Web design trends change so fast that it becomes too much challenging to keep up. While some are short-lived, a few of them are powerful enough to dramatically change the prevailing notions. Flash, for example, took the web design world by storm when it was first introduced. It was one of the hottest things going around and everyone wanted a piece of it. But today, it is nothing but a design relic.
Every time a new standard or a medium is introduced, it alters the face of the web design industry. Over the last 26 years, the web industry saw a lot of changes happening. From traditional web designs that included a static page with some text, a few images and a heading to the more dynamic websites we see today, this industry have seen it all. And there is more to come.
While traditional web designers won’t see their roles disappearing anytime soon, there are trends indicating that web design as we know it is more than likely to change in the coming days. The following are a few trends worth our attention and let’s see how they are changing the face of the traditional web industry.
1. Software as a Service
SaaS or software as a service is wearing down traditional models of all kinds, in all sectors ranging from project management to recruitment, and web design is no exception. In fact, this is becoming a major threat especially for self-employed web designers and very small scale web development companies that made a reasonable income by creating cheap websites. Services like Wix and Spaces have made things more challenging for these independent web designers with relentless templatization of the web.
These tools with their “build your own website” services take most of the groundwork out of the process, allowing people to create dynamic and appealing sites in a snap. Considering the ease and cost-effectiveness of these services, it hardly makes sense to invest on building a custom content management system for most businesses. This also applies to ecommerce websites; given the easy availability of cloud-based services like Shopify, a large number of online retailers are building their own shopping carts. For many developers, these were once a big business.
But what about ‘bespoke’ designs? Don’t we need specialists for creating customized websites? Yes, we still need specialized services for bespoke work, but software as a service is also commoditising this sector. Today, most of the SaaS tools can help you create bespoke websites, making it easier than ever before.
The consequences of this trend is quite dramatic. While the low end web designers are being pushed up in the market, high end web development companies are forced to lower their price. The mid-sized companies, unfortunately, are being squeezed.
2. Less is More
Today we live in a world where everything is getting smaller, from memory cards to device screens. Technology is slimming down everything and this calls for a crisp design for both physical items and digital designs. Minimalist approach to design is nimble and powerful. It gives a positive impression to your visitors, which is why almost all brands are opting for minimalist design.
The minimalist trend has become so popular that having fewer number of pages on websites is mainstream these days. In fact, there are scores of websites using simplified multi-page designs while others are opting for one page designs.
How is this trend affecting the web design industry? It makes things simple. Users these days prefer simplicity; they want something that’s easier to use. Having fewer number of pages simplifies your websites and users can easily find content they’re looking for. Web designers therefore need to brainstorm to compile everything in such a way that the website can successfully adopt a minimalist approach while retaining its purpose and original flavor.
Apart from users’ preference for simplicity, there is another factor contributing towards this trend – the rising number of mobile traffic. According to a Cisco report, 40 percent of total Internet traffic originated from mobile devices in 2014. The number is likely to grow to 67 percent by 2019. As a result, web designers need to focus more on scrolling than clicking when developing a website.
That said, designers cannot compromise on the “informative” part of a website. It needs to provide all of the information your visitors need, but de-clutter the site at the same time.
3. The Growing Popularity of UI Animation
Over the past few years we are seeing more motion in web design. This year, for example, animated GIFs, video backgrounds and simple icon animations are trending. However, it is the interaction driven and UI animation that’s stealing the show at present. These are several tools like GreenSock that allow transform to JS Libraries and CSS transitions, playing a significant role in the fast evolution of post-Flash animation.
The effect of UI animation on web design is immense, as it is key to developing web, mobile, and software apps these days for improving UI production workflow as well as for enhanced performance on different devices and browsers. Web designers are now incorporating well-considered motion not only to delight users but also to provide context and guide them, making the experience more enjoyable and engaging.
However, all this requires proper balance as too much animation is a distracting and annoying factor for viewers, damaging an otherwise good digital experience. The adaptation of UI animation in interface design is just beginning and we are more likely to see a rapid proliferation of UI animation in future.
4. Coding becomes Automated
Today you can create a website even without much knowledge of HTML and CSS. The need to code is gradually declining, thanks to tools such as Macaw. Designers can easily do most of the front-end coding work with these tools. While it is true that at present these applications create terrible CSS, it is only the beginning and things are likely to become more sophisticated over the coming days. Many industry experts also opine that hand coding CSS and HTML will eventually become a skill that only a few would need.
That said, it is hardly possible for these tools to produce quality code like a skilled web designer. But these automated codes would be good enough in terms of return on investment. In fact, they are already impacting the web industry. For example, it has become much easier to create working prototypes now, previously it used to take up days or even weeks for a front end coder to develop them.
5. Responsive Web Design – The Rising Star
Responsive design is already an established norm these days, especially after Google’s much hyped “Mobilegeddon.” As already mentioned, a large number of Internet traffic is originating from mobile devices. It is therefore essential that your website fit to the screen, irrespective of the device your visitors are using.
There was a time when brands used to create a separate website for mobile users, but that’s not an effective solution anymore, given the myriad of mobile devices available on the market with different variety of screen sizes. Besides, this is hardly a good practice in terms of SEO as search engines rather prefer indexing only one URL for any given website. This also means, if you don’t have a responsive website, you need to invest on separate SEO campaigns for your desktop version and mobile version. All these makes responsive design the perfect solution for brands.
Considering all these factors, one thing is pretty clear that responsive isn’t going away anytime sooner. In fact, its optimum UI interaction and content delivery is encouraging web designers to strive for the new ways of creating responsive designs, changing the landscape of the industry in the process.
6. Using Card Design
We will see much more “card” designs in the coming days as it is the de-facto unit of mobile design. Cards started appearing quite a while ago and now this simple, yet elegant medium is likely to see an explosion with the emergence of smartwatch and other small interfaces.
While card design becomes the future of the web, designers need an open standard for it, especially as almost all social media sites along with mobile card-driven search engine like Wildcard are pushing card design forward. Web designers therefore need to embrace more and more such applications in various places. Besides, they need to be more innovative in the app design and responsive space. Chances are, we will see more cards featuring video and/or auto-updating content down the line, as cards are very interactive in nature.
7. The Rise of Apps
Although there is a thin chance of websites going away anytime sooner, you cannot deny that there is a gradual decline in its role. Let’s consider the examples of apps like Showtimes or Movietickets that aggregate movie listings from different sources, making it easy for you to book tickets without visiting the websites of various movie theaters.
We now have apps for almost everything, from online shopping and banking to weather and news updates. These apps provide a much better user experience and you don’t need to deal with various interface. However, the rise of apps is somewhere denting the designers’ role in creating these appealing websites. And if these apps were not enough, you have Siri to do all your petty work, from helping you book a movie ticket to giving you weather updates, all by voice command, eliminating the need of user interface.
This trend, up to a large extent, is setting content free from design. Brands are rather depending on APIs between websites and apps to share content. Many small businesses are sharing their content on Yelp, Foursquare or Facebook instead of investing money on creating a website.
The question now arises: Is Web Design Dying?
No, at least not now or anytime soon. It is just evolving or you can say, it is getting a new and fresh direction. There has been significant development in web technology, and as a result, almost everything is now online.
Web design technology is also evolving in order to meet the rising demands of the users; a lot of new trends are coming up and many of them are posing challenges for designers. And to keep doing business, web designers need to follow these trends, which in turn, is changing the landscape of the industry.
As long as Internet lives, web design lives with it. However, there have been a lot of changes in the past and there will be many more in the coming days. Given the present trends, web designers need to redirect their approach and work with business sense. The need for innovation is greater than ever, especially for freelancers and smaller enterprises. That being said, there are scores of options available for designers to profit nicely from, but that’s a whole different article.