Most websites feel to us like they are websites – that is to say, a collection of graphics and text arranged in an attractive manner. However, some websites go beyond this, and become more of a ‘web experience’ than a basic web design. By ‘web experience’ I mean sites that completely immerse you, and make you forget that you are browsing a website.
It’s a fine art to make your visitors unconscious to the fact that they are browsing a website, to make them truly feel like they are in a different environment or setting. To achieve this, designers seem to use some, or all of the various techniques laid out below:
3d elements and depth/perspective:
Often immersive designs will make use of 3d elements (be it photos or illustrations). By breaking from the traditionally flat, 2d web experience, and making the page seem to be 3d, they are able to draw the viewer in on a whole new level. This can also be achieved by juxta-positioning 2d elements to create depth. For instance, you can have 2d elements overlapping each other, and shrinking as they move into the ‘distance’, – this creating a feeling of perspective.
Textures are great for immersing a visitor in the ‘feel’ of a certain environment. If the website feels like a collection of surfaces, rather than images, it will feel a lot more real to your viewers. Textures also help evoke the relevant moods for each setting. For instance, if you’re trying to immerse your visitor in the environment of a motorbike shop, then leathers and metals should help them feel more involved in this setting than regular flat photos and blocks of color.
Often immersive designs will use huge photos (often taking up the entire background) in order to give the visitor a kind of panoramic view. This works best with large landscape scenes, used particularly on holiday/leisure sites, as your internet browser becomes like a dream view from a vacation.
A great way to make a web page more immersive is to break traditional website conventions. By departing from regular web design practices, the viewer will not pick up on these traditions that trigger the response ‘this is a website’. For example, very immersive websites rarely include any white backgrounds. White backgrounds are the most popular website background color, and whilst they are good for readability, they do create a very flat feeling. Immersive ‘web experiences’ fill these white backgrounds with photos, textures, or darker colors, so that the viewer’s eye is drawn further into the page, rather than viewing it as a flat whole.
Other conventions include breaking traditional page layouts, whereby instead of presenting the traditional logo-top left, menu – top middle, layouts explore other possibilities.
What’s your opinion
Of course the following examples are just websites that I feel particularly immersed in. I would love to hear your opinions on what makes a truly immersive web experience, and if you agree with my points, or examples.
Examples of Immersive Design: