand. In fact, 83 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations over advertisements. “One way to appeal to those consumers is through social proof — in this case, that would be showcasing real client or customer testimonials on your website,” says Lee-Heidt. “Rather than trying to convince visitors why your products or services are great, you can have your satisfied customers support your claims and ease any concerns that potential customers might have.”

Social proof tips

Wondering how to collect testimonials? You can put out a call for feedback in your next email campaign or on social media, or hold a contest in which customers share their experiences with your brand for a chance to win a prize or receive discounted services. There are even widgets that you can install on your site that will directly feed Yelp reviews onto your homepage.

Online eyeglasses retailer EyeBuyDirect has two different forms of social proof on their website: badges on the bottom of their homepage to demonstrate that they’ve been acknowledged by well-known publications, and customer reviews that accompany their products.

When you’re considering a website refresh, researching design trends can be overwhelming — there are so many new and impressive developments happening all the time. So before you make any decisions, think about your overall marketing and business goals, and then incorporate new features that will bring you closer to achieving your mission.

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