Websites are progressively being updated as new methods of designing and developing continue to evolve. Different strategies are now deployed in designing websites that would not have been relevant or even possible a decade ago. These new website trends are usually intended to provide a better user experience to all visitors, no matter which device they are on. As the needs of consumers and the technologies they use expand, website design methods need to adapt to stay relevant. The user experience is improved in many different ways in order to present the brand as it deserves to be presented, provide customers with convenience of finding what they are looking for and increasing sales and subscriptions of services.
Companies have to maintain and improve their websites frequently in order to remain competitive. New and improved websites are now becoming the first and the last impressions of most businesses as users continue to use various handheld devices to access their websites. The trend of finding and purchasing products and services online is continually increasing in popularity, setting a high level of importance on any businesses online presence. If you want to fully realize your businesses potential, it’s pertinent to keep informed about new web design trends and apply what makes sense for your business model. Listed below are some of the top trends for designing a website in 2014; note that most of these are not new trends, but rather ones that have been gaining popularity recently.
1. Infinite Scrolling
This technique has been used by many websites in the past but the trend has been getting more popular in the last few years. Infinite scrolling is a technique that lets you put your website on just one page and let the visitors scroll vertically from top to bottom, simulating menu item changes as you scroll down. You can use the links like “top” or “back to top” on the sides so visitors are easily able to go back to the top of the page. You can also include menu links at the top of the website, as you would in a traditional site; clicking these links will trigger an animation scrolling to the appropriate content. Infinite scrolling is beneficial from a user experience perspective, since navigating the website will not initiate any new page refreshes. However, implementing this technique incorrectly can have a seriously negative impact on your website’s SEO performance if you don’t follow the proper procedures. Thankfully, Google has addressed these issues in their blog with information how to properly setup your infinite scrolling website for SEO.
Infographics have definitely gained huge popularity in the past couple of years. These are large images containing text, statistics, and other useful information on subject matters. They help present this information with engrossing visuals that help engage the users more in your content. Of course, the exact same information can be presented in HTML and CSS with similar designs, but developing this code can be time-consuming, especially on responsive websites. Additionally, sharing of infographics on social media is much easier and more eye-catching, allowing for a more diverse audience. Many sites, such as visual.ly, focus specifically on the design and sharing of infographics, and have a large community and online presence. Infographics are also a great addition to blogs or informational pages, and help create a better user experience for your readers.
3. Hero Images
The term “Hero Image” or “Hero Banner” is known commonly amongst marketing professionals; this is a web designing concept in which you decorate the face of your website with an image of someone or something that tells a story to the visitors that’s most relevant to your business or carries your mission statement. It is often found at the top or in the middle of the home page of the website. These hero images may also have a set of tabs or sliding/scrolling images and content to help minimalize the space used while maximizing the amount of content available to users. Lately many websites have been promoting hero images that take up most of the browser window of home pages; personally, I believe this type of implementation is not very user-friendly, and wastes too much space that could be utilized for important content. There are some cases in which this would be beneficial, such as websites which are only focused on promoting one product or service. In that case, it does help to let the focus of the website to be drawn to one area, such as a registration or login form, or a button to read more about what they are offering.
4. Flat UI
The Flat UI trend is a minimalistic approach to handling website elements, with fewer items crowding the browser window, more padding between them, and an overall less “busy” website. This often includes less images, content, and design effects such as shadows, bevels, colors or gradients. The simplistic Flat UI design allows for users to focus on the key elements presented, and is highly effective for businesses that are willing or able to scale back on the amount of clutter on their website. An example of Flat UI design would be Microsoft’s notorious new start menu implemented in Windows 8 – love it or hate it, this trend is probably going to be around for a while.
5. Responsive Web Design
Also abbreviated as RWD, Responsive Web Design is probably one of the most popular web design trends at the moment. Responsive websites are made in a way that your website becomes liquid or fluid, changing its layout as it is visited by users from various devices with numerous screen sizes. This is a client-side web designing approach where the browser takes the action of rearranging the website elements as the browser window is made smaller or larger. Responsive websites take much more finesse and time to build, with more extensive testing required and more considerations being put into managed content publishing. However, it does allow you to only manage one code base for your website, rather than managing separate mobile or tablet websites. As more users are adapting to the use of smartphones and tablets, the benefits of a responsive website far outweigh the negative aspects (which include the cost, maintenance, and additional testing time of a responsive website).
With online video sharing services such as YouTube or Vimeo, posting or embedding videos to promote your business or website has become a valuable asset that can help broaden your audience. Explanations of services, tutorials, or introductions to your customers are all examples of helpful videos for visitors to your website. Videos should be only applied in the appropriate pages, and often may not be suitable for your home page, where the space might better utilized with other content. Also, if you’re looking for the biggest SEO boost from your videos, it’s best to host them on your own website, although the distribution and sharing on YouTube has its benefits as well.
7. Parallax Scrolling
Parallax scrolling is a very interesting and unique web design trend, which creates a fun and engaging effect for your website’s visitors. Parallax scrolling is when your website’s design contains layers of images or moving animations that are stacked on top of each other. When a visitor scrolling up or down on the website the top layer moves faster whereas the images in the background move slower creating a parallax effect. Websites with parallax scrolling certainly are attention-grabbers, and are a cool feature which can be used throughout your entire site or just in small sections.
8. Vector Graphics and Images
9. Mobile First Approach
The Mobile First web design approach isn’t exactly readily viewable for users, as it is a methodology for developing your website or application for mobile devices first; then develop for tablets, then laptops and desktops. This is a progressive enhancement approach, since laptops and desktops typically have more processing power and screen real estate, and as you develop for each progressively more powerful device, you build on more advanced features that are more suitable for that device. Mobile First is not a requirement for your website, but rather a preference. Many great websites are built with a more traditional approach to web design (graceful degradation – starting work on the desktop version and working your way downward), but if companies like Google are doing Mobile First development, it’s probably something to keep an eye on.
10. CSS3 Animations
What are the Web Design Trends of the Future?
With all these new developments in web design techniques, I’m curious to see what the next big thing will be. I’ve noticed that single page applications are becoming more popular, which rely heavily on AJAX for requesting data. However, converting large, complex websites into this type of application is very challenging and difficult to manage.
Another one to look out for might be the Web SQL database, which allows for local storage of structured data in browsers, rather than relying on cookies, sessions, or POST/GET methods. The Web SQL database is a specification that would overcome many challenges faced by developers today, so it would be interesting to see this technology progress. Unfortunately, it’s currently being held back by lack of support by Firefox and (of course) Internet Explorer.
There are plenty of other cool web design and development techniques out there that didn’t make this list. If you have any suggestions for this list, or would like to recommend a technique that is being developed or recently release, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!