However clairvoyant we think we may be, a trend should never overshadow the basics of having a good online presence. It’s meant to inform your process in design, not dictate it.
Our approach to design is to:
- Support your overall business goals
- Focus on the user and their experience
- Provide clarity and purpose
- Optimize, convert and track
- Think holistically
1. Responsive Design
This is by no means a new trend. It’s been around for years and has probably made the trends list the last 3 consecutive years, so why does it continue making the trends list?
Most of us know what it means to have a responsive website or adaptive website.
But to refresh your knowledge, it tackles platforms like mobile devices, tablets and desktop sites in a unified way; by creating one layout that adapts to a screen size in a fluid way. The reason it’s making the list this year is because of its continued refinement and optimization. This started out as a way to tackle smaller screens, but as we move into the “smart TV” era, it needs to take into account the bigger screens as well.
2. Mobile Presence
Mobile is the new “non-negotiable”! The need for having a mobile presence is simply answering a need to the billions of mobile users out there who consume content via their smartphone.
If they want to review, research, explore, share or comment on your brand, product or service – they want to do it right away. People today are almost completely bypassing the desktop entirely, which begs the question: How much content, and what features do you have available to the mobile platform?
When designing or redesigning a website, you need to start with mobile first. This gives you a clear overview on the content and graphics you will have. Not all mobile phones are created equal, so bandwidth varies (even if they are getting slightly better).
You want to create the best experience for your users, and to do that you need to give them the same features your desktop site has, without sacrificing usability and experience.
Create the appropriate content, for example, creating compressed video for mobiles phones – will stream better and look better on those smaller screens – but will look terrible on a desktop. So, make sure you have the appropriate format and size.
Mobile layouts beckon to have minimal design elements, because you simply don’t have the real estate to contain them. Those awesome parallax websites and crazy horizontal layouts, just won’t work well.
3. Authentically Digital
2012 saw the launch of Microsoft's "Authentically Digital" or Metro designed Windows 8 OS. A bold step in a good direction in our opinion as it leverages the touch screen interface from a holistic standpoint. It’s also a familiar app-centric design that most mobile users are familiar with. Apple’s overused "skeuomorphism" is slowly heading out, as users are more interested seeing information and content displayed dynamically, with a deeper focus on interaction.
Just take a quick tour through Dribbble and you’ll see its influence.
4. Goodbye Homepage
Crazy idea I know, but we’re seeing a fairly interesting split in commerce sites have done away with a traditional homepage. They want to get you focused on their products, just take a look at Amazon or Etsy.
The other direction is towards the single scrolling website. Depending on the content you have and the story you’re trying to tell, this format does away with individual page navigation.
5. Dynamic Typography
Typographic layouts are pretty much here to stay. Perhaps we feel a trend can only be a trend so long, before it becomes common practice.
Big and beautiful typography has rooted itself deeply in most design interfaces. It helps extend brands; it orients the user to key content and can tell a story. However more and more type foundries are starting to get a better handle on @font-face technologies, and using cloud based systems (much like our own Marqui CMS), it’s readily available, highly responsive and provides an abundant variety of choices. Just take a look at Google Webfonts, which offers many free fonts and Typekit, which offers you monthly subscriptions, but you get access to thousands of fonts.
6. Original Photography
It’s hard not to get enamored by a beautiful image or drawing. Your product, your business even you yourself stand to earn a more sincere engagement from your users, if you choose to create your own original photographs or illustrations.
Many designers, including myself, yearn to see the end of cheesy stock photography and a push to get quality images that captivate, give context and ooze with originality.
It’s not about spending $10K on a photographer to get the picture you want. Access to affordable equipment, the tools that even your mobile phone now possess, have democratized photography to such an extent that even your Grandma understands what "white-balance" and "color-correction" is.
7. Full Page Hero Images
Yes the trend of full-page images is still alive and kicking, however the use of that full-page image in conjunction with the content can be done poorly. Using that great, original full width image is being used in ways that even breaks the notion of the "Fold".
Ah yes, I do remember the days when I got excited to crack a fresh page of code when starting a new project. Aesthetic design for most people is equal to that of an organized, clean, well-formatted piece of code, but today, speed and efficiency is king.
Frameworks like HTML5 Boilerplate, which gets you up and running with a slick, fast and robust app or website. Or Zurb's Foundation 3, which gives you a responsive front-end framework.
These frameworks are becoming more robust and will fit any CMS, giving you the ability to leverage some of the best front-end technologies out there.
9. Search is Navigating
We're used to seeing this tiny, diminutive search bar at the top right of screens for most website. Which is strange considering we're so used to the paradigm of search such as with Google?
This year, plan to see more search inputs being front-and-center to the navigation structure of the website. Get your users to what they want, and where they need to be with less thinking.
Watch the full webinar on YouTube or download the PowerPoint slides from SlideShare.
Hero image credit: Plantronics