When should a website become “an interactive experience”?

Before starting a new project, I often find myself on websites like SiteInspire, Awwwards, & Webdesign Inspiration. Throughout the years, I’ve seen an increase in the amount of non-conventional website designs appearing on these award sites.

These designs attempt to completely reinvent the way we navigate a website. From simple changes such as replacing your cursor with a literal mouse, to more drastic ones such as requiring the viewer to play a short videogame before seeing the website’s content; there is a clear focus on rethinking how viewers interact with brands.

For me, ease of use is at the forefront of all my designs. I ask myself two questions; what is the purpose of the website, and how can I fulfil that purpose as efficiently as possible.

Most of my websites’ goal is to create leads, so ensuring that it’s simple to use is an important part of achieving success, so an experimental design would be inappropriate. To put it simply, how will they email my client if they can’t find the contact page.

You can definitely create a stylish and bold design without venturing too much into obscurity. Being experimental with too many aspects of a business’s website is detrimental to the overall quality and experience (look at Zara’s site as example of this).

So for 99% of businesses, I would suggest not straying too far from conventional design tropes. However, for art related projects (games, films, artists, music, etc), experimental designs should definitely be implemented.

Art is personal, so the website should be too. The website shouldn’t stick to the same design template as conventional businesses, it should have its own unique direction.

There’s no need for a contact page or standard scrolling navigation, and this allows for the website to create whatever experience it requires. Maybe the website is a tour guide, or a puzzle with encrypted messages, or maybe it’s an interactive behind-the-scenes; the possibilities are endless.

Art can take these risks, though. Not just because art is about taking risks, but also because the website isn’t where most sales are made. E.g. music is streamed on Spotify, games are sold on Amazon, movies are watched at the cinema, and art is exhibited at galleries.

The only other example of where experimental design can be appropriate is for side-projects of businesses within the fashion industry.

Collaborative projects, risky side-ventures, or limited time releases; all can benefit from creating a unique online experience. Because we’re marketing to existing customers, you can afford to take a risk with the website design to help create a memorable experience.

Take Adidas’s “Yung” series as an example of this working well.

Online marketing should be about taking risks (similarly to art), but if pushing boundaries results in costing your client sales; you probably shouldn’t do it. As much as I appreciate the recent trend, it’s usually just designers using their clients’ marketing budget to show off their artistic abilities, rather than for the sake of effective marketing.

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