Responsive design--layouts that repaginate to fit different screen sizes and devices--reigned supreme in 2013. That trend will likely continue as business leaders look for ways to keep customers coming back to their websites. But while it's a useful concept to incorporate in your design decisions, what you'll really want is a website that puts customers first, while still managing to stand out on mobile. Here are a few trends to look out for this year:
Flat Design, Upgraded
Apple senior vice president of design Jony Ive took flat design--a colorful, bare-bones aesthetic--mainstream with iOS 7 and iPhone 5, and such simplicity was everywhere in 2013. At first, flat design developed as a solution to simplify Web layouts so that they were optimized across different devices. Now businesses need to find ways to differentiate themselves, "as many websites start to look and feel the same," says Shane Mielke, an award-winning creative director and Web designer. "The only way to improve and separate your website is with custom content, images, assets, and stories that make the design just the mechanism by which you're connecting with and engaging your target audience."
To do this, just remember the mantra "keep it simple, stupid," says Marko Saric, another design expert. Flat design will still be a buzzword this year, but don't focus on being trendy. Just "remove all the unecessary elements and let the content be the main focus in order to provide the best user experience."
Parallax Scrolling Gets Smart
Parallax scrolling--that nifty technique that lets background images move slower than foreground images to make visuals appear more dynamic--was popular on websites in 2013. But a lot of business owners went overboard, says Mielke, and this year they'll walk it back.
"Boring stock imagery, stories, and content are boring no matter how you display it," he says. If you have a great story to tell, that's one thing. But parallax scrolling "works best with great multimedia elements and a little textual information," such as when you're showcasing products.
Be forewarned sites that feature parallax scrolling can have trouble displaying properly and usually feature spare text, which is less SEO-friendly.
The User Always Comes First
"[Good Web design] is no longer about adding fancy design elements just because you think they look good or an agency suggested you do that," says Saric, who developed Metallica's official website. "Companies are increasingly looking at the user data and site stats to make better design decisions, which lead us to more minimalist design, to more visually appealing presentations of information, to mobile responsiveness, to larger font size, and to more innovative advertising."