7 Must Have B2B Web Design Elements for 2012

Your website is like a car. Have you ever noticed that while there are many varieties of car designs, the basic interior design of a car remains the same? And that there is a dashboard and the lights and wiper switches are around the steering wheel? While you do need to get acclimated to the details of any unfamiliar car, you intuitively assume that certain instruments are in specific places or the same general area. In other words, you often don’t need to spend more than a few minutes getting the lay of the land of your rental vehicle.

Human beings are creatures of habit. We don’t like to spend too much time interacting with tools and equipment to get final results. The same is true for your website. It’s a vehicle; a tool that gives your prospect access to your company’s product or service. If your prospect gets lost and can’t figure out how to interact with your site, they will simply move on to the next one.

The primary purpose of any website is to attract and convert prospects to customers. The following Web design trends will help you to communicate your value to customers and move them through your sales funnel quickly and easily.

1. Responsive design. This is a term that means that your website automatically senses what kind of device is being used to access information and adjusts accordingly. To further explain, responsive design allows the users to access an advanced four column layout, with the width of 1292 pixels, on a 1025 pixel width screen, and then automatically simplifies the site into one or two columns for smart phone viewing.

In the next few years, over 85 percent of all mobile handsets will have access to the Web. If you’d like your prospects to choose your website, you need to adjust to the way your customers are accessing the Web. If you are currently using the WordPress platform, you won’t have to worry about this one because the latest version 3.3 has responsive design functionality built right in. If you are not using WordPress, then see your Web designer and request responsive design.

2. Homepages that look like landing pages. A core principle of Web design is that your visitor clearly knows and understands what the site is about in a matter of seconds. In the past, we used header text and graphics to accomplish this. In 2012, you’ll want your homepage to be simple, clear and clean. It should have a wide open and flowing feel. One of my favorite examples of this look is Mint.com.

Mint is a great example of both responsive design as well as the open and clean home page. Notice that right under the logo it says “The best free way to manage your money.” This is a clear and easy communication of exactly where you are and what you can expect to find inside this web space.

3. HUGE images. Think of your website as a sales person for your organization. When a visitor lands there, you want them to be greeted—a large image accomplishes this very well. Take a look at Mike Glezos’ site. He’s a Web architect and he’s using his homepage to greet you at the door, literally.

4. Large type. Remember when websites were nothing more than online brochures? In 2012, expect to see the wonderful typographic elements of print materials translated onto the Web.

Check out Polecat. Not only is it abundantly clear what this company does, but they’ve chosen large type and an interesting font to tell you all about it. In the past, this kind of graphic design would have appeared on a brochure but here, you get the visual excitement and texture via the Web.

5. Vector images. Vector images are computer generated illustrations. While many vector images lend a casual and friendly feeling to your site, you can also use them to communicate very technical or high technology brands.

6. Infographics are graphic representations of data. Infographics not only educate and inform your visitors, but they are also sharable and can go viral if they contain useful information that people would like to reference. When posting infographics on your site, be sure to include the HTML embed codes below the graphic so that people can get the best image quality when they post it on their site or blog.

7. Scrolling and animation. Animated websites are terrific. Do you remember Flash websites? Well, Flash is out and HTML5 and CSS3 are the animation tools you’ll want to consider. As with Flash, don’t go overboard. Use animation in small doses. A great use of animation is in a large header that scrolls through several panels. WordPress actually offers themes like “ShapeShifter” that actually have this feature already installed.

Updating your Web design isn’t just an image makeover—think of it as a conversion makeover. When new Web design trends are released and take hold, it’s not just because they are pretty to look at, they often are more effective at attracting and keeping customers.

Which new design trends do you recommend?

Ivana Taylor Marketing Strategist, DIY Marketers

Ivana Taylor is the president of the strategic marketing firm, Third Force and the publisher DIYMarketers.com. Ivana is the Book editor and contributing marketing expert for Small Business Trends (www.smallbiztrends.com). She writes the popular blog Strategy Stew (www.strategystew.com). She is currently #21 of Fast Company’s list of most influential people on the internet .