Websites have come a long way since the first web page came online. That was on August 6th, 1991 so we would hope that there would be progression, and I firmly believe the internet, websites included, has become so much more than anyone could have really imagined. But with all that progression, it’s easy for really useful features to get lost somewhere.
Whether it’s an old feature that has simply been forgotten about, or a newer feature that’s just not well known, here are a few of the most underutilized website features that nearly every kind of website could benefit from.
1. Print Buttons & Windows
It’s really such a simple feature, but has been disappearing rapidly since handheld, mobile device usage has been on the rise. But personally, I really miss print buttons, where the content opens up into a new window in a plain text format. I know websites are accessible from just about anywhere now, and I’m not denying how useful that is. But sometimes there’s nothing better than having the information you need on paper.
Let’s take writing a research-extensive essay, for example. It can be so frustrating having to switch back and forth between tabs, and your browser and Microsoft Word. But printing the page can be really annoying too because usually you’re going to be printing a chunk of the website — pictures, the navigation, etc. That uses a lot more paper and ink and all I want is the text on the page. There is the “print selection” feature, but that doesn’t always do it.
Can we please make this feature a regular?
2. HTML5 Videos vs. Flash
I’m just going to cut to the chase, now that HTML5 videos are a thing, can we just get rid of flash? Flash was great back in the day, when videos and games couldn’t be implemented without it, but HTML5 now has that capability and I feel like every website that uses flash should update to HTML5. And all new websites that are going to use flash should…just avoid it and go for HTML5.
I say this because the flash player is a resource hog. It can slow even the best computers down. It just kills available resources and it drives me insane. Most browsers have flash blockers now, but still, I’d rather not have to worry about flash at all. Flash, we had our good times, but as of late the bad outweighs the good. I’ve moved on to something better now, and I think you should do the same.
This is a pretty new feature that came out with the release of CSS3. I feel like the main reason its use hasn’t yet kicked into overdrive has something to do with across the board browser support. But browsers, can we get on that? The better news is that the most popular browsers support some flexbox properties, so it’s well on its way to across the board browser support. But I’m impatient and really excited to see how this feature changes web design.
According to Mozilla Developer Network, Flexbox is defined as “The CSS3 Flexible Box, or flexbox, is a layout mode providing for the arrangement of elements on a page such that the elements behave predictably when the page layout must accommodate different screen sizes and different display devices.”
If you don’t develop websites yourself, the technicalities of flexbox probably won’t ever mean too much for you. But from my standpoint, it’s an incredible feature and I really can’t wait to use it on a regular basis.
Allow me to explain. Looking at the image above, it’s a super simplified site layout. The blue is the main container, called the parent container. The yellow is where different layout features (navigation, content, headings, banners, etc.) would be placed. These are called child containers. What flexbox allows for is making one layout, and have it adjust accordingly to the screen size. With responsive design, it’s already possible to take all elements on a page and make those features adjust according to screen size, but this just simplifies the process.
I know flexbox browser support will be a thing one day. I just want that day to be now.
So, that was a pretty short list. But that’s a good thing — that means that most professionally designed and developed websites today give us exactly what we need. Truly, web design has never been more focused on user experience than it is today and no one knows that better than us! If you’re in the market for a new site, or a site rebuild, and don’t know what features are even available, let us know. We’ll be glad to help!