The mission of digital-telepathy is to make great design accessible to anyone by creating new standards that improve how people interact with and create digital design. From websites to mobile apps, TVs and beyond, we’re committed to making experiences that define the future of the screen interface. Though there is plenty of ground to cover to accomplish our mission, the higher we push the standards for publishers and designers, the better the experience becomes for all web users.

We’re starting our mission with a focus on websites. Still based on print paradigms with archaic, link-driven tables of contents and page structures, today’s websites don’t capitalize on the native opportunities of the digital medium they live in. They are disjointed and kludgy, hampering the user’s ability to accomplish his or her goals. And yet, we don’t need to look any further than our handheld devices to see that user experiences don’t have to be this way. Fluid and guided, mobile apps are intuitive, providing visceral feedback that satisfies and keeps us coming back. They are the antithesis of most web experiences.

So what’s preventing the website from becoming as enjoyable and effective as mobile apps? Thanks to app-like interactions made possible by JavaScript and CSS3, faster connection speeds, and responsive design, there is no technical reason that websites can’t evolve. The only remaining barrier to a great experience is exceptional web design. Why? Because it’s historically been incredibly expensive. But if we think in terms of the experience and forget what we know about traditional web design, we can free ourselves of the expensive corporate site design time sink, and find a way to bring intuitive design to website owners everywhere.

As designers of the Web, we need to rally around a common cause of democratizing web-based experiences as seamless, story-driven, goal-based, intuitive and viscerally satisfying as their mobile brethren.

Introducing the Smart Site

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Think of the last landing page you encountered. Like the car salesman that wanders over when you just want to browse, landing pages relentlessly hound you to turn over your information. When brand is traded completely for conversion, there is no positive or lasting experience to be found.

Traditional websites have a whole host of equally damning problems. They are the motormouths at the cocktail party, jabbering at anyone in earshot a flurry of self-aggrandizing information without any kind of interest in the person listening (or, as is often the case, half listening).

Creating an optimal experience that blends performance and brand, the Smart Site sits between landing pages on the far transactional end, and traditional websites at the other. Our vision for the future of websites, Smart Sites, are the Goldilocks of the Web: not too transactional, not too unwieldy, just right.

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Websites should tell a story

A quick look around the web shows that the majority of websites do a very poor job of storytelling. And yet, deeply human and emotionally resonant, a story is shown time and time again to be the best way to communicate with one another. So, if the goal of websites is to communicate, and storytelling is our best communication vehicle, Smart Sites need to be fundamentally story-driven.

Telling a good story on the web is has the potential to be even more powerful than storytelling in other mediums. Beyond words, we can create interactive and rich narratives which lead to both rational and emotionally-satisfying experiences. Even better, by removing the disjunct, page-jumping mode of engagement, we can create seamless stories that flow across a single-page site.

Websites Communicate Their Stories Viscerally

Smart Sites use discovery and visceral feedback to elicit emotional responses rather than merely transactional ones. They do this through interactions that surprise and delight users and add texture and context. These elements, such as drawers that open and close on the page, create visceral, enjoyable responses and provide room for users to experiment and explore within the context of the overall story. Connecting with users not just intellectually, but on a gut level means Smart Sites create engagement, affinity, repeat use, drive conversion, and encourage word of mouth sharing.

Websites should be designed with a goal in mind

Just as the best stories have a point, Smart Sites’ story-driven design leads to an actionable outcome. Whether driving more sign-ups, selling books, or launching a product or business, the design and structure of Smart Sites support the narrative arc of the customer journey. With fast connections and an audience accustomed to long-scroll experiences in mobile apps, pageless design gets out of the way of the visitor so they can enjoy the flow and complete their objective.

Websites should be intuitive

In a typical analytics setup, data is historical. By providing a set of raw numbers without context, its function is to provide information that the viewer must analyze in order to make reactive improvements to site performance. Often the analytics create more questions than they answer and provide no obvious actionable steps on how to improve.

Goal-driven Smart Sites change this dynamic by knowing what should be happening on the site–completed goals! Checkpoints along the way provide insights into the visitor’s journey and suggestions on where to iterate to improve the outcomes. Unlike standard web metrics, which exist as separate entities from the website, Smart Sites are packed with advanced analytics to help the website owner identify what is really happening on the site. Heatmaps, cohort analysis, qualitative insights, and A/B testing all come standard. If they’re to be true to their name, Smart Sites must be smart enough to provide proactive insights that help improve results.

Websites should work natively on any device

On tablet, phone or desktop, Smart Sites deliver an optimized experience for the user without creating headaches and overhead for the website owner. Beyond the current responsive design thinking, a Smart Site does more than simply retrofit the design to the device viewport. Instead, it creates a native experience that thoughtfully delivers content via interactions tailored for the device. In other words, it changes behavior to suit the device being used – for instance allowing the user to swipe instead of click when using the site on a touchscreen.  It’s beyond responsive, it’s Responsive+.

Great Design is for the People

Great design should be accessible to everyone. If you own a business, you should be able to represent it online in a way that makes you proud, creates value, and is cost-effective. No more template sites used by a thousand other people. No more poorly designed sites sold through your local yellow pages.

Built on top of flexible, open source libraries, Smart Sites are easy to iterate upon, so that data-driven learning can lead to swift site improvements. Utilizing CSS, JavaScript and HTML, Smart Sites can be updated and managed by any web developer. Using open source standards and simple design keeps Smart Sites affordable, even with the unique interactions that set them apart.

It’s Time to Stop Building Websites and Start Building Smart Sites

The Smart Site is a foundational concept that we believe can be used to drive web design forward. The only way Smart Sites become a reality, however, is through the support of the design community. This isn’t about better design, it’s about smarter design. It’s about stepping back and looking at what’s changed around us – browser technology, screen sizes, user expectations, bandwidth, behaviors – to realize there is a better way forward.

It’s time for us all to up our game and deliver the next great experience on the web. This rallying cry isn’t just for designers, we also need entrepreneurs and website owners to ask for and expect sites that deliver more. We’ve thrown our hat into the ring with Impress, our own affordable Smart Site service. But we aren’t going to make this transition happen alone. We’re excited about Smart Site possibilities and invite everyone to join us as we explore this new territory.

If you are a designer who is working this way, send us a link, share your ideas, show us what you’re doing. If you are a website owner tell us what you want and how it will work for you. In other words, join us! We believe that together we’re going to change the web for the better.