Adam Fisher
31st October 2018 - 5 mins read
S

o, we’ve boiled these trends down to the ones you simply cannot afford to ignore.

Here, Thirty Seven’s digital designer Tom Sykes takes you through the website design trends you really need to know.

 

Accessibility

It might sound simple, but one of the key trends so far in 2018 has been a move towards making website content easier to read.

A back to basics ethos has seen an increasing number of websites adopt a pure black on pure white approach to text.

Larger fonts and bigger headlines have also become increasingly popular.

“For a while, many websites suffered from a sort of design for the sake of design approach,” said Tom.

“But now the focus is much more on the readability of the content. We are not seeing coloured text on coloured backgrounds anymore and in many cases design has been stripped to a minimum, so that there isn’t stuff around the website which could detract the user away from what they came to the site to do.”

Tom cites the redesigned Dropbox website as a strong example of this new approach, particularly the move to bigger headlines.

He said: “The Dropbox typeface – ‘grotesque’ - is something I think we will see more of. It’s a wide typeface and is aesthetically pleasing, but that does not detract from the readability.”


Bold colours

2018 is the year for going bold with colour.

Websites are currently being designed with vibrant, bright colours.

And colour gradients are making a comeback after years of being shunned by designers. In fact, the two-colour effect is back in a big way.

Tom said: “We are seeing a move from safe and subtle colours to bold and bright ones. Designers are playing more with colours, are trying more things and are just being more courageous.

And part of this playing with colour had seen gradients begin to appear on websites everywhere.”

Tom is a particular fan of the vibrant colours used on the Sketch website which enables the company’s gold gem logo to really stand-out.

The Premier League is another website which has embraced a bold palette, combining a strong purple with flashes of bright pink – not necessarily colours you would associate with football, but certainly visually effective.

 

Playfulness

Another emerging trend is brands trying to ensure their websites better reflect their personalities.

This has seen a move away from the more formal, professional language, typically seen on websites to a more light-hearted, fun, product-focused style.

“This is an approach we are seeing a lot of start-up companies take and it is helping them to find their footing and forge their identity”, said Tom.

“I think there is growing realisation that highly formal copy doesn’t always successfully draw in customers in 2018. It is a move that is being driven by millennials who are growing up and driving the market. They want to feel brands are being genuine with them. 

“The Product Hunt website is a great example of this. It uses humorous language, makes jokes and even uses emojis. It basically uses the same language as those who visit the website.”

Of course, this approach won’t work for everyone and you would probably be unlikely to buy healthcare insurance from a website which used emojis, for example. But it is certainly something brands should consider.

This playfulness trend is also seeing more illustration being used on websites with custom drawings also helping to bring a human touch and highlight personality.

 

Animation

Animation is rapidly becoming the new norm in website design with a growing number of companies using it to help bring ideas and products to life.

Increasingly websites use animation to enable them to show products from every possible angle.

Tom said: “There are thousands of videos on social media and when you scroll down your feed and they start playing they can draw you in.

“Animation on a website can bring that same focus to products. Instead of static images, customers are able to see the whole product and they get a much better idea of what they are potentially buying.”

Apple uses a lot of animation on its website, allowing customers to view products from numerous different angles.

But it is not just about products. Animated logos are becoming a growing trend and we increasingly seeing logos that spin, transform, expand or even appear to be hand drawn.

They are eye-catching and often memorable and that can give brands an important edge.

The Sketch website that we mentioned earlier in this blog is a great example of animation – when the homepage completes animating it looks totally different from how it started, where it shows an overview of the software, and instead features the latest feature updates.

It is also an approach we have taken on our own website, where the Thirty Seven logo changes colour as you scroll down the page.

Animation can bring great focus to a product and allow your customers to view it from multiple angles. This can even sway their decision to purchase. - Via @37agency

 

Unorthodox design

Another key trend is the move away from typical website designs.

The familiar ‘hamburger menu’ – the three-pronged menu icon – has been a staple diet for websites for years.

But appetites are changing and websites are now being designed which take very different approaches to navigation.

“We are now seeing websites where the user is really encouraged to look at it and almost have to learn what it does and where they should go,” said Tom.

“It is about encouraging users to be curious and explore in a way that traditional navigation would not really facilitate.

“Obviously, you don’t want to go too far because you want to ensure they get what they came to the website for, but it is about encouraging them to have more fun with the site.”

This move away from typical website patterns is seeing a rise in highly focused homepages with full-screen displays that just depict one product, rather than long scrolling pages.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper. 

Marketing

Content should be more than just marketing

Tom Idle 29th March 2018 — 8 mins read

I couldn’t bear to sit around on the sidelines any longer while some agencies just messed things up,” is how James puts it when I ask why he’s decided to venture into the world of content marketing.

In his six years as MD of Media First, James and his team have been asked more and more to help with different communications challenges – to present better, to deliver more impactful messages, to shoot and edit film, to hone communications. “We’ve been naturally moving towards helping with content marketing over the years. Now, with Thirty Seven we will get to help our amazing clients in a much more involved way.”

James is joined by Mark, an ex-Microsoft application development consultant, who has been running his own content and design agency for the last five years. Having worked together enhancing Media First’s own content marketing and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) performance, the pair decided to team up.

“We’ve built a loyal following and I enjoy knowing that what we are producing is worthwhile and entertaining,” adds James. “I knew that, so long as we kept enjoying the creative process and stayed true to our journalist-led concepts of always putting the audience first, then there was a good chance that people would continue to enjoy reading, watching and listening to the content we were making.”

Enjoying the frisson of their new business launch, the pair were keen to tell me how and why they plan to do content marketing better.

 

It seems that your decision to establish Thirty Seven was based on a belief that most content marketing is poor. What’s wrong with it? 

Mark Mars (MM): So much content is produced without any strategy behind it and the quality just isn’t there.

When it comes to SEO, there has been such a focus on creating pages that rank for certain keywords. What you often end up with is lots and lots of content which might create a decent search ranking, but the quality is so poor that visitors don’t stick around for long. Google has caught up with that and now has more quality measures in place.

James White (JW): SEO and content are still considered by some agencies to be separate pieces of work. But they need to be considered together. You don’t produce good SEO with poorly developed content; it just doesn’t work.

Also, the content marketing industry seems to be in a race to produce the most amount of stuff. Quality is coming second to quantity.

 

But clearly your customers are increasingly aware of the need to improve content quality. How have you evolved to cope with changing client needs?

MM: A hell of a lot has changed in the last five years. Back in 2014, spend in content marketing was about £125 million a year. By 2020, it is set to jump to around £350 million, so brands really understand that this is the best way to reach their audiences.

There is also more appetite from consumers to digest content in many different forms, which opens up plenty of opportunity for publishers and content creators.

But that is not to say that it is being done particularly well. About 80% of B2B marketers claim to use content marketing. But 70% of them lack a consistent or integrated content strategy—and that’s a big problem. There has been too much focus on quantity over quality.

JW: ‘Quality’ is such a generic term because it’s all subjective. You need to develop the right content, for the right audience, in the right format, at the right time and in the right place.

Brands need to think more like publishers to really get the value out of content.

 

You use journalists to deliver content for your customers. The benefits of doing that might be obvious, but what is it you’re getting from journalists that you might not get from other content creators?

JW: Well, content should be more than just marketing. It’s not just good enough these days to tell good stories. You have to educate, entertain and excite audiences. You have to give people a reason to care.

Journalists inherently get this. They know how to sniff out unique stories that make people stop, sit up and listen. My wife is a journalist and she has a great ability to be brutally honest. I could spend all day coming up with, what I think is, a great idea. I’ll go home and tell her about it and she’ll challenge me by saying something like, “Who cares? Why will your audience give a damn?”

And that’s what’s great about journalists. They can easily put themselves in somebody else’s shoes and work out how people tick. That’s why I’ve loved working with our team of journalists at Media First these past six years.

 

Back in 2014, spend in content marketing was about £125 million a year. By 2020, it is set to jump to around £350 million...

 

All of your customers will have very different needs. How do you approach each piece of work to deliver the best results?

MM: Well, you need to get into the mind of the client to find out what they want to achieve, rather than just blindly creating content. You need to help build a cohesive and coherent plan that includes not just what content you will create, but also how you are going to publish it and promote it.

JW: It’s all about meeting objectives. Is this content to raise awareness? Or is it to convert lurkers on a website into buyers?

It’s also about looking at data to find out what types of content a client’s audience wants and how it wants that delivered.

When we get into content creation mode, we work like an editorial newsroom to script, write, edit and sub-edit. That then goes through a cycle of refinements until we are happy for it to leave our office and reach the client for sign-off.

 

There’s a continuous debate about the virtues of long- versus short-form content. Which do you think is best?

MM: It’s not really about what’s better. It’s about what’s most appropriate.

We do live in a fast-paced world, but to say that nobody wants to read more than 500 words just isn’t true. Long-form content has always received more shares and links than shorter pieces. People do appreciate the time that goes in to creating quality long-form content. And Google does too, with their algorithm generally favouring longer content.

 

So, are there rules for creating great content that you stick to?

JW: We like to use the simple TRUTH test – that the content is Topical, Relevant, Unusual, Trouble (solves, raises awareness of or discusses) and importantly, contains Human interest.

But it has to be delivered in the right format as well. Many people were surprised to hear that Media First and Thirty Seven have joined forces to create this magazine. Yes, it might seem a bit retro but not all audiences are the same; not everyone wants to read a blog or get their information from social media. I have a Kindle and iPad at home but still buy books, newspapers and magazines.

 

The General Data Protection Regulation is coming, giving individuals more control over how their personal data is collected and used online. What will it mean for the content marketing industry?

JW: It’s certainly something our clients need to be aware of, not least because the new regulation is so far-reaching. It will affect not just marketing but internal comms and even supplier contracts.

You can either hide under your desk and pretend it’s not happening. Or you can see it as an opportunity to be proactive.

I personally think it’s a great thing. I will have more control over my data and who markets to me. And as a content producer, I will know that we are providing our audiences with information they want.

 

So, what does the future look like for content marketing?

MM: We are drowning in content and it is getting harder to get results. The average number of shares of any content has been steadily falling over the last few years. So the whole practice does need to evolve.

That means content marketers need to be a lot more strategic about the type of content they create, backed by better research. And instead of asking inexperienced or new writers to churn out low-quality pages of blogs for long-tail keyword targeting, content teams will be comprised of creative designers, developers, AI experts, videographers, as well as plenty of experienced writers and journalists too.

JW: We also know that it’s going to be important to work closely with our customers’ teams. I hate the concept of a full-service marketing agency, where everything is outsourced. I hate to see comms teams dwindling in size. We want to support our customers to retain in-house teams because we’ve seen just how important they are during the last 35 years working with Media First.

 

What’s with the name, Thirty Seven? How did you come up with that?

MM: Well, if you ask somebody to pick a random number between zero and 100, a disproportionate number of people will choose the number 37. The more you delve into the number – the fact that it appears more regularly than any other number in films, for example – you realise just how special it is. It’s attractive and we’re in the attraction game, so it made sense.

 

What’s it like working with each other? Do you always get on or are there things you disagree on?

MM: We’re very similar. We’re both ambitious and want to succeed.

But our work lives have been very different so we have different ideas about how things should be achieved.

JW: Sure, sometimes Mark and I approach things from a different angle. Occasionally this leads to disagreements. But we complement each other. If we were both the same, we wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as a team.

Ultimately, we both want to deliver projects that excite and motivate us. That’s the reason we get out of bed in the morning; not to just earn money to pay the mortgage. It’s about more than that.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper. 

Mark Mars
3rd October 2017 - 2 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.