Web Directories, as we all know, are repositories of information related to websites, and such websites normally get two distinct kinds of visitors, beyond their own management staff:
- The first category of the people is normally professionals who want to make use of the web directories to promote their websites. Now, these are the lot who are not much interested in the look and feel aspects of the directory, and are quite satisfied as long as their listed website keeps getting benefits — visibility and otherwise — via the web directory.
- The second category is the set of users who would actually be the potential visitors of the listed websites. These are the set of people who arrive on the web directory for browsing and to make use of the information found in the directory and outgoing links. In other words, these are the majority of people, and the ones who are responsible for the existence of the web directories as these people make use of the web directories and help them complete their objective.
When we look around on the internet for websites, we do realize that there are at least a few factors that are responsible for retaining visitors on any website:
- A Good design — this includes a better UI and a better user experience with ease of accessibility and presentation of information.
- Highly engaging content — yes, no doubt, content is king; but then, if you really need your visitors to keep returning, you must have something new and interesting for them almost every time.
A few days back, I was visiting some directories trying to find out information about some local businesses and I realized that these web directories have never updated their look and feel. I remember having used a few of them in the Web 2.0 era and some even prior to that, but it was unfortunate to see that they haven’t kept up with the changing times. On the other hand, I was quite happy to see a few who have made major changes and these seemed to be busy and happening places. When we consider web directories and design trends, isn’t it clear that some changes are in order?
We all would agree that the functional aspect of web directories hasn’t changed much. It is still the same. Although many may disagree with my view, I believe that web directories too, need to upgrade and keep up with the changing and trending patterns over the Internet. Here is why I do strongly believe that upgrades in their layouts and designs would definitely help the standing of web directories:
- During the past few years, Internet browsing has changed leaps and bounds. The unconventional viewing devices of the not so recent past have come to be accepted as emerging new standards of today. This shift of devices from the normal desktops and laptops to handheld devices like tablets, smartphones and others have led to the new Internet revolution — Responsive Website Design — and unfortunately, I could not find a web directory that was responsive.
- The internet of today is waking up to Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s motto “less is more.” For those who aren’t aware, this was his motto way back in the early 1900s, and the Minimalist Design can be seen on many known websites of today. The giants like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and many others are using the minimalist approach to design on their web sites and they are not doing it because they want to follow the trends, but because these are pages with too much content and the minimalist design helps to keep them from appearing cluttered. Web directories also have loads of content, and a clutter-free delivery of their information would only make them better.
- The almost universal acceptance of HTML 5 and CSS3 definitely has reduced the usage of too many images on a website — and practically, unless you are coding for a non compliant browser, you definitely can make aesthetically pleasing websites without using images or graphics. Many of the web directories are still using the ancient versions of HTML and CSS, and a few even doesn’t use CSS. This creates a limitation when it comes to enhancing the looks and glamorizing the website.
- Google, a few years ago announced that amongst its various factors for rating and ranking websites, one important factor will be the Page Load Time. Although there is no authorized data or info-graphics over the internet to ascertain how many websites might have been affected due to this, the internet did see a rush to cleaner, more lightweight designs which would be quite effective in reducing the page load time. Many websites that relied upon heavy use of graphics and imagery to increase glamour, migrated to cleaner, lightweight minimalist designs, and many more are following suit.
- Lastly, one must realize that web directories are websites and as such, the rules applicable to other websites definitely apply to them as well. The factors which allow and facilitate the retention of visitors on a site still apply to them. I mean, how would you appreciate a web page if it took several minutes to load and deliver you the results of your search (or even a data entry form) that were not appealing to you or maybe not presented to you in the best way possible?
Although there are directories like DMOZ, probably the most ancient of the web directories, which still carries its original design and codes. Very few changes have been made in the more than fifteen years that DMOZ has been in existence. The fonts and colors haven’t changed substantially, yet that directory is still perhaps the most sought after. But then, not all web directories have the authority of DMOZ, or even close. For such directories, I recommend that they keep trying something different, so that they can stand out, appealing to and being sensibly useful to the newer generations of visitors.
If we can agree on nothing else, surely we can all agree that there is no reason why a new directory should use ancient technology.