Just when you think you NAILED that website, another technology comes along to make it seem outdated. It reminds us that the web is fluid and changing all the time. It’s not like print, where you print it and it’s done. In fact, don’t bother looking at many of the websites I’ve used as examples this year because they’ve been redone already. Evolved. Improved. That’s our goal. But we are still talking about some trends that were hot at the beginning of the year, I think they’re here to stay. For now. So get out your notepad and start your New Year’s resolutions to keep up with the fast pace of the www.
#1. Responsive Design
At this point, we are building our WordPress sites with responsive themes. It’s not SO much more to build it this way, and it sure makes user experience better for everyone. What is responsive? The site changes layout to accommodate different sized screens, so it looks good on a phone or on a laptop. Rather than having a mobile version of your site, the same site displays slightly differently on the phone. Looks good and works well.
#2. Web Fonts & Typography
As the number of web fonts increases, the happier I get! Even though this isn’t exactly NEW news, I’m including because I think my clients don’t realize how freeing this is to the designer and how much fresher their website will look with better typography. Whereas previously we had to design text on a website with the tired system fonts Microsoft deemed good enough to look at every day (ie., Arial, Times New Roman, Georgia, etc.), Google has upped the game by providing free web fonts to choose from. So I’m a happy designer and you’re a happy reader.
#3. Big Ole Buttons
Because, really, who reads anymore? The contemporary web viewer wants to get where s/he wants to go on a site STAT. So we work to predict where that may be and send them there ASAP. OMG! Another good case for rapid technology iteration and paying attention to your analytics. Know what I’m saying? No? Let’s chat.
#4. Scrolling, Scrolling, Scrolling
I’m not saying everyone should jump on the scrolling bandwagon. An “infinite scroll” — when one keeps scrolling and content keeps loading — is great for loading products or a social media feed. Parallax scrolling is used to suggest depth and dimension, which is great for the web and helps with storytelling. Both types of scroll are useful for certain things, and lots of cool effects can be done with them. But first let’s focus on what we need to get done with the website, then we can decide if that’s the best way to go about it.
#5. Static Headers
Perhaps on the heels of the scrolling trend is the static header trend: when the header containing the logo and navigation stays in place no matter where you are on the scroll, stuck to the top of the browser. I’ve long been a fan of a footer stuck to the bottom of a screen for the same reason — it’s there when you need it, but out of the way. You’ll also notice a rise in static sidebars — where the sidebar stays in place as you scroll down a page. Better functionality is always fine with me!
Overall, I prefer to pay attention to technology and usability trends over design trends. They are typically innovated for a reason — to make life better for us on the web. While I love design, it can be fickle and change so much that the look of something can be outdated in a year. Technology trends are typically replaced by something better, which is good for all of us.