To expand on the notion of web design conventions, there is a broader set of techniques that aren’t mandatory but are inching their way towards being a standard. Here are a few website styles that have solidified into conventions and are holding on for the long haul.
Social Media Icons
Businesses using social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn, etc) are strongly encouraged to add links to each of their profiles on their website. The new convention, going by the trend, is to add these links as a set of style-matching icons to the header or footer of the site’s design. This trend has created a predictable place to find social media connection links, as well as established a pattern a set of small icons. You can find many sets of icons for the popular networks for free online in various styles and shapes (glossy, round, sketchy, etc).
The typical exceptions to the header/footer icon trend are sites with widgets & organizations with few social media outlets. Websites making use of the available widgets or API functionality will typically have a leaderboard of their Facebook friends or a ticker of their latest Twitter tweets. Friend/follower widgets are almost always used in the sidebar, whereas a Latest Tweets is slightly more flexible and can be styled to fit a variety of applications – though the default plug & play variety will also tend to be on a sidebar.
Single (or Social) Sign On
Single/Social Sign On allows users to perform logged-in activities on your website without having to create and remember a special account just for the site. SSO is extremely convenient for blog commenting since the user does not need to create a new account with the website to participate. They may have concerns about security or remembering a litany of username/password combinations, and with SSO systems such as Gravatar, Disqus, and Twitter Oauth they are far more likely to jump into the discussion. The added bonus of a SSO for blogs is that the user’s name, avatar image, and URL can be utilized. Your comment sections are instantly more personable!
Web designers and developers can sometimes be heard grumbling about certain pieces of software that are long-outdated but just won’t die. You can help them wish Internet Explorer 6 a happy 10th birthday, and then start a conversation on how your website can degrade gracefully.
“Graceful degradation” describes the decline in quality (of design or user experience) for browsers that are substandard. There was a time when it was practical to expect your website to look basically the same on everybody’s computer, and designers and developers would use workarounds and certain techniques to ensure consistency. But today’s browsers are vastly superior and more consistent (compared to each other). We now have new ways to achieve the same effects that are faster, smarter, and more extensible. The new challenge is to make the experience GREAT for modern browser users and GOOD for those people who are unable to upgrade their systems (usually because of old infrastructure).
Real-world examples of graceful degradation:
- For Flash or video content, offer an explanation and descriptive image for non-Flash devices (or those incapable of seeing the video).
- Allow certain design features or non-critical functionality to be lost on older browsers.
- Be prepared for your preferred fonts to be unavailable, aliased (jagged), or the wrong size on some machines.
All of the above examples are within the lines of graceful degradation.