After spending many hours online, you naturally begin to pick up on web design’s current (and evolving) trends. By visiting a variety of different web sites and communities, you start to pick out specific differences in layouts and styles of each design you stumble upon; you begin to observe the subtle nuances designers have begun to adopt to put their work above and beyond what we call ‘average’. Incorporating the latest trends through a marriage of coding and design is ever advancing the web and how we view it day-to-day; it’s not stopping or slowing by any measure, and you should be ready to embrace it.
Here are a few trends in web design to keep a look out for (and, if you’re a designer or coder, trends to pick up on).
What Web Design Trends to Watch For
1) Grid Style Layouts
The first time I noticed the wide-spread use of grid based structures was on social media (think of Pinterest, Tumblr, Google + and the like). Most social networks use a grid to help display huge amounts of content in an organized, concise fashion to decrease the chances of user confusion and conflict. This creates a simple user experience that enhances the overall time spent of the site; half the battle is creating a strong UX, let alone one that’s pretty to look at and able to captivate users.
Using thumbnail images with some text displays a tidy way to keep information into a easy to read format. This allows users to flow throughout the site and find what they are looking for without relying on search queries, as was once the trend. This grid based layout has also become standard amongst blogs and personal websites for easy content consumption while remaining auto responsive and flexible.
2) Extended Form Elements
These elements, which bring a high level of polish and interactive features, live on some of the greatest sites to date. Viewers are now spoiled with liquid-smooth animations and creative website layouts that we never had the chance to experience before the turn of the millennium.
3) Landing Pages
Although they’ve been utilized by sales peoples for quite a long time (for leads and converting users), landing pages have become a rising trend, featured both on one-page sites in addition to email grabbing pages of large websites. Using this element helps to encourage viewers into learning more about a product or company (while, obviously, benefiting your business by allowing you to capture valuable contacts and customer insights). The idea of landing pages is to create a sneak peak at what the company can provide to various types of potential clients, letting them know what sets them apart from the competition. If the customer opens the door to your website, you want them to walk in and enjoy a hot cup of tea, not run for the hills. It’s all about great, converting copy, a proven track record and a beautiful user experience.
4) 3D Transition Effects
I’ve come across many websites that are using 3D effects to display image galleries, navigation menus and text animations. Although it’s a fun, punchy feature to use on your site, designers should be wary of using too many animations on a single page (especially on single page themes; you know who you are!). A common effect used on websites is the scrolling fade transition; this allows information to fade onto the page just as the user is scrolling down or transitioning to another slide/section. Modern design is all about introducing content in a smooth, appealing way, and 3D/parallax effects do this quite easily with little effort or code.
5) Flat Design Elements
You’ve seen it everywhere; even mobile devices and operating systems (Metro UI in Windows 8 and 10) have picked up flat, layered design. More and more web designers are using this element because of the simplicity and the professional polish that comes with design elements that lack the aging effects of typical Web 2.0 treatments. CSS3 allows designers to incorporate flatter buttons, text shadows, and rounded corners to keep their designs fresh, current and consistent; it’s much easier to have your website live as a cohesive unit if the design meshes well.
This feature tells us a lot about the future of not only web design, but of UI design in all devices. Apple, Google and Microsoft are only some of the first adopting fresh colours and simplistic (yet stunning) interfaces that are layered, flat and make use of smooth transitions.
Many portfolio and creative websites are now using portraits to add a human element to their website; after all, websites shouldn’t be websites: they should be the face of your business, organization or belief online. A good way to accomplish this would be to include a simple photograph of yourself on your bio page or in a slider on the home page, or even dedicate a section in your ‘About Us’ section.
This helps the user to get a glimpse into who you or your company is on a personal level, removing the corporate illusion of a single unit. Instead of doing what everyone does with portraits, add some creativity and spice; use hover overs, funny faces, GIFs or cultural/hobby photos. Add some character!
7) SVG Images & Icons
You’ve seen them, and they’re taking over by storm. Vector bases graphics are becoming something that almost everyone web site has, either living as a hotlink to another page or service, or serving as a great way to add visual interest to an otherwise boring section where copy might have been used. They help communicate meaning to a heading, service, or button into a simple icon. SVG images are like vector images but can be manipulated much more easily with the hassle you expect from graphic integration on the web. They have the ability to be selected and edited in most Adobe applications. If you still remember the relevance of flat design today, these vector graphics work very well in such environments.
8) Responsive Design
Many people are starting to use their mobile and tablet devices more often than their computers; its a fact many businesses are trying to cope with. Be it social media or corporate websites and tools, people are flocking to not just one device to consume media and interact with the masses: they’re using 2, 3 or even more. The easy access to things like the Internet and email are a huge factor into why mobile technology is becoming something that everybody on the planet is starting to use. Responsive design works the best when you eliminate the excess stuff and only keep the bare essentials. This makes a simpler design and easy to use for all users. Scaling up for computer size is when information can be added and more design elements can be incorporated.
As you can see many of the trends are working together to create the World Wide Web that we see today. I’m sure that as the web continues to grow and reach more and more people, trends will change and evolve. Will we continue to see flat, layer design, or will the Web 2.0 styling with emboss and gradients come back? Will we seen flash websites take to the forefront, or will clean and simple sites live on? Who knows. The landscape for web design has shifted considerably over the past few years despite the young age of the Internet itself. As more people search for their next fix online, be it that next hot item or to simple message their friends on the next social network, there will be more options to innovate and push boundaries. What do you think we’ll see next?