Much like the worlds of fashion and industrial design, the world of Web design experiences trends. While some trends aren’t long-lived – like a color or pattern being so last season in fashion design – others represent radical changes in the art and best practices of Web design. While we’ve noticed quite a few design trends emerging from this year that fit into both categories, we’ve chosen a few that we feel will be an important part of the Web designer’s toolkit for years to come.
Responsive Web Design is one of those trends that is here for the long haul. With roots stretching back to 2010, Responsive Web Design is the practice of creating sites with the wide-range of devices that will be used to view them in mind. These days, websites are being viewed on computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, televisions, even video game consoles, each with a different screen size.
Responsive sites are those that have been optimized with each of those experiences in mind; they are easy to read and navigate, with a minimal amount of scrolling, panning, or resizing necessary.
With the devices we use to view websites always changing – and new devices being introduced every year – Responsive Design is increasingly becoming a standard best practice in Web design.
Fixed Header Bars
One of the most deceptively difficult aspects of crafting the user experience of a website is navigation. Figuring out the best way to allow users to navigate your website is often the subject of late-night meetings and coffee runs because it’s not just about figuring out the best way to navigate a page, but also how the user will expect to navigate the page.
By deploying some simple CSS, designers have begun keeping the navigation bar at the top of the page in a fixed position; page content scrolls under and past the navigation header, allowing the user access to the header’s menu items from anywhere on the page. It’s an elegant solution to a complex problem.
Content is King. Long Live the King
When new technologies gain market traction – such as smartphones or tablets or even the Internet itself – the first instinct is often to push the boundaries of what the technology can display. After an initial period of excitement and innovation, the focus shifts back to the content of the pages themselves, and the sites that remain popular and useful are those with the most engaging content.
We are once again in that period; now that smartphones and tablets have been established as a prominent segment of the web browsing market, sites need to not only look great but should also be content driven as part of the design. Crafting useful, engaging content and designing the site around it is one of the best ways to put the focus back on your content.
We live in an information age, and as a result, we can be prone to information overload. One of the ways this has manifested in Web design is a return to a more functional, minimalist interfaces as a way to combat information overload.
Everything from a site’s layout to its color palette and typography is being stripped down to the bare essentials as part of the move toward minimalist design. Complex animations and dense graphics are being replaced by static, large image backgrounds, sans serif fonts, and contrasting color palettes. The result is a website that looks clean and functional, further allowing the content to speak for itself.
Pagination is Done
If you’re like most people, your first interaction with infinite scrolling took place on a site like Pinterest or Tumblr, and it made a lot of intuitive sense to you. This is because having content on multiple pages can often be a detriment to the user experience; infinite scrolling avoids this in a simple and elegant way.
Infinite scrolling is not a pagination solution for every website layout, but for the right websites, it is a wonderful tool.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from infinite scrolling is the idea of the Single-page site. Single-page sites have been around since the Web began, but Web designers have recently latched on to the idea of constructing a single page with all the site’s content extending down the length of the site, an extension of minimalist design.
The single-page site often brings together several different trends, combining a fixed header bar, to allow for quick jumps between page sections, with minimalist designs and a lack of pagination. Where infinite scrolling might be a good fit for websites with lots of naturally paginated content, the single-page site is best for sites with a minimal amount of engaging content, driving the message home with the simplicity of the design.
Design trends are not the end-all of Web design; while a designer may allow current trends to inform their thought process, the principles of good design and a positive user experience should always win out in the end.
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