Web design trends have been evolving for a few years, but this year, we are able to recognize the method in the madness. Before this year, each year a few hypes and crazes were formed and everyone jumped in the bandwagon. Web designers, who were worshipping Web 2.0 in 2008, believed in 2012 that minimalism is the greatest thing ever happened to mankind.
Up until last year, there was no pattern among the trends of web design, but this time, there is a pattern! And that pattern is that design is turning from an art form to a science.
Today we are in a position to predict web design trends not only for the new year but for the next five years… or even more. That’s because there’s a pattern now. If we want to stay ahead in the game, all we have to do is understand the pattern of evolution. Let’s locate the zeitgeist together, shall we.
Usability is Simplicity
One of the fundamental differences that I have noticed this year is the meaning of “simple”. A few years ago, “simple” was translated into less content and less graphics. This approach didn’t really work because people have lots of content, and they do want to share it on the homepage. And to do that, they would need some designing so that components and elements can be visibly separate from each other. And if you do make such a design with such an amount of content, you just cannot stay in minimalist division.
Minimalism vs. Simplicity vs. Usability
Minimalism was the fashion in 2011 and 2012 but things started to change in 2013. Today, minimal and simple are two different things. Simplicity is synonymous with usability. And what is usability? It is simply anything and everything that doesn’t confuse the user; in Steve Krug’s words, “don’t make [the user] think”
By the way, don’t make me think is an excellent book for all web designers.
Navigation bars were getting heavier with time. But now, their density has nosedived. With the emergence of Ghost and Medium, it seems that navigations of the future will tend to be on minimal side, rather than getting thicker and heavier.
Below is a ghost theme as an example how navigation bars look on Ghost and Medium blogs.
One Website One Page
There was a time when only the middle section of the web page was considered to be the actual content area. This is not the case anymore. These days, web designers are putting lots of important web elements and components in footers, sidebars etc.
So the idea is that even if you are not designing a single page website, you should still make full use of the space available.
Changes in Design
With the demise of previous design trends, the whole concept of designing is changing. Earlier, a designer’s target was to get the user gasp out a “wow!”
That’s not the target anymore. Today, a good design is what converts visitors into users.
- In e-Commerce perspective, a good design is what turns a visitor into customer.
- In media websites, a good design is what converts a random visitor into a regular reader.
In both of these scenarios, what a design needs is usability, simplicity, speed, interactivity and responsiveness.
Performance as Design
Brad Frost wrote a great piece on how performance is the modern parameter for the judgment of a design.
Storytelling in Web Design
Storytelling has always been a part of web design, but in the modern era, when people have almost no time to study lengthy paragraphs, the idea of design/graphics based storytelling creates much more impact.
An excellent example of this type of storytelling is OnlyCoin. Using transitions, they tell you the complete story as you scroll down the page. Even if you don’t read a single word in the website, you still get complete understanding of what the product is and whether you need it.
Now let’s briefly check out some of the other trends that are rising this year.
jQuery is losing market share. CSS3 has become very advanced and it can cater most of the common needs of web designers. jQuery on the other hand makes the web page heavy so web designers have started to avoid it if they can.
Use of colors is going down. There was when we made color schemes, but today only one color is enough. We can now just choose one color that fits our purpose according to color psychology, and we stick with its lighter and darker shades. Too many colors are not required now, nor are they in fashion anymore. This mono-coloring technique also helps to increase readability.
SVG might make it big this year. Many designers, including me, have been predicting for a few years that SVG format will finally take-off this year. We have been consistently being disappointed but this year it does seem that it can take off. That is because SVG is resolution independent graphic format that runs properly on all devices.
:hover is going down. This is a strange trend that I cannot explain, yet it is taking place. Hover effects are not being liked anymore so designers are avoiding it. I guess this is one of those trends that return after a few years.
Flat prevails. There were some rumors and predictions that flat will fail eventually. It seems those predictions are not going to meet reality. Flat designs are continuing to come out and become successful.
Methodology in Responsive Web Design
Image from: Brad Frost’s Mobile-First Responsive Web Design
Until last year, all of us web designers were creating responsive web designs ourselves. That was that we were creating RWDs from scratch with no help whatsoever. But this is not the case anymore.
Today, there are many frameworks available that help you create responsive websites easily. The most famous one would be bootstrap.
With these frameworks, you can build better websites with less effort and in less amount of time.
Separate Sites for Mobile
This is my personal opinion, it’s not a judgment rather opinion that some businesses would like to have separate websites for mobile and desktops. For instance, a radio station website may want to feature latest news on the homepage for desktops, but for mobile, they may want to feature traffic updates, weather updates and music on the homepage.
Visitors want the website as if it is speaking to them. This can be achieved rather efficiently if there are two separate websites for desktops and mobiles. Think about it.
To sum it all up, I’ll say that we are moving from the idea that a design should be beautiful. We are more interested in a design that is more commercial. And a good commercial design is that gives the client higher conversion rates.
A design that gives high conversion rate is speedy, simple, interactive and responsive. It may look very ordinary and straightforward, but there’s a science working behind it. The science of design.