Just like fashion, web design has fads that come and go and it can be difficult to spot which ones will stick past next quarter. Following the latest fad may be keep you on top for the moment, but you will quickly find your site out of date and needing another facelift if that is all you have. Great web design can solve your business needs by following tried and true trends and creating an easy and seamless user experience. It should be responsive, simple, accessible, and be designed for the long haul. Here are five of the latest web design trends that are sticking around way past crop tops.
The world has gone almost totally mobile. In fact, comScore reported that mobile exceeded desktop Internet usage by 0.7% last year. Because of this, a responsive website is a must. Google even created Mobile Optimization Guidelines and if you don't comply, you may see a drop in your rankings. Designers have to get creative and think about what is the best way to showcase their content on these different shaped screens with different capacities. Some things to keep in mind when designing for mobile:
Content should always remain the same, no matter which device the user is on. Nothing is worse than seeing something on desktop and then going to find it later on your phone and having it not be there. As long as the content is consistent, it is okay to prioritize the content differently. If someone is on your site on a mobile device, they are usually looking for something specific and it is important for them to be able to get to that information easily.
Interactive pieces should be easily accessible. Elements like menus, buttons, links, etc. should be considered and designed for the tap of a finger and not the click of a mouse.
A quick load time is key. In fact, 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. To help with this, get rid of videos and have fewer, smaller graphics. Background videos will take a long time to load and the same with large graphics. A mobile design should be as simple as possible.
Virgin America is a great example of a well-done mobile site. Booking a flight is never a simple task whether you're on desktop or mobile, and they've made it simple while on the go. Accessing other content on the site is also easy thanks to a hamburger menu docked at the top of the screen.
With the boom in sites like WordPress, Wix, SquareSpace and others, it's become easy to succumb to an pre-made beautiful design template and more difficult to stand out from the crowd. It's inevitable to have a client that asks for a website "just like this one." Where opportunity allows, break the mold and go for something different. Stay true to what makes a great website, but go for something bold where it makes sense. Try a different layout, introduce a new animation, add your own design style here and there; but don't hinder the user's experience in the process. Spotify's Year in Music site from 2014 was a prime example of creating a layout that is ownable and fits the needs of the content.
It used to be necessary that everything you needed to say on your site had to be right in the user's face when they first landed and above the fold, but that's not the case anymore. Every brand, product, or service has a story to tell and the long-scroll can be helpful in telling this story. This trend introduces timing, aids in navigation, promotes interaction, and keeps users engaged for longer. With all of these elements, your story will be communicated clearly and effectively. Make Your Money Matter for the Public Service Credit Union effectively uses the long scroll and takes the user on a journey of the benefits of using a credit union versus a bank.
The trend of using a hero image fills the screen to wow the user, but more importantly, give them a glance at what's to come to make them want to dive in and learn more. When using a hero image, it's best to minimize the amount of other information on the page to truly make that image the hero. To wow the user even more and create longer engagement, make it a hero video. This gives the user an even deeper dive into what they're about to explore. The hero image is a simple trend to follow, but one that makes a powerful statement. The team communication platform, Slack, uses a hero image and goes a step further to make it interactive with animation and a new image every time you visit the site.
Animations are more than just a cool element to add to your site; they are functional and bring your site to life by enhancing its storytelling. But, it is easy to go animation overboard. The animations should add to your site's story and the user's experience -- not the opposite. Here's a few tips on how to do this:
Starting with your loading animation, here is a chance to keep users engaged while they wait. Including this animation shows that you thought about the user and want to keep them entertained and on your page. Even the simplest animation gives the user something to watch so they don't leave your page.
Navigation animations are essential to helping the user get around your site with no problem. Especially if you have adapted to the recent hamburger menu trend, the transition animation is key to creating a smooth visual experience to view the full menu.
Hover animations are the intuitive way of letting the user know that something is interactive and that they should "click here!" without saying it. They can create a sense of fun and urge the user to click and find out more.
When using the previously mentioned long-scroll, animations dictate the pace of the scroll. A long-scroll can't function without them and more animations throughout the page keep it interesting and boost the user to keep on scrolling.
One Design Company uses simple animated illustrations to engage a user as soon as they land on the site and to keep them engaged as they are exploring and scrolling.
These five trends just scratch the surface of what's going on in the ever-changing world of web design, but are staples of any designer's digital closet. When deciding to design with new trends, there's no right or wrong, you just may find yourself needing to refresh your site sooner rather than later. Or if designed well, you may find yourself with a trend that works perfectly for your site and it's needs. At the core of every great web design should be a seamless user experience and as long as a trend enhances that, it'll be here to stay.
This article was co-authored by Courtney Kozloski, Senior Graphic Designer @GravityMediaLLC